Monday, November 21, 2011

Greyia sutherlandii (Natal bottlebrush)

The highly ornamental yet compact Greyia sutherlandii is one of our loveliest deciduous indigenous trees.
In spring, before the new, bright green, almost circular leaves appear, The Natal bottlebrush covers itself with showy, scarlet, bottlebrush like racemes which produce vast amounts of nectar, thus attracting a host of bees, insects and birds to the garden. In late autumn, the leaves change to various shades of bright red before falling to the ground. This beautiful tree with it’s neat growth habit and rounded crown grows well throughout South Africa and is popular for both parks and gardens. Although Greyia sutherlandii will tolerate some frost, in the very cold parts of the country, a sheltered spot is recommended.
Botanical Name
Greyia sutherlandii
Common Name
Natal bottlebrush
RSA National Tree No’
The neat, compact growth of Greyia sutherlandii make this delightful small tree a perfect choice for small gardens or courtyards where space is at a premium. In spring, when the stunning scarlet flowers appear, this lovely tree creates a superb focal point. Planted at the back of a large border or in a group of three to five in a larger area, the Natal bottlebrush will provide year round interest while a stunning effect can be achieved by planting this tree along a boundary or driveway. As this versatile tree adapts well to being grown in large pots, it can be used to enhance any patio or paved area as well as shopping centres or any other public area.
3 – 7 m
3 m
Growth Habit
The Natal bottlebrush grows in montane grassland as well as on rocky ridges up to 1800m and is generally associated with forest patches.
The dark brown bark is relatively rough and the stem as well as the  branches break fairly easily.
The lightly lobed leaves of the greyia sutherlandii which are carried on long straight stalks are simple, alternate and are slightly rough. They approximately 70mm long, ovate to circular and coarsely toothed with the leaf veins radiating from the base.
The beautiful red flowers appear as tightly packed, large bottlebrush like racemes at the tips of the branches in late winter and spring. Each individual flower has oblong petals and long protruding stamens.
The fruit is a 20mm long, pale brown, cone shaped capsule. When ripe the capsule splits into 4 or 5 parts.
The dark seeds of the Natal bottlebrush are released when the fruit splits
Growing regions
Greyia sutherlandii is widespread and can be found growing from the Drakensberg in Kwa Zulu Natal through the Eastern Cape, eastern Freestate, Swaziland and eastern Gauteng.
Growing conditions
The lovely Natal bottlebrush enjoys a sunny position with adequate watering during very hot or dry spells.
Best season
Bitterly cold weather may damage unseasonal flowers and leaves so some protection from frost is recommended.
The quickest and most successful method of propagation is from cuttings planted in spring.
Growth rate
Given plenty of compost and adequate water the Natal bottlebrush will grow well, up to 1m per year.
The light, soft wood of Greyia sutherlandii is pale pink and is used for household utensils as well as for carvings by many African tribes. The wood is also used for fencing by some farmers.
            G. sutherlandii Flowers      G. sutherlandii Leaves         G. sutherlandii Seed

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