There are no active references in this article.
Shrub or small tree to 8–12 m, trunk to 0.15 m dbh or larger in cultivation; branches somewhat pendent, as in a willow. Bark dark reddish brown with a sweet, spicy scent; breaking into a number of irregular plates with age. Densely branched; branches slender, glabrous and dull or shiny reddish brown, with prominent lenticels. Leaves evergreen, trifoliate, leaflets linear-lanceolate and sometimes falcate, 2.7–24 × 0.4–1.8 cm, the lateral leaflets usually shorter than the central leaflet; the leaves leathery, upper surface dark green, lower surface pale green, margins entire, apex acute to emarginate; midrib distinct; petiole distinct, 3–4 cm long and with flattened margins. Dioecious. Inflorescence a lateral or terminal panicle, to 11 cm long. Flowers yellow and sweetly scented. Fruit a slightly compressed drupe, 0.4–0.5 cm long, greenish white to brown and brittle. Schonland 1930, Barkley 1961. Distribution BOTSWANA; NAMIBIA; SOUTH AFRICA; ZAMBIA; ZIMBABWE. Habitat Mixed savannas and bushveld, typically near permanent water sources. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Coates Palgrave 1990; NT764.
In the northern hemisphere Rhus lancea is the best known of the South African species, and with its narrow dark green leaflets on somewhat weeping branches has a very distinctive appearance. The bark is also attractive. In South Africa it is valued as a drought- and heat-tolerant, frost-hardy species and is recommended for barrier plantings and as a street tree (Stern 2002), and it seems to have been introduced to the southwestern United States for these same qualities of tolerance to adverse conditions. Jacobson (1996), in whose book North American Landscape Trees it is the only South African representative, records its date of introduction as c.1916. In the southwestern United States it is not only well established (and generally valued) as a landscape tree, but has become naturalised, and could pose a threat to natural ecosystems, especially desert washes. Its pollen is said to be allergenic (Arizona Board of Regents 2001–2006). It is also grown further north, into Oregon, but is hardy only down to –10 ºC (Jacobson 1996), although it can resprout from the base if the top is killed (Hogan 2008). It is rare in Europe. Cuttings taken by Allen Coombes at the JC Raulston Arboretum were introduced to the Hillier Gardens in 1992; these died out, but it has since been reintroduced there, and new plants are becoming established.