Rhus leptodictya or Mountain Karee is large shrub or small tree native to South Africa. The bark is dark brown and very rough in contrast with the reddish-brown twigs of the new growth. Leaves are divided into 3 leaflets, bright green with toothed margins. Trees in nature reach up to 13 feet (4 m) in height. One of our trees in the photograph is 6 years old and only 18 inches tall. In South Africa, an intoxicating drink is made from the fruit. These are fast growers and make excellent bonsai subjects because their size is easy controlled by container size and selective pruning. They are hardy in USDA zones 9-11.
Blooming: In the greenhouse, our trees bloom in spring with sprays of very small yellow flowers. The fruit that follow are reddish-brown and about 0.5 inch in diameter.
Culture: Rhus leptodictya need full sun to light shade, with a well drained, slightly acidic soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 2 parts course sand to 1 part loam. The soil should have a pH of 5.5 to 6. In nature, the trees are very drought tolerant, but in containers they are watered daily to give them optimum growth. They are fertilized once a month with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. During the winter months, water is restricted and the plants are kept in the cold room with a temperature of 48° F (9° C) until new growth starts in the spring.
Propagation: Rhus leptodictya were propagated from seed obtained from Silverhill Seeds in South Africa.
Rhus leptodictya was featured as Plant of the Week September 23-29, 2005.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.