Is it Spring?

Contributor: Leonie Twentyman Jones

Spring is definitely starting (despite the recent freezing blast from Winter) as the first clivia buds are appearing; the delicate yellow flowers of the Ochna serrulata or Micky Mouse bush are starting to open and the beautiful hybrid lachenalias are sending up their cheerful red and green flower tubes.

Ochna serrulata. Photo: Leonie Twentyman Jones
Garlic Buchu. Photo: Leonie Twentyman Jones

Another indication is our Garlic Buchu (Agathosma apiculata), which started flowering in Winter but is now absolutely covered in flowers, much to the delight of bees and other flying insects attracted to its nectar. This shrub with its dark green leaves, white flowers and garlicky scent is well suited to coastal gardens. It grows naturally on coastal dunes, as well as in clays, granite and limestone soils from Riversdale to Bredasdorp. It prefers full sun and a well-drained soil, needs good watering in winter and moderate watering in summer. The Garlic Buchu is a slow growing shrub and is best suited to growing with other fynbos plants like pelargoniums, proteas, aloes etc. It is important not to cultivate the soil around the root area of established plants and to add a layer of mulch around it each year to keep the roots and soil cool in summer.

Its botanical name comes from the Greek agathos meaning pleasant and osme meaning scent. The leaves have oil glands which release a fragrance when crushed. The species name apiculata (Latin) describes the shape of the leaves which have a short, sharply pointed tip.


Agathosma apiculata.
Photo: Leonie Twentyman Jones

The vernacular name Buchu or Boegoe comes from the original Khoi name for several species of the  Agathosma family. The Khoi dried the leaves for medicinal use e.g. to treat stomach ailments; or for ceremonial use, when the dried leaves were powdered and mixed with sheep fat for anointing the body. Two species in particular, Agathosma betulina (Mountain Buchu) and Agathosma crenulata (Oval-leaf Buchu), have been used for many years to make important traditional medicines and are now being grown commercially for the local and export markets. Some years ago, while on the Wellington Wine Walk, we visited a farm in the area which was one of the biggest commercial growers of buchu. There we were introduced to the many and varied uses of buchu, including their special Buchu Brandy – a cure for all ills!



The budding promise of a spectacular flower

Clivia miniata. Photo:  Leonie Twentyman Jones