Friday, March 27, 2009


Melianthus major is a stunning shrub. It is one of my favorite South African native plants. It proudly announces dramatically sculptured pale-green leaves. The flowers are nested in large maroon bracts, some over one foot in length. It is happiest between 50°F and 70°F, where the foliage luxuriates and the flowers offer sweet nectar to birds (hummingbirds especially). The colloquial name, Honey Bush, is in reference to the irresistible nectar.

In keeping with the schizophrenic attributes of many plants, another common name for the plant is Touch-Me-Not. This, however, refers to the leaves. As one rubs or crushes the foliage, an offensive odor is produced.

The seeds take approximately 30 days to germinate. They should be planted when temperatures are between 50°F and 70°F with a 10°F - 15°F day/night differential.

The odor of the leaves is a harbinger of its toxicity (of particular concern to horses, cattle and other ruminants). Luckily, the foul smelling leaves usually deter an animal’s willingness to graze on them. If you have a Melianthus plant and animals, do be aware of the potential hazard.

Moving On To Other Pressing Issues

It's time to clean out the urchin's cave and sort through the daily collection of artifacts. Most usually, we have paper globs and the occasional undigested grape (urchins hate grapes, though, curiously, they collect them with puzzling alacrity). It is a testament to their undying cleverness that urchins do not consume grapes.

Special Note To Dog Owners

Unlike urchins, your dog may not realize that grapes (and raisins), in moderate to large quantities are a big no- no. You may know that onions and chocolate are bad for dogs, but you should also know about grapes/raisins (particularly since dogs do like the taste of sweet raisins).

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