only is Halleria lucida an attractive tree and an asset to
any garden, it is also one of the best bird attracting trees. It
is an evergreen tree or large shrub, often multi-stemmed, with a
spreading crown and attractive glossy bright green foliage on arching
and drooping branches.
bark is longitudinally grooved and pale grey and brown in colour.
The flowers are tubular, orange to brick-red, or yellow, very rich
in nectar and are produced in clusters in the axils of leaves and
on short shoots on the old wood, even on the main trunk. When in
full flower in autumn to summer (May to December/January) it can
be very showy, although the flowers are somewhat hidden amongst
the leaves and inside the canopy.
Clusters of 10 mm diameter spherical green berries that turn juicy
and black when ripe, follow the flowers (August onwards). These
are edible, but never tasty, not even when ripe. They have a sickly
sweet taste and tend to dry the mouth. The seeds are very small
black flakes in the jelly-like flesh of the fruit.
Halleria lucida is found in coastal and karroid scrub, deep
evergreen forest, forest margins, forested ravines, rocky mountain
slopes, near rivers and on stream banks from the Cape peninsula
in the south in a strip up the eastern coast of South Africa, through
the Eastern Cape to Lesotho, the eastern Free State, KwaZulu-Natal
and Swaziland where it turns inland and roughly follows the escarpment
into Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Northern and North West Province.
It also occurs in isolated pockets in Zimbabwe. In the more exposed
situations it is generally a stocky or shrubby tree that reaches
a height of 2-5 m but in well watered, protected situations it can
reach up to 12 m, and in forests, it can grow up to 20 m in height.
Halleria lucida is a member of the Scrophulariaceae, the
snapdragon and foxglove family, a large family of ±290 genera
and ±4500 species widespread but mainly in temperate areas
and tropical mountains. In southern Africa there are ±80
genera and ±760 species spread throughout the region. Trees
are quite rare in this family; most of the members are herbaceous.
Two southern African genera that should be familiar to most gardeners
are Nemesia and Diascia.
The genus Halleria is named after Albrecht von Haller (1708-77),
professor of botany at Gottingen. It is a small genus of ten species
that occur in Yemen, Madagascar and Africa from Ethiopia to the
Cape peninsula. There are three species in southern Africa that
are widespread in all regions and countries except for the Northern
Cape and Namibia. The other two species are Halleria elliptica
and Halleria ovata. The specific name lucida is Latin
for shining/shiny and refers to the foliage. The derivation of the
common name notsung is not entirely clear. It could be derived
from the original Khoi name. Marloth thought that it was derived
from the name nutzeng meaning usufruct (the right of temporary
possession of what is another's on condition that such possession
causes no damage to it) given to it by early German foresters employed
at the Cape, where these foresters had free use of the wood and
fruits without need for a permit. The name tree fuchsia was acquired
because of its fuchsia-like flowers. It has also been known as the
white olive / witolienhout / witolyfhout as the quality of its timber
is suggestive of that of the olive.
The Zulu nation has a strong belief in traditional medicine and
they use Halleria lucida for skin and ear complaints. Dry
leaves are soaked in water and squeezed into the ear to relieve
earache. This tree is also considered to be a charm against evil.
The twigs are burnt when offering sacrifices to the ancestral spirits.
The plants are set alight each year, the ashes mixed with crocodile
fat and this mixture is smeared onto cuttings of Rhamnus prinoides
which are then driven into the ground around the village to protect
the community from wizardry and lightning. The wood can also be
used to start a fire by friction. Halleria lucida timber
is light coloured tinged with yellow, hard, heavy and strong, well
suited to carpentry, but is not much used because the pieces are
small. It was once valued for wagon poles, tools and spear shafts.
Growing Halleria lucida
Halleria lucida has been in cultivation for many years.
It was featured by Burman in 1739. William Burchell recorded it
in his diary for February 1811 as growing in the Government Gardens
in Cape Town, and in 1815 it was illustrated in Curtis' Botanical
Magazine from a specimen that was growing in a greenhouse in England.
Halleria lucida is tough and easy to grow, and thrives under
many different conditions. It is fast growing, and performs best
in well-drained nutrient-rich loam with water provided all year
round although it tolerates periods of drought. It is relatively
hardy to frost (zone 9: minimum -7 °C/ 20 °F) but requires protection
when young. Halleria lucida makes a shapely specimen tree
for the smaller garden, and looks at home in the larger landscape,
where it can also be planted in groups. It can be used to provide
shade, or can itself be planted in shade as an under-storey tree.
It can also be used in the fynbos garden. It is suitable for use
as an informal hedge, and can be planted in a large container. It
is also one of the best bird attracting trees. With Halleria
lucida in your garden, the nectar-feeding sunbirds will be one
of your most frequent visitors, and the berries will attract fruit-eating
Halleria lucida is easily propagated by seed, and cuttings.
It can also be propagated by truncheon cuttings or layering and
transplants readily. Young plants may flower for the first time
in their second year.Seed is best sown in spring to mid-summer (September
to December) or in autumn (March to May), in a standard well-drained
seedling mix and covered lightly with coarse sand or milled bark.
The trays can be placed over bottom heat of 25 °C although this
is not essential for germination to occur. Seed should germinate
within 6 weeks. Seedlings can be transplanted as soon as they are
large enough to handle.
Softwood or herbaceous cuttings, or heel cuttings should be taken
from actively growing shoots in spring to early summer (September
to November) or in autumn (March to May), treated with a rooting
hormone and placed in a propagator with intermittent mist and bottom
heat of 28 °C. Rooting should occur within 6 weeks, and the newly
rooted cuttings require a weaning period of 1 month.
- Van Wyk, B, & van Wyk, P., 1997, Field Guide to Trees of Southern
Africa, Struik Publishers, Cape Town
- Mabberly, D.J., 1987, The Plant Book, Cambridge University Press,
- Pooley, Elsa, 1993, The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal,
Zululand and Transkei, Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban
- Flowering Plants of Africa Volume 25, Plate 961
- Leistner, O.A. (ed.), 2000, Seed plants of southern Africa:
families and genera, Strelitzia 10., National Botanical Institute,
- Jackson, W.P.U., 1990, Origins and Meanings of Names of South
African Plant Genera, U.C.T. Printing Dept., Cape Town.
- Palgrave, K.C., 1983, Trees of Southern Africa, Struik Publishers,
- Smith, C.A., 1699, Common Names of South African Plants, Dept.
of Agricultural Technical Services, Botanical Survey Memoir No
35, Government Printer.
- Kirstenbosch Horticultural Notes No 16
Giles Mbambezeli & Alice Notten