Barleria gueinzii

Family : Acanthaceae
Common names : bush violet (Eng.); bosviooltjie (Afr.)

Barleria gueinzii

Barleria gueinzii is an unarmed (without thorns) evergreen shrub, which bears beautiful mauve to blue flowers from February to April and is ideal for a sunny spot in the garden or to control erosion on embankments.

Barleria gueinzii is a much-branched, evergreen, scrambling shrub with egg-shaped (ovate), greyish olive-green leaves and mauve-blue flowers from February to June. The fruit is a small, sharply pointed, exploding capsule. This shrub grows fairly fast to a height of about 1-2 m.

Barleria gueinzii

Conservation status

Distribution and habitat
Barleria gueinzii is found in the summer rainfall areas of South Africa on forest margins, rocky hilltops (koppies ) and hillsides in full sun to semi-shade and is able to withstand a moderate amount of frost. Rainfall ranges from 500-1 000 mm per annum with temperatures rising to the thirties (°C).

Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Barleria was named after a Dominican monk and French botanist, Jacques Barrelier who lived during the 1600s. The species name gueinzii commemorates Wilhelm Gueinzius 1814-1874, apothecary, botanical and zoological collector.

The genus consists of a group of herbs or shrubs, some producing spines and all producing fruit in the form of explosive capsules, and is found throughout the warmer parts of Asia, Africa and America. There are approximately 250 species of which about 60 occur in South Africa. The genus includes a few other species, which are of note to gardeners, including the mauve-flowering B. mackenii, the blue-mauve, pink and white-flowering B. obtusa, and the mauve to white-flowering B. galpinii.

Barleria gueinzii is pollinated by insects and attracts various species of butterflies. The insects attract insectivorous birds; therefore if you are a gardener that likes attracting life into your garden this plant is a good choice.

This plant bears small capsules, which explode to disperse the seeds.

Uses and cultural aspects
The horticultural value of the Barleria genus has been greatly underrated, and is only now proving to contain many species that would be wonderful additions to any garden.

Growing Barleria gueinzii

Barleria gueinzii grows fast and reaches maturity within two years. It can be propagated from seed or from cuttings. It grows easily from seed. The seed capsules should be collected as soon as they turn brown. Don't wait too long to collect the capsules, otherwise they explode and the seed is harder to collect.

It requires full sun to semi-shade and should be planted in sandy to loamy soil. Mixing 500 g of compost with 50 g of superphosphate and working it into the soil can improve growth. A moderate amount of water is required and these plants do rather well in the dry season, thus a perfect choice for a water-wise garden. It is semi frost-resistant and can therefore withstand a certain amount of cold weather, especially if planted in a protected area. It is advisable to prune Barleria gueinzii after it has flowered.

It can be planted in groups in flowerbeds or in the semi-shade under trees or in clumps on rockeries. It can be used in containers providing the containers are large and the plants regularly receive additional food and water.

No pests or diseases are recorded.

References and further reading

  • Leistner, O.A. (ed.). 2000. Seeds plants of southern Africa : families and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
  • Smith, C.A. 1966. Common names of South African plants. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No. 35.


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Lowveld National Botanical Garden
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