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SA TREE NO: 636
False Olive / Bastard Olive / Olive buddleja / Olive sagewood / Butterfly Bush
Witolienhout / Basterolienhout (Afr)
Lelothwane (South Sotho)
Loganiaceae (Strychnos & Buddleja family)
A family of flowering plants classified in the order of Gentianales. Consisting of about 13 genera, 4 of which occur in SA. These plants are mainly tropical and subtropical, occurring worldwide. Characteristically, plants from this family are usually in the form of woody vines, shrubs or trees with attractive, wonderfully fragranced flower clusters, leaflike appendages at the bases of leafstalks and fleshy or capsule-like fruits.
B.saligna generally grows a sprawling shrub or small tree, with attractively woven bark, a multi-branched, weeping crown of glossy, silvery leaves and masses of decorative, heavily scented, creamy flowers. The trees are remarkably hardy, and make excellent garden and ornamental plants.
The trees can mostly be found growing in the warmer parts of the country, are very well adapted to our climate, and are almost completely endemic to South Africa. They are most common in ravines, rocky outcrops, and dry forests, but also grow on semi-arid hillsides, in bushveld, wooded valleys and at the margins of evergreen and coastal thickets, from sea-level to elevations of about 2000 m. They have a wide distribution in Natal, Transkei, Limpopo, Gauteng, Orange Free State, Western and Eastern Cape, even reaching Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
Pale, creamy-brown to dark grey-brown, peeling and cracking in long, vertical strips. The main stem is often beautifully grooved and twisted, with a diameter of 250-400 mm. The twigs are scabrous, slightly winged, and often quadrangular, with a very fine layer of minute, silky white hairs.
The leaves are oppositely arranged, linear to oblong or lance-shaped, more or less flat and smooth above, thinly leathery, with a dark-green, shiny gleam, and noticeably paler undersides that are enveloped with a dense layer of grey or yellowish-brown hairs. The size and shape can be very variable, but they are usually 15-100 x 2-20 mm. The venation is very visible on the lower surface, and the lateral veins join up to form a long single vein that runs all the way around just inside the entire, somewhat rolled under, margin. The base is rounded or tapering, with a broadly pointed or spiny apex. Petiole length is 2-10 mm.
Large, (10-12 x 12 cm), compressed, showy, many-flowered heads, typically growing from the ends of branchlets. Each inflorescence is made up of a multitude of individual white or creamy blooms, (3-4 mm), that sometimes have a lovely reddish or orange throat, and stamens protruding from the mouth. (August to January)
A pale, mustard coloured ovoid capsule (1.5-2 mm), often crowned nearly half of its length by the persistent remains of the calyx. (September to March)
2 – 15 m, in a garden setting it may only reach between 3 & 5 m.
1.5 – 4 m
Exceedingly hardy and robust, able to tolerate high and strong winds, long period of drought and very low temperate, even frost.
Fast. 1-1.5 m per year under favourable conditions.
Full sun or semi-shade.
SOIL AND WATER REQUIREMENTS
Well-drained, loamy, slightly acidic soil is preferred, but it can adapt to a wide variety of soil types. This tree is remarkably water-wise, and does not require regular watering, but in very hot summers a little extra can be given every 3-5 days. Added compost will improve the tree’s general health and development.
This fast-growing tree makes for a wonderful, quick screen plant, as well as a hedge or windbreak, and is able to endure harsh environments. It does not have an aggressive root-system, and is not a messy tree, so it can be planted close to patios, paving’s and walls., where is can be fully appreciated. The rich honey-scented flowers will perfume the entire garden, as well as luring a myriad insects and birds. It is well-suited as a pioneer plant in unestablished gardens, and will offer shelter for more fragile plants in gardens with hot days and cold nights. Silvery-grey foliage, an attractive shape, distinctly curved bark and a marvellous, long-lasting display of almost snow-white, fragranced flowers that often nearly covered the entire tree makes this tree a most worthwhile ornamental. Suitable for coastal and smaller gardens.
The flowers lure butterflies, bees, moths, beetles and a host of insect life, which will in turn attract insect-eating birds.
Easily propagated from seed or cuttings. As the seeds are very delicate and small, they should be mixed with fine sand to ensure an even spread. Sow in a rich but fine seedling mix, and place in a temperate, bright area, but not in direct sunlight. Care should be taken when watering, and a light, regular misting is better than a deep drenching. Germination should occur within 4-6 weeks, but all the seeds may not sprout at the same time. Once the seedlings are between 10 – 20 cm in length, they can be transplanted into individual containers.
Although not extensively used, there are records to show that a concoction of the leaves has been used to treat colds, fever and persistent coughs. Scrapings of the root are used to induce vomiting and act as a purgative.
The pale, fine-grained wood is of exceptional quality, being hard, tough and very durable. Unfortunately, as acquiring large enough pieces is difficult, it is rarely used for furniture, but makes good fence posts, yokes and smaller implements. It is also an excellent firewood.
This species has leaves very similar to that of Olea europaea, but they are more textured, dark on the top surface and conspicuously paler underneath, with a distinct film of ochre hairs.