Family AcanthaceaeThis medium to large shrub produces beautiful white tubular flowers from September to January. In addition, the velvety grey leaves create a wonderful colour contrast, making this a very attractive shrub.
Barleria albostellata is a shrub that, under ideal circumstances, will grow to 1.5 m. Under tropical and subtropical conditions it is evergreen, but in colder areas can become deciduous to semi-deciduous. It flowers from September to May, during which time attractive white flowers appear sporadically. Flowers emerge from a dense inflorescence, surrounded by four leafy bracts, which looks a little like a strange spider's nest. Flowers are snow white and the bracts are tinged purple. In contrast to the flowers, the leaves are grey-green and conspicuously velvety/hairy.
The small capsule present in most members of the family Acanthaceae, bursts open when ripe to distribute the seeds. The plant grows relatively fast and reaches maturity within three years.
Distribution and habitat
Barleria albostellata grows in well-drained soils and in full sun to semi-shade in the tropical to subtropical woodland areas of South Africa, as well as being found in Zimbabwe.
Although it prefers wetter conditions, it is able to withstand dry conditions and in addition, is semi frost-resistant.
Barleria albostellata is pollinated by insects and attracts various species of butterflies. Carpenter bees have been seen to visit the flowers on a regular basis. The insects attract insectivorous birds; therefore if you are a gardener that likes attracting life into your garden, this plant is a good choice.
It produces seed that is carried in a fruiting body in the form of a small capsule, which explodes when the seed is ripe.
Uses and cultural aspects
The horticultural value of the Barleria genus has been greatly underrated so far. It is now proving to be very promising, containing many species that would be wonderful additions to any garden.