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Galpinia Transvaalica

by Gail Theron

Pride of the Transvaal or wild pride-of-India is the common names of the Galpinia Iransvaalica and it belongs to the Lythraceae family. It grows as a shrub or small tree, sometimes with many stems, mainly in the east of South Africa at medium or low altitudes. The bark is pale and smooth; the leaves are opposite, simple and feel leathery. The glossy dark green wavy leaves tum wonderful reds, golds and yellows prior to dropping in spring when the new leaves start to bud. The flowers are white and appear in dense terminal and axillary clusters and resemble the flowers of the Lagerstroemia indica, the pride-of-India. The flowers are shortlived, but they make an attractive display from November to May. The fruit, in dense clusters, are small, reddish-brown almost spherical capsules produced in June to July.

The Galpinia transvaalica is very rewarding as a bonsai subject; it breaks back extremely well on hard wood. Delicate branch ramification develops quickly as it is a vigorous grower. Nipping back frequently will reduce the leaf size quite quickly. It can also withstand heavy root pruning. Thus it surprises me that it is not more widely used, in fact, I have only come across it in the Cape as a bonsai subject.

As a growing medium, we use our standard soil mix of 60% compost, 40% coarse river sand. Potting is best done in late spring, September/October or otherwise in early autumn, March.

The Galpinia prefers full sun for half the day or semi-shade. Water daily in summer and as necessary in winter. Feed with Nitrosol monthly and use 3-1-5 from August to September to promote flowering.

Propagation is by seed, cuttings or air layerings. It is reasonably pest and disease resistant, but if stinkbugs are a problem use chlorpiriphos.

Design pruning can be done in August and most informal styles, including shohin are suitable for this species. Trimming is necessary during the entire growing season in order to train into or retain the desired design of the tree.

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Random Bonsai Tip

Sacrifice branches can be used to thicken up the branches or the trunk by taking advantage of the auxins in the terminal bud. A low branch could thus be used to thicken the base of the trunk and so improve the taper.