Apple leaf

Philenoptera violaceae

Apple leaf tree (Philenoptera violaceae)
A medium sized tree with a single meandering trunk that has a wide-spreading sparse and rounded crown. The apple-leaf is usually found close to a permanent or seasonal water source. It is drought resistant and sensitive to frost.

Conservation Status : Protected in South Africa
Height : 15 m
Foliage : Deciduous to semi-deciduous
Family : Pod bearing (Fabaceae)
Sub family : Pea sub-family (Papilionoideae)

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The apple-leaf has been traditionally used to make dug-out canoes.

Spittle bugs (Ptyelus grossus) live on the sap of the apple-leaf. To extract sufficient nutrients they need to absorb the liquid so quickly it pours out of them to such an extent that the tree appears to rain, hence the trees alternative name, the rain tree.

The species name, violacea, refers to the violet flowers of the apple-leaf which cover the tree in October and November.

The genus name for the apple-leaf, Philenoptera, originates from the Greek, philenos which translates as “manageable” and pterus which means wing. These combined refers to how the wings enable the pods to disperse.

Folklore says that it is very bad luck to cut down an apple-leaf tree. To do so will result in a rift in the family. It’s also illegal to do so in South Africa.

The common name of the apple-leaf is a result of the large leathery leaves which when crushed sound like somebody taking a bite out of an apple.

People living off the land will put bits of apple-leaf bark and roots into self-contained pools to deoxygenate the water, as a result all the fish will die and float to the surface.

There are many traditional remedies which the apple-leaf can be used for. The roots are inhaled as a cure for the common cold and the powdered roots and bark are used to treat snake bites.