Honeybells is a small tree with a charm all of its own, and attracts
hosts of butterflies and other pollinators.
Golden-yellow, honey-scented bells appear rather incongruous on
this sometimes untidy, evergreen shrub (4.5 x 4.5 m). Flowering
is mainly from June (winter) to August (early spring), but can occur
sporadically throughout the year. Freylinia lanceolata has
long, arching, drooping branches of willow-like foliage. Usually
multi-stemmed, it occasionally develops into a single-stemmed, weeping
tree. The grey bark is smooth. Fruits are small brown capsules produced
This plant occurs in moist areas, along streams or on the edge of
marshes/'vleis'in the southwestern Cape, northwards to Calvinia
and eastwards to Uitenhage.
It was first cultivated in the garden of Count Freylino in Italy
(1817), where, being a new plant, it caused quite a stir. The Latin
name lanceolata means 'lance-shaped'. Freylinia is
an African genus and there are nine species in South Africa. Most
are shrubby, but a couple may occasionally become small trees. Freylinia
tropica is another species often cultivated in gardens.
The flowers attract a variety of insects, which become food for
insectivorous (insect-eating) birds such as blackheaded oriole,
pied and crested barbets, Cape robin and thrushes.
Uses and cultural aspects
According to a note on a herbarium specimen, the wood is not strong
enough to be of use, but the plant is attractive and has horticultural
Growing Freylinia lanceolata
This plant is easily propagated from seed. The tiny, wingless seeds
germinate readily within three weeks. Take stem cuttings during
the warmer summer months. Under suitable conditions young plants
grow fast and may flower within a couple of seasons. Add lots of
compost to the planting area and mulch well. Water regularly, particularly
if the shrub is planted in a herbaceous border away from water.
It enjoys moist conditions and is very fast-growing if well-watered.
It would be perfectly at home positioned alongside a large dam,
pond or water feature, where it could be kept pruned and tidied.
If you have the time to spare, try pruning it into a single-stemmed
tree. On farms, plant it on stream banks or in a large shrubbery,
where the pretty flowers can be appreciated at close range. In home
gardens, place it towards the back of an informal border-it is probably
better suited to medium and larger gardens.
Wind-resistant, frost-hardy and relatively pest-free, F. lanceolata
prefers a sunny spot in the garden. It fares equally well in summer
and winter rainfall areas. Prune this adaptable plant whenever necessary
to keep it neat. If you want to harvest seed for propagation purposes,
don't cut off the old flowerheads. It tolerates temperatures ranging
from about -2°C to 37°C.
- COATES-PALGRAVE, K. 1988. Trees of southern Africa, edn 2. Struik,
- JOFFE, P. 2001. Creative gardening with indigenous plant-a South
African guide. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- PALMER, E. & PITMAN, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa.
Balkema, Cape Town.
- VAN WYK, B. & VAN WYK, P. 1997. Field guide to the trees
of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
Pretoria National Botanical Garden