Red Candlewood

Scientific Name
Pterocelastrus rostratus (Thunb.) Walp.
Higher Classification
Common Names
Cherry Wood (e), Itywina (x), Kershout (a), Kersiehout (a), Red Candlewood (e), Red Cherrywood (e), Rooikersboom (a), Rooikershout (a), Rooi-kershout (a), Usahlulamanye (z), Usehlulamanye (z), White Pear (e)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
V.L. Williams, D. Raimondo, N.R. Crouch, A.B. Cunningham, C.R. Scott-Shaw, M. Lötter & A.M. Ngwenya
Some notable declines in Mpumalanga due to ring barking for the medicinal plant trade, but it does not appear to be severely impacted in the rest of its South African range.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Cape Peninsula through the Eastern Cape to Limpopo Province and Swaziland.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Forest and montane scrub in forest margins and on mountain sides.
The bark is used for traditional medicine and sold in markets in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The species is used interchangeably with Pterocelastrus echinatus and P. tricuspidatus, and can be easily confused with the former. Cunningham (1988) estimated 146 bags (50kg-size) of Pterocelastrus spp. to be traded annually, and classed the species as declining in KwaZulu-Natal, especially if destruction of wild populations continued. Botha et al. (2001) cited Pterocelastrus spp. as being in high demand in Mpumalanga. Williams (2007) cites the genus as being sold by 68% of muthi shops in 1994, and by 16% of Faraday street traders in 2001. Schmidt et al. (2002) reported that the species is threatened in Mpumalanga due to uncontrolled harvesting for the muthi trade. Mervyn Lotter (pers. comm. 2008) presented evidence at the Red Listing workshop that P. rostratus is heavily targeted by muthi harvesters in the province. It is apparently being "nailed" in some forests, and some harvesters are resorting to using chainsaws to cut down the trees to remove all the bark from the stem - trees in forests such as Morganzon and Tweefontein have been affected in this way. The Blyde forests have remained protected from harvesters thus far. Lotter further stated that the trees that have been ring-barked will probably die from disease, and that only a minority of the trees are chopped with chainsaws (most are attacked with pangas).
Population trend
Growth form: canopy trees are usually straight, and trees in disturbed areas are usually multi-stemmed because the tree coppices (M. Lötter and R. Scott-Shaw, pers. comm., 2008)
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Pterocelastrus rostratus (Thunb.) Walp.Declining Raimondo et al. (2009)

Boon, R. 2010. Pooley's Trees of eastern South Africa. Flora and Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.

Botha, J., Witkowski, E.T.F. and Shackleton, C.M. 2001. An inventory of medicinal plants traded on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Koede 44(2):7-46.

Coates Palgrave, K. 1977. Trees of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

Cunningham, A.B. 1988. An investigation of the herbal medicine trade in Natal/KwaZulu. Investigational Report No. 29. Institute of Natural Resources, Pietermaritzburg.

Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J.C. 2000. Cape Plants: A conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.

Palmer, E. and Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa covering all known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Volume 2. A.A.Balkema, Cape Town.

Pooley, E. 1998. The complete field guide to trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Schmidt, E., Lotter, M. and McCleland, W. 2002. Trees and shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park. Jacana, Johannesburg.

Williams, V.L. 2007. The design of a risk assessment model to determine the impact of the herbal medicine trade on the Witwatersrand on resources of indigenous plant species. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Williams, V.L., Raimondo, D., Crouch, N.R., Cunningham, A.B., Scott-Shaw, C.R., Lötter, M. & Ngwenya, A.M. 2016. Pterocelastrus rostratus (Thunb.) Walp. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2022/08/16

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Distribution map

© D. Turner

© M. Lötter

© M. Lötter

© Outramps

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