Tree small; Tree medium
3 - 5 m
pale yellow October to May; spring; summer; autumn
sun; semi-shade; clay soils; screen; narrow spaces; wildlife insects; shrubbery
woodland forest; rocky places; wetland ponds; coastal eastern cape; coastal kzn; urban streets
thicket; Subtropical East Coast
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One of the prettiest of shrubs or small trees that deserves to be seen more often in our gardens, this shrub performs a multitude of functions in a smaller garden. It can be grown either as a large shrub to create a wind barrier or screen, add height to divide the garden space, provide a backdrop in a mixed bed or it can be pruned up into a small tree. This multi-stemmed evergreen shrub to small tree grows between 3 and 5 m in height within a garden setting. The pale grey/brown bark often has a few little growths on the surface. The leaves are most attractive with a shimmering silver white or creamy underside enhanced by the darker green above. Long and elliptic they have the texture of soft felt below and the edges, while usually smooth, can be serrated shaping to a sharp tip. The flowers have a subtle fragrance and are a pale, some say custard-yellow with touches of cream. These bi-sexual flowers begin as a bell shape but then inflate into a pouch shape towards the tip. These cover the tips of the branches in large bunches from October through to May. Seeds form while the shrub is still in flower and remain until July. Hidden inside an oval capsule of up to 8mm they are naturally released as the capsule dries out and splits open, a process called dehiscence (opening spontaneously when ripe). In the garden: This is an easy plant to grow in the correct habitat which is quite varied from full sun to partial shade, in coastal forest and on drier forest margins as well as in wooded ravines and along streams. It also favours sandstone cliffs and rocky outcrops. Found from the coastal areas up to 1200 m in altitude from the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal. The Pambati tree is part of the Scrophulariaceae family which include some well -known species like Freylinia, Nemesia, Diascia and Sutera and this family connection can be seen in the shape of the flowers. A fast growing shrub it performs best in enriched soils and does require good rains although will cope with the normal seasonal drought. If well protected for the first couple of years it becomes quite frost hardy. Where to use it: left as a multi-stemmed shrub it becomes a very attractive and solid screen creating a soft grey/green backdrop to dark leaved perennials and groundcovers. Its narrow growth and small root structure makes it a great shrub for small gardens where it works well to screen off walls and other unwanted views. Mix it with species from the same habitat type. It can be pruned into a small multi-stemmed tree with under plantings of small sub-shrubs, perennials and groundcovers, or can even be pruned into a soft hedge. It flowers early on and is easily grown from seed and cuttings. Cut the fruits off the tree in autumn and keep in a packet until they split open to spill the seed. Sow them in spring and early summer by sprinkling them on the surface of the well- draining potting soil, press into the soil and water well. Take cuttings from September to November or March to May and place them in well- draining seedling mix and keep watered but not too wet. It is a hard wood so is not prone to termites.