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’.
Family: SCROPHULARIACEAE (Snapdragon Family)
- 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
- 3 – 6 m by 2 – 5 m
- May grow to 12 m in wetter, warmer areas and up to 20 m in forests.
- 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.
Flowering Months: Apr – Dec.
Fragrance: Not fragrant.
- 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.
- 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 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.
Soil Needs: Will grow in most soils.
- 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.
- 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:
- Bees, adult butterflies and moths and other insects feed from the flowers.
- Used to treat earache and skin complaints.
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.
- 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.
- 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.