Peddiea africana
By Geoff Nichols | Thu, 28 September 2017


House and home improvement gardening

Peddiea africana; Poison Olive; Green-flower Tree; Gifolyf, Sterkbas (Afrikaans); Sebabi (North Sotho); intfocwane (Siswati); mukalakata, mutshetshe (Venda); isifufu (Xhosa); intozane (Xhosa, Zulu); usanginde, usinga olusalugazi (Zulu)

This is a widespread shrub of the forests, from the higher altitudes in the Drakensberg mountains, right down to the dune forests along the east coast, from the Eastern Cape, through KwaZulu-Natal, up into East Africa.
It’s a fairly nondescript shrub to small tree, growing to 5 or 6 metres. The leaves have a lovely gloss to them and this plant makes a great hedge, interspersed with other hedge shrubs, but likes to grow in semi-shade, not full sun - the leaves get burnt and the plant, instead of being a lush, shiny green, has a chlorotic look about it.

Along the coastal areas, the tubular flowers are a pale lime-yellow colour and are borne in clusters, from October throughout summer. However, in the colder parts of KZN, these plants flower slightly later in the year and their flowers are suffused with a pinkish tinge, which is why, for a while, they were given a different specific name by the botanists. Sweetly scented at night (though you have to get fairly close to be able to discern the perfume) this plant is worth growing outside a window where you sit of an evening, to have the perfume wafting into a room or verandah.

The fruits are oval and turn a dark inky colour. I have never seen birds or any mammals eating the fruits, and they remain on the shrub for weeks.
The Poison Olive makes a useful indoor plant that will take air-conditioning and low light inside buildings, and remains pest-free, probably due to the toxic sap. I have a friend that has had one inside his house for many years and it is now quite a large shrub about 2 metres tall.

Rural women who collect firewood in the forests, use strips of the bark to bind their bundles of sticks together so that they can carry the bundles home on their heads.

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The Grapevine Magazine 2017
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