The false olive is a tree up to 10m tall in warm moist areas but
usually 4 to 5 metres in Highveld areas. Its young stems are four
angled and covered with white velvety hairs. The older stems and
trunks are creamy or grey to dark brown and fluted with the bark
peeling in longitudinal strips. The genus was named in honour of
an amateur botanist Rev Adam Buddle (1660-1715). Saligna
is a reference to the leaves being willow like.
leaves are long and narrow - somewhat similar to the olive from
which it gets its common name - but more textured. The leaf upper
surface is hairless and dark green, the underside is whitish with
prominently raised venation. The flowers are tiny, creamy white
and borne in dense sprays usually at the ends of branches. The flowers
have a lovely honey scent and appear from spring to summer (August-
January). The seeds are minute, forming in small, hairy capsules
which develop in the dried out flowers. (October - March)
The false olive is widespread in South Africa, from the Western
Cape through to Zimbabwe, extending inland from the coast to central
South Africa and the Kalahari thornveld in the northwest. The habitats
are very varied. It is found growing on dry hillsides, in mixed
scrub, wooded valleys, forest margins, along streams and in coastal
The plant is used for traditional medicinal purposes, the roots
as a purgative and the leaves to treat coughs and colds. The wood
is very fine grained and was used to make small pieces of furniture.
The straight branches were used to make fence posts. The false olive
was used to make asseggai handles. It also makes good fuel wood
as it burns with an intense heat. The large amounts of pollen and
nectar it produces makes it popular with bee farmers.
Growing Buddleja saligna
This fast growing tree is an excellent, quick screen plant. It
grows up to 800mm per year. Use it as a pioneer tree for
your forest garden. It also makes a very good clipped hedge. There
is a fine example of a hedge in the Waterwise Garden at the Witwatersrand
National Botanical Garden. It is evergreen, frost hardy and drought
resistant and the masses of flowers make a lovely spring and summer
show. It will grow in most soils but added compost will improve
performance. It may need cutting back after flowering to keep tidy.
The false olive does not have an aggressive root system.
The flowers attract insects (especially moths) and therefore insect
feeding birds such as robins and apalises to the garden.
Buddleja saligna is easily grown from seed or cuttings.
The seed is very fine and should be mixed with sand to obtain an
even distribution. Sow in a good, fine seedling mix in seedling
trays. To water after sowing, stand the tray in a clean, shallow
container of water and allow to soak up into seed tray. Remove once
the surface is wet. Germination may not take place all at the same
time although most seed should have germinated after four weeks.
Transplant into black bags, taking care to water well afterwards.
- Joffe, P. 2001. Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants: A
South African Guide. Briza. Pretoria
- Palmer, E and Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of Southern Africa: Volume
3. A.A. Balkema. Cape Town.
- Thomas, V and Grant, R. 1998. Sappi Tree Spotting, Highveld
and the Drakensberg. Jacana Education. Johannesburg.
- Venter, F and J-A. 1996. Making the most of Indigenous Trees.
Briza Publications. Pretoria.
- Van Wyk, B and van Wyk, P. 1997. Field Guide to Trees of Southern
Africa. Struik Publishers. Cape Town.
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden