This hardy garden plant bears brightly coloured, tasty edible fruits and is an excellent subject for container gardening, which is a useful way to make the best of all available space.
Plants are herbaceous perennials (either spreading or erect) and sometimes soft shrubs, growing up to 1.2 m high. Leaves are opposite or sometimes arranged in threes. Plants possess minute, white or creamy green-coloured flowers, starting from October to February. Fruits are fleshy, berry-like in shape and attractively orange-red in colour.
Orange bird-berry plants have a widespread natural distribution, occurring both in tropical and subtropical open woodland. In southern Africa they occur naturally in areas such as Namibia and Botswana in the north, as well as in Swaziland. In South Africa, they can be found growing naturally from the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal, extending to Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Plants are very common throughout tropical Africa, in countries such as Senegal, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Hoslundia was named for O. Hoslund-Smith, a naturalist from Guinea. The Latin name opposita refers to the leaves and fruits, which are set in opposite pairs.
Certain insects including bees visit plants. The tiny cream-green flowers are much loved by butterflies. The fruits are birds' favourites; hence the name orange bird-berry, and wild animals feed on the plant too.
Uses and cultural aspects
People eat tasty fruits. Leaves are reported to have a strong unpleasant scent, which is alleged to repel bees and is thus utilized in the collection of honey.
Growing Hoslundia opposita
This herbaceous perennial is a hardy garden plant in southern African gardens, but it might not prove hardy in colder climates. Plants require well-drained soil, and perform well in full sun. They can be used successfully to line an informal shrub border or driveways; however, enough space must be left to allow plants to spread comfortably. Plants make good container subjects too.
To encourage new growth, plants need to be cut back at least once every year. Propagation is easily obtained from seeds or stem cuttings.
References and further reading
- Codd, L.E. 1985. Lamiaceae. Flora of southern Africa 28,4. Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Flora Publication Trust, Durban.
Lowveld National Botanical Garden