Dovyalis caffra or Kei Apple is an evergreen shrub to small tree native to South Africa. In nature, the plants will reach up to 20 feet (6 m) in height with a spread of around 8-10 feet (2.4-3 m) wide. It is a very dense shrub with very stiff, sharp spines. Spines will reach up to 3 inches (7.5 cm) long. The obovate, glossy leaves are up to 2 inches (5 cm) long. Leaves are usually clustered at the base of spines. Plants are moderately fast growers and one can expect them to produce fruit in 5-6 years from seed. They are very drought resistant and their size is easily controlled with container size and selective pruning. The plants are hardy in USDA zones 9-11.
Blooming: In the greenhouse, the plant blooms in late winter to early spring. Plants are dioecious, which is to say, they have female and male flowers on separate plants. The very small greenish yellow flowers give rise to 1 inch (2.5 cm) yellow fruit. The mature fruits taste somewhat like an apricot.
Culture: Dovyalis caffra needs full sun to light shade, with a well drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 1 part loam to 2 parts coarse sand. The plants are well watered and then allowed to dry before watering again. We fertilize our plant with a balanced fertilizer diluted to 1/2 the strength recommended on the label on a monthly basis. The plants resent overly wet soils, so water should be carefully monitored. After flowering and fruiting is when we selectively prune the plants to control their size.
Propagation: Dovyalis caffra are propagated from seed. Fresh seed germinate very readily.
Dovyalis caffra was featured as Plant of the Week February 16-22, 2007.
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.