Barleria monticola Oberm
Common names: mountain barleria (Eng.); berg barleria (Afr.)
This is a lovely groundcover for a sunny spot in your garden, especially if you live in a frosty area.
A herb up to 450 mm high. Leaves lanceolate to ovate, subsessile (stalkless), hairy; leaves in the terminal spike much smaller. A woody rootstock; stems angular, with erect, hairy branches which grow from partly underground protected buds. Flowers mauve, solitary in a distinct terminal spike. Corolla 2-lipped, the upper lip 2-lobed and the lower lips 3-lobed. Lobes are more or less the same size. Corolla tube cylindrical and greenish. The corolla is subtended by hairy calyx lobes which overlaps and ends with spinous apexes. Flowering time from August to December. Fruit is a capsule, unbeaked, with 4 seeds. The leaves die back in the winter cold and shoot again in spring from the woody rootstock.
Barleria monticola is Red listed as LC (Least Concern).
Distribution and habitat
Occurs in the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. Plants grow in full sun in moist grasslands. Plants can tolerate frost; they grow in loamy soils and flower well after fires.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The species name monticola means ‘growing on hills.’
Barleria monticola is pollinated by insects and attracts various species of butterflies. Ripe seed capsules explode when moistened, to distribute the seed. The woody rootsock enables it to survive veld fires and winter frosts.
Barleria monticola is recommended as a garden subject, especially for the cooler parts of the country. No cultural uses have been reported.
Growing Barleria monticola
Barleria monticola can be propagated either by seed or cuttings.
To harvest the seeds, collect and open the ripe, brown fruit capsules. Fertile seeds are always well developed. Use an equal mixture of coarse river sand, soil and compost. Plant the seed from October to January. Cover the planted seeds slightly with the growing mixture. Place the container with seed in a shady spot and water once a week. Seed germination takes place after 6–10 days. Transplant the seedlings into containers when they are 100 mm in size.
It is very difficult to grow Barleria monticola from cuttings because of the suffrutex (woody rootstock) of the plants. Take semi-hardwood cuttings in summer, 120 mm in size, and treat them with a hormone powder to stimulate root growth. Use coarse river sand as a growing medium. Put the container with cuttings in a shady place and water twice a week. Transplant the rooted cuttings after 3–4 months. Expect a success rate of 5%.
Barleria monticola does well as a groundcover in sunny Highveld gardens. Use it in combination with shrubs like Plumbago auriculata ‘alba’ and Tecoma capensis ‘lutea’ (Cape honeysuckle). No pests or diseases have been encountered.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers Kwazulu-Natal and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Raimondo, D., Von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. & Manyama, P.A. (eds) 2009. Red list of South African plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
- Obermeyer, A.A. 1931. A revision of the South African species of Barleria. Annals of the Transvaal Museum 15,2: 165, 166.
- Leistner, O.A. (ed.). 2000. Seed plants of southern Africa: families and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
Lowveld National Botanical Garden.
Plant Type: Ground Cover, Perennial
SA Distribution: Free State, KwaZulu-Natal
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
Flower colour: Mauve/Lilac
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Challenging