This is a superb little shrub, which is related to salvias. Delicate,
deep purple-blue flowers dangling from the erect branches like little
ornaments are this shrub's best feature.
multi-stemmed, woody, perennial shrub can reach a height of 3 m,
but more often only achieves half that height. The leaves are hairy
and gland-dotted, dull to dark green, paler underneath. The bush
violet has a long flowering period through summer, with showy, deep
blue or pale to dark mauve flowers, centred with bright yellow stamens.
The base of the flower is enclosed by a green, bulbous calyx. While
not quite free-flowering, the flowers do appear scattered attractively
all over the shrub as they are borne at the ends of the many branches.
The calyx enlarges and inflates to enclose the winged fruit, which
is a bladder-like nutlet, green with a purplish tinge. Tinnea
is relatively slow growing and can be regarded as rare because of
its extremely restricted distribution.
plant's distribution appears to be restricted to the mountain massif
between Barberton and Pigs Peak and must be quite rare because neither
Galpin nor Thorncroft, both eagle-eye collectors, found it. In addition,
it grows as an understorey shrub or small tree at forest margins
or along wooded stream banks and so may be easily overlooked. As
it naturally occurs at altitudes of 1 200 - 1 400 m above sea level,
it is most likely to be frost tolerant. This is a summer rainfall
region and the plant requires water during the hot summer months.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
This interesting plant was first collected by a forestry officer
from the Barberton Mountains in 1956. Unfortunately the identity
of the collector is uncertain. The only other known collections
have been made by Prof. R.H. Compton from the Piggs Peak area and
Dr D. Edwards who collected it from the Ida Doyer Nature Reserve
in 1968. This is its type locality.
Tinnea was named after the Tinne family in Holland who were
patrons of botany in the 1800s, to commemorate a scientific expedition
on the Nile in 1861 during which Henrietta Tinne and her two daughters
collected seed of T.aethiopica, and barbata: means
bearded, probably referring to the beard-like appearance of the
winged nutlet fruit.
Tinnea belongs to the family Lamiaceae (Labiatae) in a genus
of 19 species restricted to Africa; three species occur in Mpumalanga,
two of which are woody shrubs taller than 1.5 m. Of the species
recorded in South Africa, T. barbata is the only one with
violet-coloured flowers. The others have brown flowers.
Growing Tinnea barbata
It is an excellent garden subject if planted in a warm, sunny or
even semi-shaded position in rich, well-drained composted soil.
It is also a lovely plant in a small or medium container for patios
or verandas in good light conditions.
The plant responds well to pruning for shape in late winter. It
propagates easily from seed, but do not keep them too wet. Regular
feeding with both general fertilizer and those containing trace
elements will keep the foliage healthy and green. At Kirstenbosch
we grow it from seed, but it may be possible to propagate it from
semi-hardwood cuttings too.
- CODD, L.E. 1979. Tinnea barbata. The Flowering Plants of
Africa 46: t. 1813. Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria.
- KRUGER, P.R. 1978. Tinnea barbata Veld & Flora 63:112-113.
- POOLEY, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of Kwazulu-Natal
and the eastern Region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- POWRIE, F. 1998. Grow South African plants. National
Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
- SCHMIDT, E. 2002. Trees and shrubs of Mpumalanga and the
Kruger National Park. Jacaranda Publishers, Johannesburg.