A crying tree – The Weeping Boer Bean

Although, when looking at the bushveld, is seems rather monotone (oranges and browns and greys in winter and greens and browns in summer), there are a myriad of colours hiding away for those who look closely.  In springtime especially there is quite a bit of red.

A favorite tree of mine is one with the most beautiful red flowers.  They stand out because they seem to shine brightly in the sunshine.  This is due to the copious amounts of nectar they exude – coating them in a sheen of sticky honey – so much so that the nectar drips onto the ground under the tree.  That is why it  is called the weeping boer bean.

Scotia brachypetala has quite a few other names too which help describe it.

  • Parrot Tree – the nectar attracts a lot of birds
  • Drunken Parrot Tree – excess nectar ferments and can have a mild narcotic effect on some birds
  • Weeping Boerbean – the name we use here – weeping due to the nectar dripping and bean because it is a leguminous tree
  • Huilboerboon – is the Afrikaans name (huil = cry)
  • Tree Fuchsia – totally different family to the fuchsia but has similar flowers (ballerina flowers)
  • African Walnut – the roasted seeds are edible.
While the tree in my garden pictured here is only about 3m tall, these trees can grow to about 22m high with a spread of 15 meters.
Not only is Schotia brachypetala an exceptional ornamental tree, it also has a number of other uses: A decoction of the bark is taken to treat heartburn and hangovers (good to know 🙂 ). Bark and root mixtures are used to strengthen the body and purify the blood, to treat nervous heart conditions and diarrhoea, as well as for facial saunas. The seeds are edible after roasting, Both the Bantu-speaking people and the early European settlers and farmers are said to have roasted the mature pods and eaten the seeds, a practice which they learned from the Khoikhoi. The bark can be used for dyeing, giving a red-brown or red colour.
Here are some pictures of the flowers
In the picture below you can see the gooey nectar. Also the bean pod in the middle of the flower and some ants busy collecting nectar.

28 thoughts on “A crying tree – The Weeping Boer Bean

  1. My uncle in Cape Town died in the last 24hours. Fitting that a weeping tree is featured. He has the hope of heaven so there is hope and beauty in the tears.
    Dan, Washington State, US


  2. Interesting post Jackie, I love learning about new places and species of plants and trees from different partsof the world. NIce photos too. I thought the first one was a painting! Thanks for sharing.


    • Hi Andre. I got the following from plantzafrica.com

      “Growing Schotia brachypetala

      Schotia brachypetala grows easily, transplants well and blooms whilst still relatively young. On heavy soils in colder climates it can be quite slow, but in warm, frost-free areas in deep sandy soil with plenty of water in summer, it is surprisingly fast, and has been known to reach a height of 12 m in 17 years. For best results, plant in a warm sunny position, in deep, well-aerated sandy soil, add plenty of well-decomposed compost (humus) and water liberally in summer. A general purpose granular fertiliser can be used during the growing season. It is half-hardy to frost, and young plants require protection, but a well-established tree in a protected spot, should be able to withstand a winter minimum of down to -5C (23F).”

      Hope this helps


  3. Jackie, do you have a photo of a pod? I found some heavy dark pods under a tree in Kruger Park in August ~ they were from the previous year, and the edges had pulled away from the body and curled into horns, sort of. Does this sound like weeping boer bean to you?


  4. Dear Jackie, Thanks you for your most beautiful photographs. I am a ceramic artist and have been asked to paint a sign for a farm on the Kromme River in St. Francis Bay. Eastern Cape. The name is “The Bat & The Boer Boon” Although I am a keen gardener I was not familiar with the tree so your pictures have ‘bean’ of great assistance. Will send a picture of the completed mural. One more question. Would bats drink the nectar from the tree?
    With Thanks,
    Molly Calder.


  5. Hello Jackie,
    I would love to print your pictures of the Weeping Boer Bean Tree to use as a reference while I am painting the blooms on my mural. Would you so kind as to allow me to do so and kindly tell me how.
    Many thanks,
    Molly Calder


    • Hi Molly – you are welcome to use them. if you right click on the picture you should be given an option to save it to your computer. It will be easy to print from there. I would love to see the mural when you are finished.


  6. Hi Jackie
    Can you please advise me.
    Some 3 and half years ago, I planted a boer bean tree which I bought from a nursery. It has grown to about 8 feet, but there has been absolutely no signs of any flowers. It is planted in a sunny area and also gets late afternoon shade. We provide plenty of water and also feed the tree with nutrients. But, still no flowers!!! We live in the Eastern Cape.
    Thank you


    • Hi Bill

      Honestly I have no idea – ours just grow wild here and I do nothing to or for them. I assume it may be a temperature thing – we have a very hot climate here. I think it would be best to contact someone who cultivates indigenous trees. They should know what you can do. Good luck.


  7. Hello, Jackie! I am a retired Anglican priest in Australia, and first encountered a Drunken Parrot Tree on a cattle run and homestead on the Western Darling Downs in Queensland. I am also a published poet, and wanted to write about the tree; having completed a nearly good-enough draft, I wondered if I could use one or two of your blossom photographs (with acknowledgment, of course!). I will leave my email address as required, and if you wish to follow up before you decide about permission, I will attach the poem as a Word file. They are wonderful photos! Looking forward to your reply, Jim McPherson


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