Barleria saxatilis Oberm.
Common names: rock bush violet (Eng.); rotsbosviooltjie (Afr.)
A late summer, early autumn splash of colour for a sunny garden.
Barleria saxatilis is a much-branched shrublet, up to 400 mm high. The hairy stems grow out of a woody rootstock. The leaves are small, elliptic and hairy on both sides and the leaf tip ends in a sharp point. Flowers are light mauve, in a 1–4 flowered cluster. The corolla (flower petals) is 2-lipped, the upper lip 4-lobed and lower lip entire. The corolla tube is yellow.
Each flower is subtended by modified leaves called the calyx lobes, and the secondary bracts are called the bracteoles. The seed capsules are elliptic with a short beak. When the ripe seed capsules become moist, they burst open to distribute the seeds. Plants are fast growing and will become mature within one growing season.
According to the Red List of South African Plants, Barleria saxatilis is assessed as Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Barleria saxatilis grows in open woodland and bushveld areas and can often be found growing in rocky places. It grows naturally in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces, Swaziland and Mozambique. Barleria saxatilis grows in sandy and loamy soils in full sun to semi-shade conditions. It tolerates mild frost and is a water-wise plant.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The species name saxatilis, means ‘found among rocks’. The genus Barleria consists of a group of herbs, subshrubs and shrubs, some producing spines and all producing fruit in the form of explosive capsules. The genus Barleria is found mainly in Africa and Asia, but with one species extending in the New World. This genus includes popular garden plants, like Barleria rotundifolia, B. obtusa and B. albostellata
Barleria saxatilis is pollinated by insects and attracts various species of butterflies.
Barleria saxatilis is recommendable as an ornamental plant for rockeries or a water-wise garden. It grows fast and flowers in abundance and it can be used effectively to combat soil erosion problems.
Growing Barleria saxatilis
Barleria saxatilis can easily be propagated from seed or cuttings.
Harvest the seed capsules when turning brown. Open them and harvest the seed. Use a coarse growing medium of 1 part washed river sand and 2 parts potting medium to plant the seed in. Plant the seed in summer (November–February), 2 cm. apart in a tray and cover them lightly with the mixed growing medium. Place the tray with seed in a shady spot and water well once a week. Germination starts to take place in 7 days. Transplant the seedlings into a container when 10 cm in size.
Use semi-hard wood cuttings to multiply B. saxatilis. Cut the cuttings in lengths of 10 cm. Using the same coarse growing medium of 1 part washed river sand and 2 parts potting medium to plant the cuttings in. Treat the cuttings with a root growing hormone and plant the cuttings 5 cm apart in a container. Place the container with cuttings in a cool shady place and water well twice a week. Transplant the rooted cuttings after 4 months in a good potting mixture. Expect a success rate of 70%. There are no known specific pests or diseases that affect Barleria saxatilis.
- Little, J. R. & Jones, C.E. 1980. A dictionary of botany. Van Nostrand Reinhold Compony, New York, Cincinnatti, Toronto, Melbourne.
- Raimondo, D. et al. 2009. Red list of South African plants. Strelitzia 25. SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute), Pretoria.
- Retief, E. & Herman, P.P.J. 1997. Plants of the northern provinces of South Africa: keys and diagnostic characters. Strelitzia 6. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
Lowveld National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Ground Cover, Perennial, Shrub
SA Distribution: KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Late Summer, Autumn
Flower colour: Mauve/Lilac
Aspect: Full Sun, Morning Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Easy