This critically endangered shrub makes an attractive garden plant.
Freylinia longiflora is an erect, slender, much branched shrub that grows up to 1.5 m high. The plant has simple, leathery, elliptic leaves with trusses of white to cream-coloured, tubular flowers on the branch tips. This beautiful bell bush flowers from September to October.
In the latest Western Cape Red Data list of August 2006, Freylinia longiflora is classified as critically endangered (cr). This is mainly due to agriculture and invasive alien trees encroaching on its habitat.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Freylinia was named after Italian Count L. de Freylino. The Count owned a famous garden in the 19th century in the town Buttigliera near Marengo in Italy. The species name longiflora refers to the long tubular flowers. The species was first collected in the Zwartberg near Caledon by a Danish countryman Christian Ecklon (1795-1868) who came to settle in the Cape in 1826. He was a chemist by profession who became a collector of natural history specimens. His South African botanical collections are well known today; many of them were new to science and they were often named after him. The genus Freylinia consists of other species of which F. tropica, F. visseri, F. undulata, F. lanceolata, F. helmei, F. densiflora and F. vlokii make beautiful garden shrubs.
Distribution and habitat
Freylinia longiflora is only known from the farm Arieskraal in the Elgin area in the Caledon District. The plants grow in a small fynbos patch, on a north-facing slope of a hill. Orchards surround this fynbos patch. The soil in the area is sandy, acid and derived from quartzitic sandstone with underlying koffieklip. The area is characterized by winter rainfall of 700 to 800 mm on average per year.
The bell bush, like most of the other Freylinia species, is subject to occasional fires after which the species resprouts again. This means that the shrub has a persistent rootstock (lignotuber), which allows it to survive fires. Sunbirds are the pollinators of this species. The seed capsules ripen from late spring to early summer and split open, releasing flat, winged seeds, which are dispersed by wind.
Growing Freylinia longiflora
Freylinia longiflora, like all the other species in the genus, can easily be grown from cuttings. Short, semi-hardwood stem cuttings can be taken in spring and summer. These cuttings can be treated with a rooting hormone to help stimulate rooting. The cuttings are then placed in a rooting medium of 50% bark and 50% polystyrene. Place the cuttings in a mist unit with under-bench heating of about 24º C, if such facilities are available. Rooting will take place within a month. Once rooted, the cuttings should be placed in a slightly shaded area to harden off for three weeks before being potted. The potted plants can be placed in a lightly shaded area until ready for planting.
Propagation from seed has not yet been tried. The bell bush is an ideal plant for the home gardener who is particularly interested in fynbos. The shrub is ideal for any warm, sunny spot in your garden and is fairly drought resistant. Prune regularly after flowering to keep the plants bushy and neat.
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 and & MBG Press, Missouri Botanical Garden.
- Kesting, D. 2004. Wild flowers of the Cape Peninsula. Botanical names: derivation and meaning. Friends of Silvermine Nature Area, Muizenberg.
- Powrie, F. 1998. Grow South African plants. Kirstenbosch Gardening Series. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
- Van Jaarsveld, E. & Thomas, V. (Artist). 1995. Freylinia longiflora. Flowering Plants of Africa 54: 74-77, t. 2115. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.