Common Name: Natal Mahogany
Small tree with alternate, pinnately compound leaves.
Most commonly used varieties: Trichilia emetica
Trichilia is a relatively large genus of trees with T. dregeana and its cousin T. emetica growing in evergreen forests in high rainfall areas of South Africa. Both have their floral parts in 5’s and the fruits are 3-valved capsules, hence their generic name which is derived from the Greek ‘tricho’ (meaning three parts). The range of uses of T. dregeana in South Africa is quite impressive. This tree can grow to 120 feet in its native climate. The wood is pink; the grain of the wood is straight and is used for making furniture. The fruit is edible and the fat and oil from the seeds are used for soap and cooking.
Trichilia have adapted well to life indoors. Due to their ability to survive in less than full sun they have adapted to life in captivity. They do grow quickly in bright light and need copious amounts of water. Ten to twenty foot specimens are starting to show up in newer interiorscape plantings. They survive in the lower humidity of the office environment with little leaf problems. The most notable is a bit of browning on the edges of the fronds. This browning will characteristically be crispy light brown at the edge for the foliage. In really low light the foliage may dimple a bit like it has been poked at with a pencil eraser.
Can survive in low light. Prefer bright, indirect light. Due to natal mahogany’s ability to survive in less than full sun these plants have adapted to life in captivity. They do grow quickly in bright light and need copious amounts of water.
Natal mahogany like to have their soil moist to wet. They have a root system that demands water year-round. It is important that the entire root ball be watered thoroughly, not just the surface. Soak them through to the saucer. They are a perfect plant to be set up on a sub-irrigation system. Trichelia survive in the lower humidity of the office environment with few leaf problems. The most notable is a bit of browning on the edges of the fronds. This browning will characteristically be crispy light brown at the edge of the foliage. In really low light the foliage may dimple a bit as if it has been poked at with a pencil eraser. If they are underwatered they will lose bottom foliage.
All Trichilia will benefit from cleaning. They will show off their beautiful foliage better with an occasional spray of leaf shine. Like Scheffleras they get a layer of glaucous “bluish wax” on their foliage over time. This is natural and is secreted by the cells of the upper leaf surface as protection from sun in high light.
Keep them healthy and clean by an occasional misting with soap and water. A quick spray with Brand Xâ is also helpful in cleaning the foliage and stopping any attack of scale.
Fertilize at least four times a year for those in good light and they will grow with vigor. For those in low light skip the fertilizer all together for the first year after installation and feed in half dose only if the plant begins to pale after that.
If they begin to get too tall for the space, tip prune them. Done well this support should be invisible to your client. Never stake these plants for this looks terrible and unnatural.
Spider mites and scale are occasional problems. Watch carefully for any sign of these pests and start spraying and hand removing them as soon as you notice them. Sometimes when the plants are fresh from a nursery, bite marks will appear along the margins and a few of the leaf edges will be chewed upon. A one time treatment with a systemic will clear up this problem. A quick spray with Brand X‚ is helpful in cleaning the foliage and stopping any other insect attack. Water with Pro-tekt® weekly to give added protection from insects.