Blue-green foliage and subtly coloured flowers are attractive features of this widespread honey bell bush.
Freylinia densiflora is a very attractive, erect, branched, evergreen, woody shrub that grows to a height of 2-3 m. The blue-green foliage adds to the appeal of the plant. The leaf shape and habit varies in this species according to the availability of moisture in its habitat. The beautiful, tubular, bell-shaped flowers are borne in dense, light mauve to pink and white/cream clusters. The honey bell bush flowers from June to September.
Derivation of Name
The genus Freylinia was named after Count L. de Freylino. The Count owned a famous garden in Buttigliera near Marengo in Italy in the early 19 th century. The species name densiflora refers to the densely arranged flowers. The genus Freylinia consists of nine other species of which F. tropica, F. undulata, F. visseri and F. lanceolata make beautiful garden plants.
Distribution and habitat
Freylinia densiflora is the most widespread of the Cape species. It occurs both in the eastern and southern Cape regions. Its distribution pattern ranges from the Montagu District in the west to Grahamstown in the east. This honey bell bush grows in a wide variety of vegetation types ranging from fynbos, grassy fynbos, semi-arid renosterveld and succulent Karoo. The plant usually grows in rocky, exposed, mountain slopes.
Freylinia densiflora, like most of the other Freylinia species, are subject to occasional fires after which they resprout. This means the plant has a persistent rootstock that allows it to survive burning. The beautiful tubular flowers are also pollinated by sunbirds. The seed capsules ripen from late spring to early summer and split open, releasing flat, winged seeds, which are dispersed by wind.
Growing Freylinia densiflora
Freylinia densiflora is grown easily from seeds and cuttings. Seed should be sown in spring or early summer using a well-drained soil mixture. The seed will germinate within three weeks. Soft to semi-mature, short stem cuttings can be taken in autumn, spring or summer. These cuttings can be treated with a rooting hormone to help stimulate rooting. These cuttings will root within a month. Once the cuttings have rooted, place them in a slightly shaded area to harden off for three weeks before potting. Pot the rooted plants in a sandy soil mix and placed under a shade net until ready for planting.
This honey bell bush is an ideal plant for any fynbos garden, especially in semi-arid regions; otherwise give it a warm sunny spot in your garden. The plant grows very tall and vigorously so it can be planted as a screen to hide any structures or walls and can also be planted at the back of a bed with smaller shrubs and herbaceous perennials in front of it. It grows in full sun and is fairly water-wise. Regular pruning will keep the shrub nice and tidy.
References and further reading
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town & Missouri Botanical Garden.
- Hyam, R. & Pankhurst, R. 1995. Plants and their names. A concise dictionary. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Van Jaarsveld, E. 1995. Freylinia densiflora. Flowering Plants of Africa 54: 68-72. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.