Mountain sagewood is an interesting Buddleja for small gardens or town houses, particularly those inland at higher altitudes. It has a tidy, rounded shape, attractive foliage and sweetly scented, creamy white flowers which attract many insects to the garden.
Mountain sage grows up to 4 m and is either a multi-stemmed, densely bushy shrub or small tree. It has a pale brown bark and its branchlets are sometimes covered in rusty hairs. The wrinkly, narrow leaves are stalked, opposite and simple; medium to dark green above, much paler below and have rusty hairs, a raised midrib and side veins. It is sometimes confused with Buddleja salviifolia, but B. loricata leaves have a more rounded base and have no stipules, just a ridge between the leaves. They are also identified by their rusty hairs. The plant is also usually a shrub, smaller than B. salviifolia and the flowers are also different.
The small flowers are in dense terminal spikes or cymes with hairy stalks and calyx. They are sweetly scented, creamy white or yellow, sometimes with orange centres and occur in summer between October to December.
The fruit is a small capsule covered with fine, creamy grey hairs and form dense, woolly heads. The fruits split (January to March) along the flat surface when mature to release very fine, dust like seeds.
From Lesotho, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, Buddleja loricata occurs among rocks or in a moist, sheltered place on slopes, mountains and sometimes on streambanks at fairly high altitudes, usually above 1 800 m.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
According to Palmer & Pitman (1972, 1973), this is a fairly large family that is mostly distributed throughout the world, occurring in the warmer parts of Africa, Asia, North, and South America. They have been popular garden plants in Western countries for nearly two centuries. The genus named after the Rev. Adam Buddle (1660-1715), an amateur botanist who built up a herbarium of British plants. The species name loricata is probably derived from the Latin lorica which means amoured, with a hard, scaly exterior. This is probably a reference to the wrinkled, tough leaves. It was previously called B. corrugata.
The sweet-scented flowers attract lots of insects, including bees and butterflies to the garden and a number of insect-eating birds.
Uses and cultural aspects
This Buddleja is receiving attention in the USA as a horticultural subject and is sometimes available from specialist nurseries in South Africa, but it is not yet as common in local gardens as some other species.
Growing Buddleja loricata
Buddleja loricata can be used as a windbreaker, filler plant, and hedge or planted in rocky gardens. The roots are not invasive. It is easily grown from cuttings in summer. Take semi-hard wood cuttings for best results. Dip the cutting in rooting powder and place in a medium of river sand. Keep damp (in a mist house if possible), but not wet. Cuttings should root in 1 month. It is not easily grown from seed.
This Buddleja will tolerate cold, as it comes from a high altitude. It should be shaped and pruned after flowering if required. It may not be as drought resistant as the real toughies B. glomerata and B. saligna. Another species which makes an attractive garden plant with extremely fragrant flowers is Buddleja auriculata.
- KEITH, PAUL & MEG COATES PALGRAVE, 1985, Everyone's guide to Trees of South Africa, Cape Town (S.A.), Struik Publishers (Pty) Ltd
- MEG COATES PALGRAVE, 2002, Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa - New Edition, Cape Town (S.A.), Struik Publishers (Pty) Ltd
- DIRR, M. A. 2002. Dirr's Trees and Shrubs for warm Climates. Timber Press, Portland.
- POOLEY, E. 2003. Mountain Flowers: A Field Guide to the Flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho. Natal Flora Publications Trust
- POOLEY, E.1993. The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand & Transkei. Natal Flora Publications Trust
- PALMER E. PITMAN N, 1972 & 1973, Trees of Southern Africa, 3 vols. Cape Town (S.A.), A.A. Balkema
Luambo David Rambuwani
Free State National Botanical Gardens
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