This is one of the true buchus, long used medicinally. The volatile
oils in the glands dotting the leaves and fruit emit an easily recognizable
buchu fragrance when touched or crushed.
evergreen shrub with aromatic leaves is used medicinally. It forms
a charming garden shrub with a rounded shape and grows to a height
of 1.5 to 2.5 m. Starry white flowers, 1 to 3, are carried on short,
leafless branchlets which form in the axils of the oval leaves.
Flowers are 5-petalled, white or occasionally flushed pink. They
decorate the shrub for 6-8 weeks between June and November. New
shoots have distinctive red-flushed stems.
The shiny, oval green leaves are twice as long (15-35 mm) as they
are broad. The leaves are opposite, have serrated edges and scattered
oil glands on their undersides. Flowers are followed by green fruit,
which darken as they ripen.
Agathosma crenulata occurs on damp lower slopes of the mountains
of southwestern Cape from Tulbagh to Riversdale. In nature it prefers
the middle slopes, particularly on siltier valley or shaly soils
and often near water. Natural distribution is Mountain Fynbos.
of name and horticultural aspects
Agathosma derived from the Greek meaning agathos,
pleasant and osme, smell. Agathosma crenulata and
A. betulina (see below) belong to the Rutaceae, commonly
known as the citrus family. There are 150 species in the genus Agathosma
and they are mainly found in the Western Cape. Barosma is
an old name for Agathosma.
The entire shrub is covered in flowers attracting bees and butterflies.
Fruit are formed after pollination of the flower. Seed are borne
in a 5-chambered capsule, one seed per chamber. The seeds are ready
to be harvested when the capsule turns darker in colour, feels harder
and the bottom of the capsule is reddish brown in colour. The seeds
are dispersed from the capsule upon ripening. This is known as ballistic
dispersal. If intending to collect seed for propagation, it is important
to inspect the seed capsules daily during the ripening period. To
harvest seed, wait for a few capsules to open and collect the darker,
plump capsules. Seed ripens towards the middle of summer, is usually
during November to December. . Seeds collected from fully ripe capsules
show a higher germination percentage. If seeds are picked too early,
the embryo will not ripen and the seeds will not be viable.
Uses and cultural aspects
Buchu is part of cultural heritage of the Khoi and San people who
used the dried and powered leaves mixed with sheep fat to anoint
bodies. Leaves were also chewed to relieve stomach complaints.
Buchu leaves steeped in vinegar, boegoeasyn or brandy,
boegoebrandewyn, were an essential part of the medicine chest
of the early Cape colonist. They used it for a variety of ailments
to treat stomach complaints, worms, indigestion, kidney and bladder
ailments. Buchu vinegar was also used to wash and clean wounds.
For a relaxing in the bath, tie a bunch of buchu leaves in some
old pantyhose and drop it under a hot tap as you fill your bath.
It helps to ease backache and rheumatism.
How to make buchu tea and buchu brandy
Buchu is helpful when drunk as a tea, for urinary tract infection
and mild digestive disturbances. It is also said to be an effective
treatment for gout and rheumatism when taken daily. Prepare the
tea by pouring a cup of boiling water over one or two teaspoons
of dried or fresh leaves. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes then strain
The best known method to use buchu is in the famous buchu brandy.
Buchu brandy or vinegar is made by steeping a few thumb-length sprigs
of fresh buchu in a bottle of brandy or white vinegar (optional
add a few garlic cloves to the vinegar). Shake the liquid daily
for a week and store in a cupboard.
Growing Agathosma crenulata
crenulata can be used as an accent plant in your garden or as
a filler plant in a mixed fynbos bed with companion plants such
as Protea, Restio, Pelargonium and buchu. It can also be
used as a container plant placed in a sunny spot on your stoep or
Planted in your garden this species requires full sun, soil that
is acid, well drained and composted. Plant out in groups of 3 to
5 with enough space to grow. Add a layer of mulch to keep the soil
and roots cool in summer, retain soil moisture and reduce weeds.
Buchus are best planted out during the winter -spring season. Plants
require good watering in winter and moderate watering in summer.
Do not allow plants to dry out. Once established in your garden
they will survive long periods of drought and will withstand a fair
amount of frost.
Agathosma crenulata is easily grown from seed. Propagating
vegetatively from cuttings takes a bit longer and is difficult.
The formation of calluses responsible for the development of roots
is slow and cuttings tend to drop their foliage.
Fresh seed is collected when ripe and stored for sowing in autumn.
Seed is cleaned and sown on a prepared medium of sand and compost
in equal parts in a seed tray. Cover seed with a thin layer of bark
and water. Place seed trays in a covered area with good light and
ventilation. Keep seed trays damp and germination will take place
within 1 to 2 months. Seedlings are pricked out when 4 true leaves
have developed. The growing tips of seedlings are pinched out to
encourage bushy growth. Feed buchus regularly with a balanced nutrient.
The yellowing of leaves can be treated with an application of iron
Cuttings have the advantage of producing a larger flowering plant
quicker than seedlings. Tip cuttings, 50-70 mm, are taken from the
current year's growth. Prepare cuttings by making a clean cut below
the node and remove the third of the foliage. Dip the base of the
cutting in a rooting hormone. Firmly place the 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 24º C. Ideally rooting occurs in 9 to 11 weeks. Carefully
pot the rooted cuttings using a well-drained, humus-rich, fynbos
potting medium (2 parts leaf mould, 1 part coarse sand). Plants
will be ready for planting in 7 to 8 months. Feed regularly with
a well-balanced nutrient.
Commercially grown buchus
Agathosma crenulata and A. betulina are commercially
grown for their oil. The oil is extracted and used in the manufacture
of cosmetics, soaps, food colorants and medicinally for the treatment
of renal disorders and chest complaints. Isomenthone and disphenol
are the major oil compounds in the essential oils of A. betulina.
The essential oils are used for their antiseptic and diuretic properties.
Used in the food industry, the sulphur-containing compounds are
responsible for the characteristic blackcurrant smell and flavour
of buchu oil. A. crenulata is less desirable owing to high
levels of pulegone, a compound considered to be toxic.
Agathosma betulina is commonly referred to as the round-leaf
buchu, rondeblaarboegoe (Afr.) It is a fragrant shrub growing
to a height of 2 m. The leaves are rounded, about 20 mm long with
a rounded apex curving backwards; they are rounder than the oval,
more linear leaves of A. crenulata. Oil glands are prominent
along the margins of the leaves. The flowers are star-shaped, white
to pale pink in colour and flowers bloom from June to November.
It is easily grown from seed.
Agathosma betulina has a restricted natural distribution
area in the Western Cape. It is found on mountain slopes near Niewoudtville,
Piketberg and Tulbagh and in the Cederberg Mountains.
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and Bieudow Valley. South African Wild Flower Guide 10.
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