Coming into flower now, after dropping its leaves in the very early spring, is the profusely flowering wild honeysuckle-tree. Flowering on bare stems with the new leaves just starting to sprout it puts on a lovely show.
The flowers of the Wild Honeysuckle-tree (Turraea floribunda) are sweetly fragrant. The petals are a subtle shade of green surrounding a long white central tube that is formed by the stamens fused together. At the end of the stamen tube a frill carries the pollen-bearing anthers. The style, which protrudes beyond the tip of the stamen tube, ends in a small knob-like head that receives pollen spread by visiting pollinators, be they insects or birds. According to Boon, the flowers are pollinated by visiting hawk moths and sunbirds.
In the two sources I consulted, Boon describes the colour of the petals as “creamy-green” and Manning says they are a “delicate pistachio-green”. The flowers are borne in clusters of between 2 to 18 flowers with clusters comprising at first just the long slender buds and then a mixture of buds and fully opened flowers.
With the flowers emerging on the bare stems as the new leaves are just starting to sprout, the clusters of buds and flowers are particularly striking against a blue sky.
But equally the flowers are lovely against the green foliage of the surrounding trees. The honey-suckle tree is a forest species and it occurs in the eastern regions of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Its broader range extends as far north as Sudan.
The ‘floribunda’ part of the honeysuckle-tree’s scientific name means ‘prolifically flowering’ and in the early summer it certainly does live up to its name.
With such a profusion of flowers, it is surprising that I have seen very few fruits on the tree. In fact Manning comments that remarkably few fruits are produced for so many flowers. On our tree I have only noticed one or two of the small fruit capsules per season.
As the fruit ripens it splits along its ribs into a kind of star shape with orange seeds attached to each segment. However, I only have a photograph of the split woody capsule after the seeds have dropped.
A couple of weeks ago I found a dry capsule on the ground beneath the tree. I collected it and snapped a photo of it with my phone this evening.
A previous post on porcupines featured our honeysuckle-tree as the trunk had been gnawed on by a visiting porcupine (or porcupines) and some of the bark had been chewed right off the base of the trunk. Happily the porcupines seem to have lost interest in the tree and it has not shown any subsequent ill effects.
The tree is multi-stemmed and its greyish bark is decorated with lichen. I took the photo below in the early dusk this evening using my cell phone.
I wish I could convey to you the sweet scent of the flowers. It is easy to imagine them attracting night flying insects, such as hawk moths.
Boon notes that roots and bark are used medicinally to treat rheumatism and heart ailments, and it is used magically to induce trance. From my perspective it certainly is an entrancing tree.
Boon, Richard. 2010 (2nd ed.). Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa. Durban: Flora & Fauna; Manning, John. 2015. Turraea floribunda. PlantZAfrica. South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). http://pza.sanbi.org/turraea-floribunda
Posted by Carol