Plant indigenous trees: Sunbird bush – A touch of gold

A Metarungia longistrobus flower. PHOTO: Submitted

METARUNGIA longistrobus, or the sunbird bush, is not as well known to gardeners as it deserves to be.

This pretty shrub flowers twice a year – now, and again in late winter/early Spring, with an unusual golden-brown flower that attracts sunbirds (hence its common name), bees and certain butterflies.

ALSO READ: Plant indigenous trees – The Four Sisters

The flower consists of two lips that arise out of an erect green bract (pretty much like the exotic shrimp plants that belong to the same family, some of which are quite invasive).

The flowers of this shrub occur mainly at the tips of branches and on the upper short side branches.

The shrub has dark green, glossy leaves that taper at each end and droop down slightly, so, when the flowers arise out of their bracts, they stand out quite prominently from the foliage.

A Metarungia longistrobus full shrub. PHOTO: Submitted

Metarungia longistrobus (longistrobus referring to the long, pine cone effect of the flower) occurs naturally in wet or dry forests and wooded rocky gorges and they do well in the Upper Highway area.

This is a shrub that appreciates some shade, especially in the afternoon. It can be planted on the south side of your home and will enjoy receiving a bit of morning sun before the shade arrives.

When the seeds are ripe, the seed capsules expode, scattering seeds in all directions.

There is another attractive species in this genus called Metarungia pubinervia with rose-pink flowers that appear all along the stems under light green foliage.

ALSO READ: Plant indigenous trees – The Three Cousins

This shrub also enjoys shade and is a very pretty inclusion in the garden but, be warned, you will have seedlings popping up all over the surrounding area.

If any of our local garden nurseries or garden centres stock Metarungia longistrobus, please drop me an email so that I can direct any enquiries your way.

Contact the Hillcrest Conservancy chairman, George Victor, on 073 901 3902, e-mail [email protected] or the website www.hillcrestconservancy.co.za or contact Lindsay Gray at [email protected]

 

 

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  AUTHOR
By Lindsay Gray on behalf of Hillcrest Conservancy

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