The Violet Bush

Barleria obtusa.
Barleria obtusa. / WIKIMEDIA
  • Barleria obtusa is an evergreen with small violet-coloured flowers and blue-green leaves native to South Africa

The genus Barleria was named after Jacques Barrelier (1606-1673), a French physician, botanist, plant collector and Dominican monk.

There are about 200 species in the genus of which around 60 are native to South Africa and the rest are from Asia. It is one of many genera in the Acantheraceae family.

The species are all different but the most common ones for gardens and patios are B. obtusa, B. repens and B. albostellata.

Barleria obtusa is commonly called the Bush violet and has blue-green leaves which are slightly curled and covered with soft, fine hairs.

It grows best in semi-shade reaching around one to two metres tall.

The Bush Violet needs a rich, well-drained soil and although drought resistant for short periods, grows much better with regular watering during the driest months of the year.

The specific epithet, 'obtusa' is from Latin and means 'blunt', 'dull' or 'obtuse' and probably refers to the leaves. The Bush Violet is fast growing but can be snipped back after flowering to encourage more blooms and to keep it compact. The seed pods are hard and woody and when ripe explode, spreading the seeds over the surrounding ground. This shrub can also be propagated by cuttings and layering.

The pretty violet flowers attract pollinating insects such as butterflies and bees and in Africa, the leaves are cooked as a vegetable and other parts are used in traditional medicine. It's cousin, B.prionitis is a well-known perennial, Ayurvedic herb is a popular herb for treating toothache, catarrhal affections, whooping cough, inflammations, glandular swellings, urinary infection, jaundice, fever, gastrointestinal disorders and as diuretic and tonic.