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Celtis africana

Common names: White Stinkwood (E); Ndwandwazane (Z); Witstinkhout (A); Modutu (SS); Muyilakaya (Ts); Modutu (Tsw); umVumvu (X);

Native to: Southern Africa

Celtis africana










10m x 9m

Celtis africana


An attractive deciduous tree which is widespread on the Highveld. It has a smooth pale-grey trunk and light green leaves. It bears tiny, light yellow flowers which are followed by small roundish fruits which are favoured by birds. It got its common name (stinkwood) because the wood has an unpleasant smell when freshly cut.

The fruits are eaten by numerous birds including starlings, barbets, pigeons, weavers and bulbuls.
Larvae of the Cat’s Paw Emperor moth, Blue-spotted Charaxes and African Snout butterflies feed on the leaves.
Low maintenance
A superb shade tree for large gardens. It is also a favourite bonsai tree
Bushveld, Country, Forest, Formal, Grassland, Woodland

70 Responses

  1. Hi Caroline

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook and for sharing your observation.

    More details would be helpful – do you know what bird species is doing this and any other mannerisms displayed?

    We’ve seen that male weavers strip the foliage off branches before nest building and during the building process which we presume is to increase visibility of his proposed home.

    Bark is sometimes stripped by birds to get to insects, but that is usually older bark.

    It doesn’t sound like anything that will harm your tree but please share additional details.


  2. Good day, I’ve noticed that some of the birds are ‘barkstripping’ the top branches of our Celtis-Africana trees.

    Can this be detrimental to the tree or will the branches be able to recover from this? It’s winter and I can only think that the birds are supplementing their nutrition some how?

  3. Hi Hendrik

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The leaf galls are probably a result of insects such as wasps laying their eggs on your tree. Apart from being unsightly, the galls are usually harmless to the tree.

    Note, however, that leaf galls can sometimes be a result of a bacterial or fungal infection. It may be best to contact an arborist to examine the tree for more clarity on the cause and possible treatment options.


  4. Hi

    We have a large White Stinkwood (celtis africana) in our garden. It develops leaf galls when the leaves form. The tree has now shed all its leaves as it is winter. How do we prevent the galls from forming.

  5. Hi Anita

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    As leaves of Celtis africana are highly palatable for horses, sheep and cattle but, interestingly, are poisonous to fish.


  6. Goeie more

    Ek het dringend hulp nodig asseblief. Is die witstinkhout boom se blare giftig vir perde?

    Baie dankie.

  7. Hi Richard

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    This sounds like a common problem experienced with Celtis species. It’s caused by the Chinese Hackberry Aphid.

    You may need to visit your local nursery to get assistance or contact an arborist in your area.


  8. Hi all my tree like this is abut 3 tears oil now and giving off a sticky substance on the tile we have put on the on side of the patio is this normal or is this a problem with the tree

  9. Hi Xavier

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Celtis africana is not usually affected by black leaf spot. The leaves of Celtis africana do tend to start yellowing from mid-summer through to autumn.

    You may wish to consult with an arborist if your trees are badly affected.


  10. Hi Colleen

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    This is very strange. Your trees appear to be suffering from some sort of stress. It may be beneficial to consult with an arborist if you wish to take some action to try to save them.


  11. Hi

    I have many White Stinkwood trees in my garden. After winter 2020, the leaves came out as usual, and then were all shed again in about September which never happens. Then tiny little leaves appeared again, and there are little fluffy leaves forming all over the main branches. This has happened to 3 of my big trees, but not to the others, which still have all there normal leaves which appeared after winter last year. It is really strange… Have you heard of this before? Is this some type of parasite? If so, what can I do??


  12. Good day, does the stinkwood struggle with black leaf spot? As my stinkwood has random yellow leaves and not sure if it’s from over watering or black leaf spot.

    Regards Xavier

  13. Hi David

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    As far as I’m aware, Christmas beetles do not cause any damage to Celtis africana trees.

    Your trees are suffering from some kind of stress which may be caused by the shot hole borer. It is difficult to determine without examining the tree. If this continues, I’d recommend contacting an arborist to inspect your tree.


  14. Hi in the last few weeks my witstinkhout appears to be dropping leaves not full looks like a lack of water, but we have had good rains and soil does drain well, in the evenings the tree is covered by the brown ” Christmas ” beetles, could they be killing my tree or is it this pin beetle I have been hearing about.

  15. Hi Hannelie

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Transplanting any plant is a risky process as it will involve root disturbance that may affect the tree. Is is always important to consider the size of the tree as larger trees are more difficult to move and require machinery to do so.


  16. Hi Lisa

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The lifespan of any plant species will vary vastly depending on the growing conditions and environmental factors it is exposed to.


  17. Hi Jeanette

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    There are a number of shade trees which you can consider, but please first research the full-grown and view that in relation to the size of your property and the distance you’ll be planting it from any structures.

    Some fast-growing shade trees are:
    – Harpephyllum caffrum (Wild plum)
    – Senegalia galpinii (Monkey thorn)
    – Celtis africana (White stinkwood)
    – Kiggelaria africana (Wild peach)
    – Ekebergia capensis (Cape ash)

    Note that all trees produce flowers, however the ones listed above have tiny, non-showy flowers.


  18. Good day
    I stay in Centurion Gauteng and would like to plant a tree as we have removed one in our yard
    What would you suggest
    I want something for shade, fast grower and preferably no flowers

  19. Hi Wilhelm

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Your tree could be experiencing some form of stress. Given the recent rains experienced in Gauteng, your tree may be reacting to poorly drained soil.

    Something else to consider – these trees are also susceptible to the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB), so it may be worthwhile to have an arborist inspect your tree for possible infection.


  20. I .ive in Northcliff gauteng
    The tree is more then 25 years old
    what is strange that the yellow leaves are dropping right trough summer
    Is it normal or could be a disease

  21. Hi JP

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    It is quite tricky to distinguish the differences so I suggest you take a cutting along with a picture of the bark to your nearest botanical garden or a reputable nursery for assistance.


  22. I’ve bought a tree that was labelled as a white stinkwood, but now I’m not sure any more whether this actually is the “ware Jakob”.

    Do you perhaps have any tips on how to distinguish between Celtis africana and Celtis sinensis?
    I’ve tried looking at the leaves, specifically their veins and serrations, but I’ll admit, I am an amateur gardener and I’m still not sure.

  23. Hi Lindie

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Woolly aphids tend to thrive in densely canopies and moist conditions.

    I’d recommend contacting your local arborist/landscaper/nursery to inspect your property and propose a solution as this situation may be unique to your space.


  24. Hi Greta

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Unfortunately, we cannot provide definitive advice on your situation for the following reasons:

    – The diameter of any species will vary quite significantly, depending on its growing conditions;
    – The properties and problem tree need to be physically examined in order to assess the situation.

    I would recommend you contact an arborist to view the situation in order for you and your neighbour to reach an agreement on the necessary actions.


  25. I have a huge investigation of Shivaphis celti in my garden and is starting to affect even the large trees. The bugs are flying around like snow in my yard. I can not find a way to control it and do not want to use chemical pesticides. I live in Sasolburg. Can somebody give me some advice?. If this bug starting to affect the large trees, how long before it gets out of control. As I understand this bug was only discovered in SA in 2018.

  26. Hi, I need confirmation about the diameter from a White stinkwood tree once its grown at about 10 – 15 Meters ?
    My neighbour on the left has lost there tree from about 25 years after heavy stormy winds end 2019. The wind blew it onto his roof ! Now Im worried as the other neighbour of me the lady has planted on at about 1m away from the corner of me and 2 other neighbours. The one has a garage roof about 1m from the wall the one behind me a swimming pool and me just scrubs along the wall. I would not like to have all those leaves in my garden firstly and secondly with the strong winds we are having now a days that the concrete wall might be damaged when it is blown over etc. I would like to have all the stats before going out and speak to my previous neighbours daughter about it. While the tree is recently planted I think she still has a chance to move it away more to the centre of her back yard away from the possible damages for which she would be liable should something happen.

  27. Hi Jilly

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Many urban Celtis trees are being targeted by the Asian woolly hackberry aphid (Shivaphis celti). Spraying the tree may harm beneficial insects, so I would not recommend that.

    Perhaps contact an arborist to inspect your tree as they may have a solution to help save it.


  28. Hi there

    Our Celtis Africana is not doing well. We live in Protea Valley in the WC, our tree is probably 28 years old and 15 meters tall.

    We noticed recently that the leaves are very sticky, have white powdery mildew and black soot all over. The leaves on the branches on the south side of the tree seem to be smaller with an abundance of berries and leaves are yellowing, could this be a stress issue?

    Walking through the neighbourhood I have noticed all the trees have the same disease, what do you think is causing this and do you have a solution besides removing it. We have yellow woods in the garden as well and would hate them to be infected although there is no sign of any disease on them as yet.

    Please can you help? Thank you Jilly

  29. Hi Izelle

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Transplanting any plant is always risky as some of the root ball will be destroyed in the process.

    As Celtis africana is deciduous, it is best to transplant in winter when the plant is dormant and the chance of transplant shock is lower.

    The key is to prepare a good-sized planting hole before digging the plant out. Make sure to add lots of compost and an organic fertiliser.
    Dig out as much of the root ball as possible, taking the surrounding soil with.

    Ensure the plant is well-watered, daily, for about 2 months after transplanting.

    All the best.


  30. I just need to know if a 2m high celtis africana can be dug up and replanted? If so, what advice can you give with the process?

  31. Hi Pavlina

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    It’s never a wise idea to cut a part of a tree trunk to restrict the growth as this weakens the plant and exposes it to possible disease and subsequently death.

    Perhaps get a construction expert and an arborist to view the scenario and they may be able to propose a suitable solution.


  32. Hi! We have a mature stinkwood tree that kept growing bigger and started to press hard against the side of our deck.We have a conservatory on top of the deck structure and it’s a big concern. We love our tree and as a last resort if there’s a safe way to trim from the trunk and seal it after with something to preserve it , maybe it will heal and survive ? We would do that rather than actually having it taken down. Any advice would be much appreciated!

  33. Hi Carol

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    It sounds like your tree is suffering from transplant shock and still needs to settle into its new environment.

    Very often larger trees such as your 250l one experience more severe transplant shock as the conditions in which it was growing previously are not exactly the same as its new location. It it’s still showing growth, and generally healthy, you don’t need to worry. Otherwise, speak to the nursery that supplied it.


  34. Thank you for your wonderful website. I have used it extensively. I planted a 250l Celtis in April before the wet season (I am in CT). When the new leaves appeared in spring we realised it is a hybrid (Africana x Sinensis). I have made peace with this although did very specifically purchase an Africana. The tree has grown at a rate of knots. In the last month however the leaves are all drooping. The tree is otherwise healthy – the leaves are all a rich green and the tree continues to grow fast. There is no leaf dropping or discolouration. The soil around the tree appears to be draining well. The drooping leaves do not change after watering or after a dry period, a windy or calm period. There is the odd leaf that has been bitten – small holes in the middle of the leaf – but not many. Do you know what could be causing the drooping? Is it a concern? Many thanks for your time.

  35. Hi Jeannie

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Transplanting any plant is risky and the key is to dig out as much of the root ball as possible.

    As Celtis africana is deciduous, it is best to carry out the transplant in winter when the plant is dormant and is less likely to experience transplant shock.


  36. Hi Don

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Yes, stinkwood trees, both indigenous and exotic have been affected by the shot-hole borer.

    It would be best to consult with an arborist to carry out a preventative spraying.


  37. Do stink wood trees host shot- hole borer beetles? If so what can be done to eradicate them from a very healthy and mature tree?

  38. Hi Trish

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Wow! This is an awesome undertaking.

    Here are a few tips to assist with your tree planting:

    – Dig a saucer-shaped hole as deep as the root ball and 2-3 times wider than the width of the root ball.
    – Remove the tree from the container.
    – Place the tree at the proper height. If the tree is planted too deep, new roots will have difficulty developing because of a lack of oxygen.
    – Straighten the tree in the hole.
    – Backfill the hole, gently with compost-enriched soil, bonemeal and an organic fertiliser.
    – Stake the tree, if necessary.
    – Mulch the base of the tree.


  39. Please can Y assist us to have the right method of planting 1000 White Stinkwood Trees on our Farm in the Standerton Area near the Vaal River Thankyou in. Advance

  40. Hi Stan

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Garden trees tend to suffer from all the pampering we give them, such as fertiliser and over-watering, making them susceptible to pests not normally found on wild specimens.

    You may need the services of an arborist to inspect your trees and advise accordingly.


  41. I’ve just become aware of the sticky black goo issue and it is becoming an epidemic in Fourways Gardens where I live. There are literally hundreds of stinkwoods throughout the estate and I would guess around 80% are infected. I agree that pesticides would be devastating to birds and benign insect species, but does anyone know what can be done? It would be a tragedy to lose our urban forest

  42. Hi,

    We also have a problem with a “glue-like substance” dripping from our white stinkwood trees and it is due to Asian woolly hackberry aphid (Shivaphis celti) “infection”.,%20No%20109,%20October%202016-March%202017.pdf

    Recommendation is not to use pesticides due to collateral damage to beneficial organisms.

    Good luck


  43. Hi Mia

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    “Sticky dust” could be pollen, but the trees should have finished flowering in November.

    Perhaps your tree is hosting some sap-feeding insects like aphids. Check the foliage for any signs of this. It shouldn’t last longer than a couple of months before the insects move on or become prey to your local bird population.

    Celtis africana is a host plant to at least two species of butterfly, so avoid any chemical intervention.


  44. Hi there,
    Does the Celtis africana ‘mess’ a glue-like substance (sticky dust!) on anything close or under it? The water tanks close by is dark and sticky!!

  45. Hi Jonathan

    Thanks for visiting our site.

    It sounds like your tree is undergoing some sort of stress.

    Celtis africana is usually very hardy once established, so I’m not sure what could be affecting it. Perhaps take a sample of the leaves to your nearest botanical gardens or nursery for assistance. Also have a look at the bark for signs of attack from a pest.


  46. Hi.
    I need some assistance with a wit stinkhout that loooks a bid sick. There are 3 of them in cloce procimity with each other bit one of them is sick. Leaves are dying and yellow looks like wit stood in a fire but the other two looks fine no problems and going good. The sick one is not growing at this stage and leaves are falling down. Ots not a young tree and the stemm is aprocimitly 100 in diameter. I can sent photos if needed. I really want to save this tree

  47. Hi Debbie

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    You may consider one of the following trees for your conditions:

    – Dais cotinifolia (Pompon tree)
    – Halleria lucida (Tree fuschia)
    – Diospyros lycioides (Blue bush)

    Also check with your local nursery as they may have useful information on species that are suitable for your area.


  48. I need a small tree for townhouse in Port elizabeth. The ground is clay and of course wind could be a problem. Thank you Debbie

  49. Hi Inge

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Transplants are always tricky as the plant will go through shock through root disturbance.

    The best time for a transplant is in a plant’s dormant period – i.e. winter.

    Remember to take as much of the root ball as possible.


  50. Hi there.
    What do you think would be the success rate of replanting a celtis africana that is about 3m tall already? They are in the ground, not in bags

    Thank you

  51. Hi Lobone

    Welcome to the “stinky family”!

    If your tree is planted in the ground, controlling the shape and size will be quite a challenge in years to come and your tree may end up looking a little disfigured from the interference to its natural growth.

    If you need a smaller tree, rather choose one that has a smaller form. If this is the case, visit for some suggested species.


  52. Hi Glenice
    Just joined the stinky family and would like to shape her into a medium-sized shade tree, not too tall and not too small either. Should I keep nipping and trimming her to the shape and size I desire?


  53. Morning thank you so much.. For ur help stinky is repotted thank you so much so nice knowing i can come to a place and get the help i need have a Blessed day

  54. Hi Ryan

    It’s best to repot while it’s dormant.
    Since Stinky hasn’t any new leaves yet, you can safely repot.


  55. Hi ma am so sorry to bug u was wanting to ask when is the best time to repot white stinkwood… Some say when buds swell others say July so now im not sure stinky has not started getting leaves yet. Kind regards Ryan

  56. Thanks so much my stinky as i call her is better now i used garden rip cord twice and i have not had any more worms she is in her winter stage so all her leaves are of thank u for ur reply

  57. Hi Ryan

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    The worms could be butterfly larvae. Perhaps take a sample to your local nursery and they may be able to identify them for you.


  58. could someone please help i found tiny white worms on my white stinkwood bonsai would any one of hand know what they are? kind regards Ryan

  59. Hi Wouter

    Thanks for visiting Plantbook.

    Unfortunately my Afrikaans isn’t so good, so I’ll respond in English.

    Yes, Celtis africana is lovely in a medium or large garden. Likewise, C. australis is a stunning specimen which, for some reason, wasn’t introduced to South Africa and isn’t available commercially.


  60. `n Baie nuttige boom om te hê in enige medium tot groot tuin!
    Weet u hoeveel hierdie spesie verskil van C. australis was so algemeen as straatboom gebruik word in Europa?
    In Frankryk en Spanje sien mens die mooiste eksemplare, dit blyk asof C. australis `n mooier vorm het en `n langer hoofstam vorm as C.africana
    Ek hoor graag u opinie hieroor.
    Groete uit Durbanville, Weskaap

  61. Hi Lorraine

    The roots of the indigenous Celtis africana are not as aggressive as the exotic Celtis sinensis which is very common in Gauteng.

    However, avoid planting it less than 6m from any building or paved areas to prevent damage.


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