This is a delicate looking shrub with starry pink flowers and a
sweet lemony scent when touched. It belongs to the citrus family
(Rutaceae) with most of the members commonly called buchu because
of their aromatic leaves. Best known is the real buchu, Agathosma
betulina, which is widely used in medicine. But this little
shrub, Acmadenia heterophylla, also deserves a closer look
from visitors and gardeners.
and compact it grows to about 400 mm high, looking neat and green
throughout the year. The dark green leaves are tiny with small hairs
all along their edge and oil glands that emits the scent. Hardly
ever without a flower, the bushes are covered with deep pink flowers
at the tips of the stems during autumn, winter and spring. Each
of the flower's five petals has a prominent dark pink nectar guide
leading to the centre of the flower. Visiting bees are usually the
pollinators, but butterflies also visit the plants.
Acmadenia heterophylla naturally occur on the hills and
limestone outcrops around Bredasdorp, Caledon and Mosselbay in the
Growing Acmadenia heterophylla
heterophylla easily adapts to growing in the garden where it
requires full sun and well-drained soil. It will benefit from well
prepared soil with compost and a thick layer of mulch. The plants
also respond well to slow release fertilizer like 3:1:5. Although
natural to limestone, Acmadenia heterophylla will also tolerate
acidic soils. These are excellent plants for coastal gardens.
The plants can be propagated by seed or cuttings, but both require
some skill. Fresh seed must be sown in autumn.
Cuttings have the advantage of producing a larger flowering plant
faster than seedlings. Semi-hardwood cuttings, 50 to 70mm, are taken
from the current year's growth (August to early October). Prepare
cuttings by making a clean cut below the node and remove the third
of the foliage. Dip the base of the cuttings in a rooting hormone
such as Seradix 3. Firmly place cuttings in a medium of 50% bark
and 50% polystyrene. Ideally these cuttings should now be placed
in an well-aerated propagation unit with a bottom heat of 24-degree
Celsius. Rooting occurs in 9 to 11 weeks. Carefully pot the rooted
cuttings using a well-drained humus rich fynbos potting medium (2
parts leafmould, 1 part coarse sand). Plants will be ready for planting
in 7 to 8 months. Feed regularly with a well balance nutrient. Yellow
leaves can be treated with an application of iron chelate.
There are 33 species in the genus Acmadenia and they are
mainly found in the southern and south western Cape. In this family,
Rutaceae, of which the leaves of the plants are dotted with aromatic
oil glands that produce fragrances unique to each species, there
are also other interesting genera like Agathosma, Adenandra
and Coleonema. Unfortunately these plants are not easy to
obtain, but are sure to become more popular as they prove to be
such excellent garden plants.
Author: Liesl van der Walt