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Valentine.gr  

January 2014

Did you know that the plant Honey Flower (Melianthus major) got its name because of the large quantities of nectar produced by its flowers?

Honey Flower (Melianthus major)

Honey Flower - Melianthus major

Melianthus is a genus of flowering plants native to elevated grassland in South Africa. It contains up to six species of evergreen shrubs. They have large pinnate leaves with prominent stipules, and erect racemes of nectar-rich flowers. A common name for these plants is "honey flower", which is also the English translation of the generic name. The generic name comes from the Greeki meli (honey), and anthos (flower) referring to the surprisingly large quantities of nectar they produce. This name also attaches to the species M. major which is found in cultivation.

The six species of melianthus are indigenous to South Africa, where their common name is the  Kruidjie-roer-my-nie, which means herb-touch-me-not. This refers to the smell of the foliage, which some people don't like. If the leaves are crushed, the odour is certainly strong but not, to my nose at least, unpleasant. M. comosus grows mainly in the dry interior of the country but M. major is more widespread and runs along ditches and verges. This tendency to colonise areas by runners has made it an unwelcome weed in parts of Australia. Instead, it is cultivated species in Europe, particularly in Britain.

Melianthus major (giant honey flower or Kruidjie-roer-my-nie) is a species of flowering plant in the family Melianthaceae. It is an evergreen suckering shrub, endemic to South Africa and naturalised in India, Australia and New Zealand. It grows to 2–3 m (7–10 ft) tall by 1–3 m (3–10 ft) wide, with pinnate blue-green leaves 30–50 cm (12–20 in) long, which have a distinctive odour. 

Actively growing during the winter, Melianthus major forms a large shrub suckering and spreading as it goes. The distinctive large, smooth leaves are a light bluish-green, deeply divided and ruffled-edged. The bush has several thick stalks with the leaves placed at intervals up the stem. 

The long flower-spikes 30–50 cm (12–20 in) long, grow out from the top of the stems in spring. The nectar-rich, bird pollinated flowers rise up above the leaves, drawing attention with their unusual rusty red colouring. They are followed by pale green, bladder-like pods containing the shiny black seeds. 

On a sunny day the sunbirds feast on the nectar dripping from the flowers, but any one touching those attractive leaves is in for a surprise. With a strong unpleasant smell, it warns all that it is highly toxic. All parts of the plants are poisonous.

Melianthus major is an easy garden plant, grown worldwide for its attractive foliage. It prefers a warm, sunny position with good drainage. Although quite tough and adaptable, it will flourish in deep, rich soil, especially if given plenty of water. Melianthus grows fast and will make a show within a few months. It is particularly attractive in spring when in flower and sporting its new lush leaf growth after the wet Cape winter.

During the dry summers or whenever the plants are untidy, they should be cut back hard to encourage new growth. The plants can survive in cold areas with frost, sending new shoots from the base in spring.

Melianthus grow very easily from seed or cuttings. The seed is sown in autumn in seed trays filled with a well-drained medium and covered lightly with sand or finely milled bark. Germination is usually within a month. The young seedlings are potted up into bags or small pots and grown on until strong enough to be planted out into the garden. The cuttings can be made any time of the year depending on material available. Cuttings are made from the new shoots sprouting from the base.

Although toxic when taken internally, it is used medicinally by the local people. They mostly use the leaves to make poultices and decoctions that are applied directly to wounds, bruises, backache and rheumatic joints. The root is poisonous and emetic, but is used as a remedy against snake bites The honey-like nectar from the flowers is eaten. Deliciously sweet, used as sweetener.

Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melianthus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melianthus_major
http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantklm/melianthusmajor.htm
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/3335888/How-to-grow-Melianthus-major.html

 

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Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus
Rice-paper Plant -Tetrapanax papyrifer
Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet
Harlequin Glorybower - Clerodendrum trichotomum
Coco de Mer - Lodoicea maldivica
Silver Tree - Leucadendron argenteum
Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
Borojo - Alibertia patinoi - Borojoa patinoi
Butterfly Pea - Clitoria ternatea
Honey Flower - Melianthus major
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Lion's Ear - Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonurus
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Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum
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Miracle fruit - Synsepalum dulcificum
Akebia - Akebia quinata
Chilean Firebush - Embothrium coccineum
Caesalpinia - Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Welwitschia - Welwitschia mirabilis
Saguaro - Carnegiea gigantea
Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
Monarda - Bee balm - Bergamot
Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
Neomarica - Walking Iris
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Sweet Box - Sarcococca
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Rue - Ruta graveolens
Pittosporum
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Calico Flower - Aristolochia
Daylily - Hemerocallis
Contorted hazel - Corylus avellana Contorta
Torch Ginger - Etlingera elatior
Mistletoe - Viscum album
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Teasel - Dipsacus
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Clivia - Clivia Miniata
Dipladenia - Dipladenia sanderii
Date palm - Phoenix dactylifera
Peach - Prunus persica
Almond - Prunus amygdalus
Willow - Salix
Pomegranate - Punica granatum
Protea cynaroides
Colchicum autumnale
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Cardon - Pachycereus pringlei
Wolffia arrhiza
Puya raimondii
Fuchsia
Asphodelus - Asphodel
Primula - Primerose
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Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum
Helleborus Niger - Christmas Rose
Zantedeschia - Calla Lily
Fritillaria imperialis - Crown imperial
Aster
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Common Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
Bee Orchid - Orphys apifera
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Syringa Vurgaris - Lilac
Viola
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Snowdrop - Galanthus
Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima
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