Honey fragrance fills the mid-winter air as all the Buddlejas come into flower, lifting your spirits on the chilliest of days. Buddleja salviifolia is a semi-evergreen shrub with dark green wrinkled leaves which are whitish underneath. This versatile and frost hardy shrub is common all over South Africa, reaching 4 m high in good conditions. Buddleja occurs naturally on forest margins, creating a barrier to stop fires entering the forest and recovers quickly in spring after being burnt. Buddleja is also found along streams and on rocky outcrops in grassland, so does well in any garden. Masses of small, sweetly scented, creamy white to mauve flowers attract butterflies and other insects, which in turn become food for insectivorous birds like the Southern Boubou and Cape Robin. Buddleja salvifolia is host to the Phalanta phalantha butterfly and the leaves are browsed by game. The hard, yellowish wood is used for spear shafts and fishing rods and also to decorate reed fences around courtyards in rural Lesotho (Pooley, 2003). The roots are believed to be very poisonous and used in witchcraft, while an infusion of leaves is used as eyewash and for colic. (Hutchings et al, 1996)
Buddleja dysophylla has frothy clusters of flowers with protruding stamens, on the ends of branches. I found this interesting mauve Buddleja auriculata on the northfacing edge of the forest this week. The flowers are more often creamy white. The low growing Buddleja loricata is not flowering just yet. It is common in the Berg and survives really tough conditions.
Certainly, all of the Buddleja family are excellent shrubs for a new garden where they provide protection as other plants establish themselves and encourage a range of wildlife. These shrubs arwe also very useful in rehabilitating degraded natural areas. On Lemonwood Farm in the Dargle, they have been succesfully used on an old, felled gum plantation to establish indigenous trees instead.
Go for a walk right now and enjoy the fragrant, still air.