Shrub medium; Shrub large
Climbing Saffron; Bob-cherry
Greenish-cream; autumn winter spring
sun; light shade; shrubbery; screen security; wildlife birds butterfly host
fynbos; grassland; coastal eastern cape; coastal kzn; bushveld
thicket; subtropical east coast; highveld; western cape; bushveld savanna
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Climbing Saffron is the better known common name of this lovely plant though Bob-cherry does take my fancy! This variable plant fits into a few categories, climber, scrambling shrub and even a small tree that grows to 5 m in gardens. In suitable wild habitats though, that of scrub, dune bush, forest and forest margins, it can reach as much as 15 m in height. For impatient gardeners and equally eager garden birds, it flowers and fruits when still young, often while still in a nursery bag. This is a delightful shrub with glossy, slightly wavy leaf margins that carry hard-tipped serrations. Leaf tips are variable; notched, rounded or pointed, all covered with fine spines. Reverse hooks on the short side branchlets help the plant to scramble though given sufficient space is more likely to take a tree or shrub form. The scrambling habit is a great boon if used as in a mixed screen and barrier hedge, providing security and food for many birds, reptiles and insects. Leaf colour varies from dark to bright green, paler green below, with new leaves announcing spring in a blush of red. Greenish-cream flowers are small some would say insignificant, clustering at the ends of stems from June through to April. The fruiting displays though put on a spectacular show from December through to August. Individual fruits are small, but they occur in dense fruiting heads, both red-purple and black on the same bunch and are loved by birds – and people. Foliage supports the larvae of the Rainforest Acraea boopis butterfly. Good companion plants in a mixed screen: This clump will offer nesting sites, protection while feeding, fruits, nectar, insects and pollen and will be a hive of activity through the year. Carissa bispinosa (Forest Num-num)Flowers August – Jan/ fruits January – July Gymnosporia arenicola (=Maytenus heterophylla subsp. areniaria – Dune Spikethorn) Flowers; March – September/ Fruits, all year Diospyros lycioides (Bluebushes) August-December/ Fruits, January-May Gymnanthemum coloratum (= Vernonia colorata – Lowveld Bitter-tea) Flowers April – September Grewia occidentalis (Cross-berry Raisin) Flowers September – January/ Fruits, January – July Aloe arborescens (Krantz Aloe) Flowers April - July.