The botanical name of indigenous Melianthus major is a real mouthful but not nearly as bad as its Afrikaans common name: kruidjie-roer-my-nie. If you can’t get your tongue around either, just call it the giant honey flower.
The striking grey leaves with their giant serrations (below, paired with Perilla ‘Magilla’) provide an interesting contrast in the garden – but do have a rather unpleasant smell when crushed – hence the name!
But what most gardeners grow it for are the long bronze-maroon flower-spikes which develop in spring and act as magnets to any bird with a sweet beak: sunbirds, bulbuls, weavers, and white eyes all flock to them. The seed pods are also attractive, providing additional interest in an off-season garden border.
Left on the plant to dry, the seeds result in lots of baby plants. We saved some from our garden for the Open Gardens Constantia plant sale.
(The plant has toxic properties, so keep leaf-chewing pets and voracious toddlers away.)
Photos: Marianne Alexander, Marie Viljoen. Text: Marianne Alexander