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The Global Garden: Planting honeybush

April 24, 2012 |  1:34 pm


Honeybush flowerDerbeh Vance’s honeybush at the Fountain Avenue Community Garden is a landscaper’s dream -- fast growing, tolerant of clay soil and adorned with dramatic serrated leaves and large purplish flower heads, pictured here.

But be careful. This honeybush is Melianthus major, a South African native that is poisonous, safe only for hummingbirds.

“They go absolutely crazy for it,” said Vance, who got his honeybush in a 1-gallon pot at Armstrong Garden Centers.

“The hummingbirds will have wars over it. They come in shifts, get full and go off to sleep. I shook a stalk accidentally and this reddish orange nectar poured out of the flowers.”

Good dining for hummingbirds, less so for humans.

It's an important point because the shrub Cyclopia genistoides, also from South Africa, is called honeybush too -- and its leaves and flowers are used to make caffeine-free tea.


You can't do that with Melianthus major, but the plant more than makes up for that fact with sheer beauty.

Coming Wednesday: Vance's yacon, also called Peruvian sweet root

-- Jeff Spurrier

The Global Garden, a look at our multicultural city through the lens of its landscapes, usually appears here on Tuesdays. For an easy way to follow future installments, join our Facebook page for gardening in the West.

Honeybush nectar
Nectar pooled inside a honeybush flower.


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Photo credit: Ann Summa