Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a shrubby “bling” species that is easily distinguishable from the majority of the surrounding grassland vegetation.
Rhamnus prinoides or Dogwood (commonly known as Blinkblaar in Afrikaans, or mofifi in Sisotho), is a scrambling shrub of up to 2-6 m in height. Prinoides is derived from the Latin for like the holm-oak (it is possible that both plants share similarities in bark morphology). R. prinoides is generally found growing on forest margins, stream banks and among scrub at altitudes of up to 2150 m A.S.L. This shrub is both widespread, growing from the Western Cape – Ethiopia, and is relatively abundant.
The most characteristic feature of R. prinoides is its conspicuous glossy deep green-blackish leaves. The leaves are alternate at 30-100 mm long x15-40 mm wide. Flowers are small, greenish and in clusters, usually flowering in summer (Nov-Jan). The fruit are small (5 mm) and round, fleshy and purplish to red in colour.
The fruit of R. prinoides attract frugivorous birds to any garden in which it grows. The flowers and their sugary nectar also attract pollinators such as bees.
This shrub is frost resistant and makes for a sturdy hedge. It grows quickly and easily and makes a good bonsai.
Certain parts of the plant are used in traditional medicines. Root infusions are said to purify blood and treat pneumonia. Parts such as the leaves have been used to treat rheumatism and colic. Leaves have been applied as liniment to treat sprains. The heartwood and root can be applied to beer to produce a narcotic effect. It was also used as a snuff to treat mental disorders.