The evergreen to semi-deciduous Berchemia zeyheri occurs naturally in the north-eastern provinces of South Africa.
A neatly shaped tree, the Red Ivory can grow to a height of 6 to 8 m. The foliage is an attractive grey-green colour and the leathery leaves have distinct herringbone veining. The bark of the tree is pale green when young, maturing to a grey colour and becoming roughly fissured as the tree ages. Small, yellowish-green flowers appear from September to December, attracting many insects and birds to the garden. These are followed by edible fruit that are slightly ovate in form, ripening from yellow to reddish brown during summer to autumn.
Berchemia zeyheri is drought hardy, but can be slightly frost sensitive. Berchemia zeyheri is a worthwhile small, ornamental tree that rewards regular feeding with steady growth and lush foliage. It is water wise once established. Protect it from frost when young. It will also do well in a container or as a bonsai subject.
The common name of Red Ivory is derived from the colour of the hard wood. In addition, the tree is known as a ‘royal’ tree in KwaZulu-Natal where only chiefs were allowed to have knobkieries made from this wood.