Heteropyxis natalensis is found in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Limpopo.
Growing to a height of between 4 to 8 m, Heteropyxis natalensis has a slender, upright form and is semi-deciduous, providing foliage that turns a beautiful reddish, purple colour during autumn. The leaves are shiny, with a dark green colour on top and a lighter green underside. When crushed, leaves and twigs of this tree produce a strong lavender smell hence the common name ‘lavender tree.’ Depending on how cold it is, the autumn foliage can stay on the tree during winter, only dropping a few weeks before the new, green leaves appear. However, the distinctive bark of this smallish tree is its star attraction. Initially, the bark is smooth and pale with tawny, silvery hues and darker grey patches and a papery grain. As the tree matures, the bark develops a rich texture and flakes off in large scales, leaving craggy, apricot coloured patches that provide shelter for a myriad tiny insects and ants.
The yellowish green flowers which are borne in summer are sweetly scented. Fruits, that consist of small, brownish, oval capsules that contain many seeds, are produced from March to May. After dispersing the seed, the old capsules remain on the tree for many months.
Heteropyxis natalensis is a characterful, fast-growing, ornamental tree that can be single or multi-stemmed. It can be focal point in the garden with its changing foliage colours, striking bark and pretty flowers. Roots are not aggressive. It should be protected from frost when young, but becomes fairly hardy as it matures. The tree has moderate watering needs and grows well in full sun with well-drained soil. It is a good container plant for the patio.
This tree also has medicinal properties, a decoction made from the roots is used to treat bleeding gums and noses. It is waterwise, fairly fast growing with a non-invasive root system.
Heteropyxis natalensis is an ideal tree for smaller gardens.