is well known in the Cape, not so much as a garden shrub, but as
a herbal tea. The tea, made from the shoots of the shrub, contains
no caffeine and also has a much lower tannin content than the oriental
teas. Traditionally, honeybush tea was made from Cyclopia genistoides,
which occurs naturally on mountains near the Cape Peninsula.
Today, honeybush tea has become so popular that fields of Cyclopia
genistoides for commercial harvesting have been successfully
established on sandy soils in the southern Cape.
To make the tea the stems and leaves are chopped into small pieces,
wet and then left in heaps where they ferment spontaneously, They
may be heated in an oven to about 60°C - 70°C to enhance the process.
After sufficient fermentation, the tea is spread out in the sun
to dry. After sifting, it is ready for use. Honeybush tea, with
its own distinct sweet taste and aroma, is made like ordinary tea,
except that simmering enhances the flavour. Drinking honeybush tea
is said to promote good health, stimulate the appetite, and the
milk flow of lactating mothers.
genistoides is a small, typical fynbos shrub, easy to miss when
not in flower. A much-branched woody shrub with golden yellow stems,
it grows to about one metre. The short needle-like leaves are arranged
in threes along the branches, a typical feature of Cyclopia.
When flowering in spring the same shrub can take your breath away
with a bold display of bright yellow flowers.
Money beetles are attracted to the sweet smelling flowers at the
tip of the branches. They are responsible for most of the pollination.
The brown seeds are formed in small pods that turn brown. The pods
dry and split open within a few weeks as the seed ripens.
How to grow Cyclopia genistoides
Cyclopia genistoides can be propagated by seed or cuttings.
The best time to sow seed is from summer to autumn. To select viable
seeds throw the seed into a jug of water and remove any seeds that
float to the surface. Before sowing the seeds need to be treated.
First, the hard seed coat which protects the small seeds, needs
to be damage to enable the uptake of moisture for germination. In
nature this hard seed coat would slowly be damaged in the soil by
micro-organisms and other factors. In the nursery the scarifying
of the dry seed can be done with sulfuric acid. Proceed with caution
to avoid the chemical coming into contact with one's skin.. If only
a small amount of seed is needed, an easier way to damage the seed
coat is to lightly sand the seeds with sandpaper.
The seeds of cyclopias and many other fynbos plants are adapted
to germinate after fire. Experiments have shown that it is the smoke
of the fire which stimulates the germination of the seed. To get
this same effect the seed can be treated with smoke
extract, which is produced and sold at Kirstenbosch.The seed
must be sown on a medium with good drainage and a low pH of 3.5
to 5. Germination usually takes place within two weeks. To prevent
damping off, a fungicide should be used.
The young seedlings are potted up as soon as they are big enough
to handle and grown on in the nursery before planting out. Many
plants of the legume family, which include cyclopias, are often
difficult to root from cuttings, but Cyclopia genistoides
is an exception. Tip cuttings can be made using Seradix 2 as a rooting
Honeybush needs to be planted in full sun and well-drained soil.
The plants are sensitive to severe frost. The plants grow fairly
fast but start to look untidy after a few years if not regularly
pruned or burned, which is what usually happens in nature. After
fire old honeybush plants shoot out vigorously from the surviving
roots,which act as a storage organ.
from the genus Cyclopia are easily recognized by their sweetly,
scented yellow, pea flowers. All 23 species of Cyclopia occur only
in fynbos; from the Cederberg Mountains, southwards to the Cape
Peninsula and eastwards to Port Elizabeth. Usually species are restricted
to very small areas and then also to very specific habitats like
high mountain peaks, marshy areas, shale bands and wet southern
Honeybush tea was traditionally harvested only for home use, but
has recently developed into an exciting, new commercial product
as the demand has increased from tea-lovers around the world. Other
species such as Cyclopia intermedia (bergtee) and Cyclopia
subternata (vleitee) and Cyclopia sessiliflora (Heidelbergtee)
are also harvested for tea. At present about 125 ton of honeybush
tea is produced annually. This is collected from plants in the wild
and an increasing amount from cultivated plantations.
Author: Liesl van der Walt