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Featured Plant


Virgilia oroboides


Scientific name: Virgilia oroboides

Family: Fabaceae

Plant type: Evergreen tree

Environment: Fully sun to part shade, well-drained soil

Uses: Shade tree


Virgilia oroboides is an evergreen tree with a profusion of pink flowers found in the South Africa section of the Botanical Garden.


Native to the Cape Province of South Africa, Virgilia oroboides, is only found in a small area along the coast. Despite a limited native range, the species is considered to be of least concern in terms of conservation by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, an indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. This designation is due to a large population in the wild and a lack of immediate threats to the wild population.

In this coastal range, Virgilia oroboides plays a significant role. The Leto venus moth species lays its eggs in the tree, which is a source of food for the larva. The flowers are also rich with nectar making the tree popular with birds, such as sunbirds, and insects, like the carpenter bee. The species also grows quickly when young. It has been noted to grow over four feet in one year and will typically reach its full size in just a few years. As such, Virgilia oroboides can be used as a pioneer species in reforestation projects.

The species was introduced to horticulture in England in the 18th century and its popularity in the landscape flourished from there. The Afrikaans common name keurboom even translates to 'choice tree'. It is best known for its abundant blooms that, in San Francisco, emerge in the spring. These distinct flowers are lightly fragrant and can range in color from white to deep pink. The foliage is also eye-catching with its long, pinnately compound leaves, a common trait in the Fabaceae family. The wood of the species was also used historically in furniture making and for yokes and wagon bed planks.

IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text and Photos by Victoria Stewart 

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