Freylinia lanceolata (L.f.) G.Don
Common names: honey bell-bush, honeybells (Eng.); heuningklokkiesbos (Afr.)
SA Tree No: 670.1
The honey bell-bush is a shrub or small tree with a charm all of its own, and attracts hosts of butterflies and other pollinators.
Freylinia lanceolata has long, arching, drooping branches of willow-like foliage. Usually a multi-stemmed, sometimes untidy, evergreen shrub it occasionally develops into a single-stemmed, weeping tree up to 4.5 x 4.5 m. The grey bark is smooth. Golden-yellow, honey-scented bells appear rather incongruous on this willow-like shrub. Flowering is from late summer (February) through autumn and winter to early spring (August), and flowers can appear sporadically throughout the year. Fruits are small brown capsules produced all year.
Least Concern (LC). Although not fully assessed, this species is not regarded as being of conservation concern.
Distribution and habitat
This plant occurs in moist areas, along streams or on the edge of marshes or vleis from Namaqualand and Calvinia in the western Karoo in the Northern Cape, southwards and westwards through the Western Cape and eastwards to Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
It was first cultivated in the famous garden of Count L. de Freylino at Buttigliera near Marengo in Italy in 1817, where, being a new plant, it caused quite a stir. The genus is named after Count Freylino. The species name lanceolata means 'lance-shaped', referring to the shape of the leaves.
Freylinia is an African genus and there are nine species in South Africa. Most are shrubby, but a couple may occasionally become small trees. Freylinia tropica is another species often cultivated in gardens.
The flowers attract a variety of insects, which become food for insectivorous (insect-eating) birds such as blackheaded oriole, pied and crested barbets, Cape robin and thrushes.
According to a note on a herbarium specimen, the wood is not strong enough to be of use, but the plant is attractive and has horticultural potential.
Growing Freylinia lanceolata
This plant is easily propagated from seed or cuttings. The tiny, wingless seeds germinate readily within three weeks. Take stem cuttings during the warmer summer months. Under suitable conditions young plants grow fast and may flower within a couple of seasons. Add lots of compost to the planting area and mulch well. Water regularly, particularly if the shrub is planted in a herbaceous border away from water.
It enjoys moist conditions and is very fast-growing if well-watered. It would be perfectly at home positioned alongside a large dam, pond or water feature, where it could be kept pruned and tidied. If you have the time to spare, try pruning it into a single-stemmed tree. On farms, plant it on stream banks or in a large shrubbery, where the pretty flowers can be appreciated at close range. In home gardens, place it towards the back of an informal border-it is probably better suited to medium and larger gardens.
Wind-resistant, frost-hardy and relatively pest-free, Freylinia lanceolata prefers a sunny spot in the garden. It fares equally well in summer and winter rainfall areas. Prune this adaptable plant whenever necessary to keep it neat. If you want to harvest seed for propagation purposes, don't cut off the old flowerheads. It tolerates temperatures ranging from about -2°C to 37°C.
- Coates Palgrave, K. 1988. Trees of southern Africa, 2nd Edn. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, Johannesburg.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape Plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria & Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri.
- Jackson, W.P.U. 1990. Origins and meanings of names of South African plant genera . University of Cape Town.
- Joffe, P. 2001. Creative gardening with indigenous plants. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa . Balkema, Cape Town.
- Foden, W. & Potter, L. 2005. Freylinia lanceolata (L.f.) G.Don. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 2016/03/15
- Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to trees of South Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
Pretoria National Botanical Garden
updated by Alice Notten
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Shrub, Tree
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Late Summer, Autumn, Winter
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy