The African dog rose takes its name from a wild briar rose that is native to regions in Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa. Despite the shared common name, they are not related; what they have in common is a superficial resemblance between their flowers.
The botanical name for the wild briar Dog Rose, Rosa canina, derives from the common name. The association with dogs is that from ancient times it was believed that the root of the Dog Rose could be used as a cure for bites from rabid dogs.
The African dog rose, Xylotheca kraussiana, is not a rose at all. The name Xylotheca means woody case, referring to the woody fruit capsule, and kraussiana comes from the surname of a German scientist who visited South Africa during the mid-17th century. He later became director of the Natural History Museum in Stuttgart.
The round flower buds of the African Dog Rose, Xylotheca kraussiana
The African Dog Rose can be a multi-stemmed shrub or a tree. It occurs naturally in the eastern region of southern Africa, from Transkei to Mozambique, in coastal bush and low-altitude forest, as well as in sand forest and bushveld.
The flowers of the African Dog Rose are quite large, being up to seven centimetres in diameter. They are white with a showy cluster of yellow stamens in the centre. The flowers are said to be sweetly scented, but the scent is not very strong. This bloom is decorated with droplets after a shower of rain in our garden
The African Dog Rose produces flowers throughout the summer. The bloom in the above photograph is starting to fade. Behind it, an older flower has lost its petals and it is starting to form a fruit
The fruits too are attractive, being green at first and then ripening to a golden colour before the woody capsule, for which the genus is named, splits open into separate sections, revealing the seeds within.
As they develop, the fruit capsules remain green for a long time
Eventually the fruits ripen to a golden yellow colour
Sections of this ripe fruit have split off and fallen to the ground. Some sticky seeds remain in what is left of the capsule
Even after the remaining part of the capsules continues to split open, some seeds can still be seen sticking to the inside of the fruit. The seeds are eaten by birds, and apparently children like to suck the pulp off the seeds. This is not something I have tried
The woody nature of the dry capsule can be seen clearly from the outside
Split sections of a fruit capsule of the African Dog Rose on the ground where they fell. Most of the seeds have gone. The plant can be grown from seed. Judging from the plant in our garden, fallen seeds do not self-seed readily
The African Dog Rose does not usually grow to more than a few metres tall under most garden conditions, though in the right circumstances, such as in coastal forest, it can grow up to 12 metres tall
The African Dog Rose in our garden is three to four metres tall, and it grows companionably next to a Wild Pomegranate (Burchellia bubalina) on the edge of our mini-grassland. It flowers reliably every summer. In addition to being a very beautiful plant and attracting birds, it is a host plant for the larvae of several species of butterfly.
Pitta Joffe. 2001. Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants: A South African Guide. Pretoria: Briza; Elsa Pooley. 1998. A Field Guide to Wild Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Durban: Natal Flora Publications Trust;
Posted by Carol