Amongst the attractive red, bronze tints provided by tree foliage
in autum, Barleria obtusa makes an even more spectacular
show. This evergreen flowering shrublet is covered in a mass of
dainty violet flowers from April to May. This fast growing, spreading
shrublet is a must for rockeries and small gardens.
B.obtusa occurs naturally from the Soutpansberg in the Northern
Province, Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu Natal and further to the Eastern
Cape Province. It grows quite commonly on hills and along forest
margins in subtropical regions.
Barleria obtusa is multi-stemmed shrublet. The branches
have an erect or decumbent habit. The size of the plant varies when
planted in different growing environments. From about one metre
as a low bushy plant in the open, whilst shady conditions encourage
long sprawling branches which reach a height of two metres.
The soft, sage green leaves are oppositely placed and have entire
margins with fine translucent hairs. A characteristic feature is
that the leaves are reflexed (the margins are upturned). In its
natural habit the leaves of the bush violet are browsed by buck.
2-3cm wide flower petals are borne on the top part of the branch.
A closer look at the individual flower will reveal the style and
only two stamens with violet coloured pollen. The seed capsule becomes
woody when mature, and then the seeds are explosively released and
scattered on the ground.
Growing Barleria obtusa
Barleria obtusa grows very well in full sun and semi- shaded
conditions. Although B. obtusa is a summer rainfall subject
and can grow in a wide range of soils, it thrives in the winter
rainfall, W. Cape area but requires well drained soil conditions.
Lots of compost added to the soil will give plants a good boost.
The bush violet also shows good drought resistant properties,
however, for excellent growth, regular watering is encouraged.
The shrublet can be planted in mixed borders and banks. Regular
pruning is necessary after the shrub has flowered, for neat and
compact growth. To encourage more flowers, nip off the shoots during
spring and early summer.
B. obtusa is easily propagated from seeds, cuttings and
layering. The seeds must be collected before the seeds are dispersed,
when the seed capsules turn brown in color. The flat seeds are sown
in seed trays in a well- drained medium. Cover the seeds with sifted
soil or sand. Keep trays in a shaded area.
Semi-soft wood cuttings can be taken during the summer from new
growth. Dip the base of tip or stem cuttings into Serradix No. 2
hormone powder to stimulate fast root development. Successful results
can be expected in four weeks.
Layering is also an easy method of multiplying this plant. Choose
a long branch which has not flowered. In autumn prepare the soil,
by filling a small hole with coarse sand. Bend the branch and remove
the leaves of the area that touches the soil. Score the underside
of the naked stem to injure the tissue. Peg the bent branch into
the hole and cover it with soil and coarse sand. Stake the tip and
keep the spot moist until rooted.
habitat B. obtusa is variable with different forms. White
and pink flowered forms have been introduced into cultivation. Barleria
'Purple Prince' has a spreading habit with darker violet flowers
and has slightly glossy leaves. This cultivar is very popular and
a garden asset for difficult areas.
Barleria is a large genus composed of 120 species mostly
confined to Africa and in tropical Asia. There are about 50 species
found in South Africa. In the recent past new species have been
discovered, such as B. greenii
from Natal. This genus bears investigation as several other Barleria
species also exhibit horticultural potential.
- Alexander, M. Blues and Mauves, Aug. 1994, SA. Garden & Home
- Johnson, D. & Johnson, S. Indigenous trees and shrubs for
- Maclear, R. Indigenous Acanths for your garden. June 1998,
SA. Garden & Home
- Wild flowers of SA. 3 Take your pick (Barleria) Sept.1994,
28 April 2020