A small to medium sized, evergreen tree. Buddleja saligna, False Olive is one of our fastest growing, most water-wise and cold resistant trees. It has a gray-green appearance except when it is in flower, when it turns white or cream under the masses of clusters of small flowers. Unlike most other indigenous Buddlejas that flower late winter or early spring, Buddleja saligna flowers in mid summer and the flowers smell of honey.
Buddleja saligna, False Olive is a fast growing, hardy, evergreen tree.
Family:                       BUDDLEJACEAE        (Buddleja family). Name Derivation:
  • Buddleja – named after the Rev. Adam Buddle (1660 – 1715) an English amateur botanist and vicar of Farnham, Essex.
  • saligna – ‘willow-like’, referring to the leaves.
Common Names:
  • False-olive, olive-sagewood (Zim) (Eng), witolienhout (Afr), umgceba (Swa), motlhwaretshogwana (Tsw), umgqeba (Xho), and igqeba (Zul)
FSA Number:                   636                    Zim Number:            835                                  
Buddleja saligna flowers are small, white to creamy-white and are borne in large terminal and axillary heads.
  • A large, dense shrub or small to medium tree.
  • Stem is fluted and twisted.
Size:                      3 – 5 m (–10 m) by 3 – 5 m. Flower:
  • Small, white to creamy-white flowers are borne in large terminal and axillary heads.
  • Trees in flower may be very showy.
  • Old flower-heads remain on the tree for some time, turning reddish-brown.
Colour:                  White to creamy-white.
Flowering Months:        Aug – Feb. Fragrance:                        Honey scented. Foliage:
  • Evergreen.
  • Leaves are simple, gray-green above, pale gray below, narrowly lanceolate and are opposite.
  • Margin is entire, rolled under.
  • Veins sunken on upper surface, raised on under surface.
  • Secondary veins join near the margin to form a continuous line around the edge of the leaf.
Thorns:                          No thorns. Fruit:
  • Fruit is a small, brown capsule containing many fine seed.
  • Bark on old stems is pale gray-brown, fissured and flaking.
The simple, lanceolate leaves of Buddleja saligna are gray to gray-green in colour.
The bark of old stems is fissured and flaking.
The grey-green leaves of Buddleja saligna add an interesting and contrasting colour to the garden palette.
In the Garden:  
  • Very fast growing, this is a very good plant for screening or as a wind break.
  • Can be pruned and trimmed to form a formal hedge.
  • A good plant for a wildlife friendly garden.
  • A water-wise choice.
  • Can be planted close to walls and paving.
  • Makes a lovely bonsai subject.
  • May be pruned to retain it as a shrub.
  • Young plants grow quickly, up to 1.5 metres per year.
 Soil Needs:                         Grows best in humus rich soils.  Care:
  • A low maintenance plant.
  • Prune it to shape.
 Cold Hardiness:                   Very cold hardy. Water Requirements:
  • Very drought hardy.
  • Water-wise.  
Light Requirements:           Full sun or partial shade. Roots:                                       The roots are not aggressive.
Buddleja saligna pruned quite harshly in the gardens at the Meiringspoort Waterfall, just to show that they can take it.
Buddleja saligna fruit are small, brown capsules that containing many very fine seed and remain on the plant for a while.
  • Insectivorous birds utilize Buddleja saligna plants for foraging and gleaning.
Insects and Butterflies:
  • Bees and other insects, including adult butterflies, feed from the flowers.
  • Not known to host any butterfly larva.
  • Leaves are used in traditional medicine to treat colds and coughs.
  • Roots are used as a purgative.
Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.
Notes of interest:
  • Straight stems are used for fence posts.
  • Wood is used as a fuel for fires.
  • The association of the common names to the Olive (Olea europaea) is unfortunate and creates confusion with budding naturalists and gardeners.
Natural Distribution:
  • Found in WC, EC, NC FS, Les, KZN, Swa, G, NWP, M, L, and south-weatern Zim.
  • It is endemic to southern Africa.
 Natural Habitat:
A Buddleja saligna in flower is very attractive.
  • Grasslands, thickets, fynbos, Nama-Karoo, savanna-bushveld and forest.
  • Found in dry scrub forest, in forest margins, in wooded kloofs, along rivers and in wooded grasslands.
  • It is often a pioneer tree.
Links to other members of the BUDDLEJACEAE   (Buddleja family) To go to the “plant blog” click on the plant name below the picture.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.