Also known as the Forest Bell Bush and as River Bells, the Mackaya bella is a popular shrubby plant, not only because of its beautiful flowers, but also because it grows well in shade or semi-shade. It is easy to propagate from cuttings and it also self-seeds, so if you have one, look out for baby seedlings to transplant. It is endemic to southern Africa and its wood has been used to make fire by friction (Pooley, 1997).  

In her book on gardening with indigenous plants, Pitta Joffe notes that the flowers have “landing lights” that are visible in low light to the carpenter bee that pollinates the plant and these markings can be seen by the human eye under ultraviolet light. All too often we think only of honey bees as being pollinators, but there are many other important pollinators, including the many carpenter bee (Xylocopa) species, several of which occur in South Africa. A diversity of pollinators forms a critical component of our ecosystems so it’s best not to use pesticides. All too often cumulative collateral damage to non-target species is only recognised after the price has been paid.

 Posted by Carol at letting nature back in

Sources: Pitta Joffe. 2001. Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants: A South African Guide. Pretoria: Briza; Elsa Pooley. 1997. The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei. Durban: Natal Flora Publications Trust.

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