One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
An evergreen tree, Cunonia capensis (family Cunoniaceae), native to southern Africa, with glossy compound leaves and racemes of fragrant cream flowers.
Early 19th century; earliest use found in John Barrow. From South African Dutch roode els (Afrikaans rooiels), transferred use of Dutch roode els alder (literally ‘red alder’; so named on account of its reddish wood) from roode + els. In some forms directly from Afrikaans rooiels. With the transfer of the name from the European alder to the southern African tree, compare similar uses in compounds cited at alder.
rooi els/ˈrɔɪ ˌɛls/
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