Zanthoxylum capense is a hardy, deciduous or semi-deciduous small to medium-sized tree. Its bark is a dark grey colour and smooth. The bark often has knobs (cone shaped) with a small spine/thorn. The leaves are compound, shiny, dark green above with lighter green underneath. They are brittle when handled/crushed and give off a strong citrus scent. It flowers between October and February in small white scented flowers carried in clusters on the ends of the branches. Diffirent trees carry female and male flowers seperately. The female flowers develop into clusters of tiny orange-red fruits with oily black seeds inside. The fruit is edible but can cause a hot/burning sensation.
The trees attract many pollinators including birds, many butterflies and insects. It often hosts the Citrus swallowtail and other swallowtail butterflies. It features beautifully in a container, as a feature plant central in a garden or part of a forest garden. When pruned it exposes the interesting knobbly stem as a feature in the garden. It does well in both semi-shade and full sun and prefers well drained compost rich soil.