Conservation Corner No. 1 – August 2023 by Jane Doherty.

Jane Doherty kicks off with the first article with a suggestion for planting an interesting indigenous plant that supports bird life in your garden.

August is the month when the “Kruidjie-roer-my-nie” (“Touch-me-not” or Melianthus Major) plant produces its magnificent, maroon inflorescences. The Afrikaans name for the plant refers to the fact that the leaves give off an unpleasant smell, warning that the plant is toxic to livestock. Birds love the plant for its nectar, however: this accounts for its English name, “Honey Flower”.

I was given one of these plants as a seedling a few years ago by Frances Taylor, one of the founders of Communitree. I was wanting to make my drought-stricken garden more sustainable and bird-friendly. As you can see in the photo, that little plant quickly transformed itself into a thriving shrub, despite my garden’s sandy soil.

If you look closely at an inflorescence, you can see the little cups at the base of the individual flowers where birds collect nectar, brushing against the black stamens that hang just above, or pollinating the pistils which hang a little higher. At the moment the Southern Double-collared Sunbirds and Cape White Eyes are visiting my plants frequently.

If you want to try out this plant in your garden, more information can be found here

Photographs by Jane Doherty.

Article by Jane Doherty.



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