Agathosma lanceolata (L) Engler

Family: Rutaceae
Common names:
Honey Buchu (E); Heuningboegoe (A)

Agathosma lanceolata

Gently crush the leaves of this buchu and you will discover its liquorice scent. Interesting, Agathosma lanceolata is a spreading shrublet, with beautiful pink to mauve flowers carried in terminal heads. This buchu is an asset in any garden and is best displayed along borders or edges. It can also be grown in a container.

Forming an open or lax shrub, it grows to a height of 500 mm. Individual flowers are large and form quite open terminal clusters. They are white with a pink or mauve throat. The honey buchu flowers from April to July. The flowering bush attracts pollinators and bees and butterflies are regular visitors.

Agathosma lanceolata occurs naturally on south-facing sandstone slopes on the Cape Peninsula.

Growing Agathosma lanceolata

Agathosma lanceolata does best when planted in a fairly cool, semi-shaded position such as the south side of a house. It requires a soil that is well drained, composted and enriched with a well-balanced fertilizer (3:2:1).

Planting buchus into your garden is best done after the first good winter rains have started (May to July in the Cape). Buchus respond to fairly dense plantings, which helps to retain soil moisture. An annual mulching of well-rotted compost is advised to reduce weeds and keep the soil temperature low.

Buchus can be grown from seed or cuttings. Buchus produce their seed in a capsule from which it is expelled on ripening. This phenomenon is known as ballistic dispersal. Fresh seed is sown in autumn.

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 (January to February). Prepare cuttings by making a clean cut below the node and removing a third of the foliage. Dip the base of the cutting in a rooting hormone such as Seradix 2. 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 24-degree Celsius. Rooting occurs in 9 to 11 weeks. Carefully pot the rooted cuttings using a well-drained humus riched 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-balanced nutrient. Yellow leaves can be treated with an application of iron chelate.

There are 150 species in the genus Agathosma and most are found in the Western Cape.

The word Agathosma is derived from the Greek meaning agathos, pleasant and osme, small. The name refers to the volatile oil in the glands, dotted on the leaves and fruit, which emit a pleasant aroma when touched. In this case, the plant is decidely liquorice-scented! The origin of the common name of this species is not clear, but it may indicate copious nectar.

Buchus are well known herbal plants. A.betulina is the species most commonly used in herbal remedies.

Norma Jodamus
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
April 2001

To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.

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