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Products > Cussonia spicata
 
Cussonia spicata - Cabbage-tree
   
Image of Cussonia spicata
 
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Araliaceae (Ginsengs)
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Green & White
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Height: 25-40 feet
Width: 15-30 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Cussonia spicata (Cabbage-tree) - An unusual and attractive evergreen tree to 30 feet or more with large dissected green leaves held in large heads at the ends of thick, soft woody stems that twist and turn in an unusual manner. These leaves are described as digitately compound leaves (similar to palmately compound) but with varying length leaflets and wings - so unique are the leaves of such Cussonia that the term vertebrate has been used to describe the leaves of this species. At the tips of the branches can appear the small greenish-yellow flowers in short spikes in late spring to summer.

Plant in full sun to light shade and water regularly, though older plants quite drought tolerant. It is not very hardy and should be planted where temperatures don't get much below freezing for extended periods. Our large tree in the garden withstood overnight temperatures between 24F and 26F in the late 1980's but was lost in the cold snap of December 1990 when the nighttime temperatures dipped below 20 F. It is most attractive in its youth as an interesting foliage plant in the ground or in a large pot, but it is interesting as a tree as well with snakelike heavy branches that twist about.

This species is found over a wide area within moister areas of southern Africa from the southern Cape and eastern parts of South Africa north through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia into tropical Africa. While certainly not common, Cussonia spicata has long been in cultivation in Santa Barbara and old specimens can be found in gardens and there are some particularly large plants along the biology building at the University of California Santa Barbara. Our plants are from seed off an older plant growing in downtown Santa Barbara. The genus was named by Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), the Swedish naturalist often called "the father of South African botany" to honor Pierre (anglicized as Peter) Cusson (1727-1783), a French botanist who specialized in the Apiaceae. The specific epithet is in reference to this plant's spike-like inflorescence. Other names for this plant are the Common Cabbage Tree (distinguishing it from the Mountain Cabbage Tree, Cussonia paniculata, which we also grow) and the Africans name of Kiepersol. 

This information about Cussonia spicata displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.

 
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