Barleria elegans is a medium-sized, fairly fast-growing evergreen shrub up to 1 m high. The leaves are egg-shaped (ovate), dark green and much paler underneath. The narrowly funnel-shaped flowers are carried in few-flowered clusters in the axils (angle between the stem axis and leaf stem) and the bracteoles (reduced leaves) are spiny-toothed.
Distribution and habitat
Barleria elegans is found in the summer rainfall areas of South Africa where it grows in well-drained soils on rocky outcrops and hillsides in full sun to semi-shade and is able to withstand a moderate amount of frost. Rainfall ranges from 500-1 000 mm per annum with temperatures rising into the thirties (°C).
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Barleria is derived from the name of a Dominican monk and French botanist, Jacques Barrelier who lived during the 1600s. The species name elegans (Latin) means graceful. The genus consists of a group of herbs or shrubs, some producing spines and all producing fruit in the form of explosive capsules. Members of the genus occur from Japan in the far East, through southern Asia , India, Arabia, Africa, Madagascar to as far west as Central America and Mexico.
Barleria elegans is pollinated by insects and attracts various species of butterflies. The insects attract insectivorous birds; therefore this plant is a good choice for attracting life into the garden.
The fruit is a small capsule which explodes to release the seeds. The plant also carries spines to protect itself from being over-utilized by animals.