Besides being an attractive garden subject, Halleria lucida is certainly one of the best ‘bird’ trees around. Mostly evergreen, it may be a large shrub to a small tree with a bushy habit, making it a good screening plant. It produces such copious amounts of nectar and fruit that the Zulus refer to it as ‘bird beer’ and the Xhosa as ‘free food’.

Halleria lucida, the Tree Fuchsia, is certainly one of the best bird friendly trees to plant in your garden, attracting birds that eat fruit, nectar or insects.
Family:               SCROPHULARIACEAE        (Snapdragon Family)

Name Derivation:

  • Halleria – to honour Albrecht von Haller (1708 – 1777), who was a professor of botany at Göttingen.
  • lucida – bright or shiny, referring to the leaves.

Common Names:          Tree-fuchsia (Eng), notsung (Afr), mothêbêrêbê (Nso), lebetsa (Sso), umbinta (Swa), murevhe (Ven), and iminza (Zul).

 SAF Number:                   670             Z Number:                 914  

Halleria lucida‘s flowers are tubular, up to 4 cm long and are dark orange, yellow or cream in colour. The flowers are rich with nectar.
Form                               A bushy shrub or small tree.

Size:

  • 3 – 6 m by 2 – 5 m
  • May grow to 12 m in wetter, warmer areas and up to 20 m in forests.

Flowers:

  • Slightly curved, long (up to 4 cm) narrow, tubular flowers.
  • Borne in clusters of 3 to 8 flowers on ‘old wood’ of stems and branches, sometimes in leaf axils.
  • Flowers are showy, but somewhat hidden by foliage.
Colour                   Deep burgundy orange, orange, yellow or cream.

Flowering Months:          Apr – Dec.

Fragrance:                        Not fragrant.

Foliage:

  • Evergreen, sometimes deciduous, depending on climate.
  • Simple green leaves are opposite, elliptic to ovate.
  • The foliage droops.
  • Leaf margin is finely serrated or scalloped.

The leaves of Halleria lucida are arranged opposite one another along the stems and branches.

Thorns:                             No thorns.

Fruit:

  • Fruit are ovoid to round, fleshy berries that retain the tail-like style.
  • Each fruit contain lots of tiny seeds.
  • Green but turn black as they ripen.

 Bark:

  • Bark is light and corky.
  • Fissured along the length of branches and stem.

In the Garden:

  • Its shiny leaves and bushy habit make it a good screen and fill in mixed flowerbeds.
  • Can be used close to walls and paving as the roots are not agressive.
  • An absolute must have in any ‘bird garden’, but plant other ‘sunbird’ plants like Tecomaria capensis, Leonotis leonurus close by to first attract sunbirds to the garden.
  • Fast growing, up to 1 m growth per year.
The fruit of Halleria lucida are almost round with a persistent tail-like style. They start off green but turn black as they ripen. Note the fissured bark on the branch.
Although the more common colour form in the southern Cape, the cream form is not often seen in Gauteng.
An example of a tall Halleria lucida growing in the grounds of Bulwer Hotel in KwaZulu-Natal. They do not get this tall in Gauteng.
Soil Needs:                         Will grow in most soils.

Care:

  • A low maintenance plant.
  • Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • May be pruned to shape if necessary.
  • Protect young plants against the cold in winter.

Cold Hardiness:                Hardy.

Water Requirements:          Needs regular water, particularly during  summer.

Light Requirements:        Full sun or partial shade.

Roots:                                  The roots are not aggressive.

Birds:

  • Sunbirds and other birds will visit the flowers for the nectar.
  • Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that visit these trees.
  • Fruit enjoyed by most fruit-eating birds.
  • Halleria lucida provides shelter and nesting sites.

Insects and Butterflies:

  • Not known to host butterfly larva.

Medicinal:

  • Used to treat earache and skin complaints.
Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

Notes of interest:

  • The pale yellow, hard wood is used to make spear shafts.
  • Straight and dry branches may be used as the ‘turning stick’, when making fire by friction.
  • Both game and stock readily browse the leaves.
  • Besides many animals and humans relish the tasty fruit, which can be stored for quite long periods.
  • Considered a charm against evil and used with crocodile fat to keep lightening away.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the extreme south of NC, WC, EC, FS, Les, KZN, Swa, M, G, NWP, extreme south-east of Bot and scattered distribution in Zim and isolated in Moz.
  • North of our borders, Halleria lucida’s range extends to Ethiopia.
All Sunbirds, including the Greater Double-collared Sunbird, will happily feed on the nectar from Halleria lucida flowers.
Natural Habitat:

  • Savanna-bushveld, thicket, grassland and forest.
  • Occurs in many habitats, as a creeper in forest, as a shrub or small tree in forest margins, dry woodland, bushveld, thicket or on rocky outcrops as an under storey shrub.

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