Calodendrum capense (Cape chestnut)
Flowers of Calodendrum capense (Cape chestnut) (Photo: Andrew Massyn)
Calodendrum capense (L.f.) Thunb.
Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria; widespread and locally common.
Upland evergreen forest; lowlands to sea level in South Africa.
Timber, ornamental, cosmetics.
About this species
Despite its common name, Cape chestnut is not closely related to chestnuts (Castanea species) or horse chestnuts (Aesculus species), but instead is a member of the citrus family (Rutaceae). It is not a typical citrus in appearance, as it is a large tree, with spectacular flowers, and the fruit does not look like those of its relatives (such as lemons, oranges and limes). It looks spectacular when in flower, as the large, pink flowers cover the whole of the crown (the leafy part of the tree).
Carl Thunberg (1743-1828), a Swedish physician and botanist who was a protégé of Carl Linnaeus (the father of modern taxonomy), saw this tree in South Africa in 1772. He was taken with it and gave it the generic name Calodendrum, which is derived from the Greek for ‘beautiful tree’.