- 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.
- Borne in tight clusters of small (7mm) 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.
- Leaves are simple, obovate (1–5 x 1-3.5 cm), spiraled or whorled on stubby shoots.
- Leaves are leathery, rough but hairless, dull green above, paler below.
- Margin is entire, rolled under, pockets of hair found in vein axils.
- Lateral veins often raised on both surfaces, reaching almost to the margin.
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, but not tasty.
Bark: Smooth, light grey to grey-brown bark.
In the Garden:
- Despite being deciduous Ehretia rigida is a very good screening shrub.
- Plant close together (1.5 – 2m) apart to form an informal but impenetrable 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, many birds enjoy the fruit.
- A water-wise plant.
- 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.
- 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.
Insects and Butterflies:
- Flowers attract bees, beetles, flies, wasps and butterflies.
- 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.
- The shrubs are browsed by both stock and game.
- 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.