If you are living in a subtropical area and looking for a fast growing, indigenous plant to solve your problem of planting open sunny areas in your garden, Barleria prionitis subsp. delagoensis is the answer to your problem.
Barleria prionitis subsp. delagoensis is a branched perennial herb or subshrub 0.4– 1.5 m high. The leaves are elliptic to lanceolate with the upper halve tapering to a sharp pointed apex (tip) and the lower half tapering to a long or short petiole (leaf stalk). Spines are present in the leaf axils (the angle between the stem and the leaf stalk or a branch). The orange flowers are arranged in a loose or fairly dense terminal spike with the lower flowers solitary in the axils of the leaves. The corolla (petals of the flower) is 2-lipped. The upper lip is 4-lobed and the lower lip entire. The lower leaves in the inflorescence are more or less like the normal leaves and the upper leaves are usually much smaller. The bracteoles (small leaf-like structures at the base of the flower) taper to an acute apex. It has a single seed capsule bearing two seeds. When the seed is ripe the fruit capsule explodes to distribute the seeds in different directions.
Distribution and habitat
Barleria prionitis subsp. delagoensis grows in well-drained sandy soils, in full sun and has been collected in the Kruger National Park, KwaZulu-Natal, Mozambique and Swaziland, where it grows on dune forest edges, rocky outcrops or along roads.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Prionitis (Greek), means “like the holly, saw-edged”, and the subspecies delagoensis was named after Delagoa Bay (the name for the Maputo area in Mozambique during the colonial days). The genus Barleria is found in Asia, Africa and America. It contains about 250 species with about 70 species in Africa.
Barleria prionitis subsp. delagoensis is pollinated by insects and attracts various species of butterflies.
Uses and cultural aspects
Barleria species are exceptionally suitable for stabilizing soil erosion, landscaping water-wise gardens, rockeries and sunny areas in the garden.
Growing Barleria prionitis subsp. delagoensis
Barleria prionitis subsp. delagoensis is propagated either by seed or cuttings:
Seed: To prevent seed being lost, it can be collected as the capsules turn brown.
The seeds should be planted in trays in a mixture of two parts good soil and one part clean river sand. Place them in a shady spot in your garden and water once a week. Germination of the seeds takes place after a week. Transplanting the seedlings into bags should be done when the seedlings are more or less 100 mm high.
Cuttings: Cuttings should be made in summer, and you should make use of softwood plant material. Take cuttings of 120 mm length, treat them with a hormone powder and plant them in a mixture of equal parts good soil and river sand. Put the cuttings in a shady place and water twice a week. Transplant the rooted cuttings after about three months into a good soil mixture.
References and further reading
- Fabian, A. &Germishuizen, G. 1982. Transvaal wild flowers. Macmillan South Africa, Johannesburg.
- Little, John. R.& Jones, C.Eugene 1980. A dictionary of Botany. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York, Cincinnatti, Toronto, Melbourne.
- Obermeijer, A.A. Annals of the Transvaal Museum 16, 3.
- Wood, J.R.I., Hillcoat, D. & Brummitt, R.K. 1983. Kew Bulletin 3: 429–456.
Lowveld National Botanical Garden