Ehretia rigida subsp. nervifolia is a large, very dense but deciduous shrub with a weeping habit. It has attractive clusters of fragrant lilac, blue to white flowers and many small orange to black berries in summer. This very hardy plant should be planted in every wildlife friendly garden.
Family: BORAGINACEAE (Borage family).
- Ehretia – named after a German botanical artist, Georg D Ehret (1708 – 1770).
- rigida – ‘rigid’ referring to the stiff branches and branchlets.
- nervifolia – (Latin) ‘nervi’ nerve, muscle or sinew, ‘folia’ leaf.
Common Names: Puzzlebush (Eng), deurmekaarbos (Afr), morôbê (Nso & Tsw), morobo (Sso), umcele (Swa), mpon’wani (Tso), mutepe (Ven) and umkele (Zul).
FSA Number: 657 Zim Number: 880
- A deciduous, thickly branched, multi-stemmed shrub, or small tree.
- Plants have a bit of a weeping appearance.
Size: 2 – 5 m (–7 m) by 3 – 5 m.
- The tight clusters of small (7mm), pale blue to mauve flowers.
- The flowers are tubular with spreading, star-like petals.
- Shrubs in full flower are showy.
Colour: Pale blue to lilac, ageing to white.
Flowering Months: Aug – Mar, peak Sep – Oct.
Fragrance: Sweetly scented.
- Simple, obovate (1–5 x 1-3.5 cm), leathery, rough but hairless, dull green above, paler below.
- Margin is entire.
- Pockets of hair found in vein axils.
Thorns: No thorns.
- The fruit is a small, fleshy, round drupe (4 – 6 mm) orange to black when ripe.
- Fruits in profusion (Sep-Mar).
- Style is persistent.
- Fruit is edible.
Bark: Smooth, light grey to grey-brown bark.
In the Garden:
- Despite being deciduous E. rigida is a very good screening shrub.
- Plant close together (1.5 – 2m) apart to form an informal but impenetrable hedge.
- May be trimmed to make a formal hedge.
- In larger gardens, because of its interesting shape, it can be used as a specimen plant.
- A good plant for a wildlife friendly garden, attracting insects and many birds.
- May be pruned to shape.
- Makes a very good container plant.
- Fairly quick growing, up to 70 cm a year.
Soil Needs: A well drained, humus rich soils.
- A low maintenance plant.
- Prune it to shape.
Cold Hardiness: Very cold hardy.
Water Requirements: Very drought hardy.
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade.
Roots: The roots are not aggressive.
- The ripe fruit is eaten by birds.
- Insectivorous birds are attracted to the insects that come to the flowers.
- The dense branching make this shrub a popular plant for nesting in.
- Not known to host any butterfly larva.
- Adult butterflies feed from the flowers.
- The root is sometimes used to treat gall sickness in cattle.
- Used in traditional medicine to treat chest and stomach pains.
- Plant considered having magical properties.
Poisonous: Not poisonous.
Notes of interest:
- The shrubs are browsed by both stock and game.
- Flowers attract bees, beetles, flies, wasps and butterflies.
- Fruit is eaten by humans, monkeys and many birds.
- The pliable branches have been used to make bows, spear shafts and fishing baskets.
- Was the wood of choice as the ‘turning’ stick for making fires by friction.
- Found in north-eastern EC, KZN, Swa, FS, G, NWP, M, L, western Moz and Zim.
- E. rigida subsp. nervifolia is endemic to southern Africa.
- Grasslands, savanna-Kalahari, savanna-lowveld, savanna-woodland and savanna-bushveld.
- Found on rocky ridges, outcrops, on termitaria and in forest margins
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012.