The regular appearance of the pretty blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) blooms both in our garden and all over the Eastern Cape veld is uplifting – whatever the weather.
The name Plumbago is derived from plumbum meaning lead, as it was once thought to be a cure for lead poisoning – which has been discounted. Auriculata means ear-shaped and refers to the leaf base. This probably why one of its common names is Cape leadwort. It is known as blousyselbos in Afrikaans.
We have several of these shrubs growing in our garden; some deliberately planted and others that have made themselves at home. The easiest method of propagation is to remove rooted suckers from the mother plant. Apart from its delicate blue flowers, a real bonus in this part of the world is that the Plumbago is tolerant of heat and is drought-resistant. It grows well in the sunlight and flowers less prolifically in the shade.
The tenaciousness of the Plumbago is evident where these shrubs have been grazed to ground level – yet they still flower!
There are sticky, gland tipped hairs on the flower calyx as well as on the seed capsule. My grandchildren have enjoyed utilising this stickiness to make ‘earrings’ with the flowers.
Plumbago provides a food source for butterflies and I have often seen birds such as Cape White-eyes, Speckled Mousebirds and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds visiting these shrubs. One year a Cape Robin-chat chose to nest in the Plumbago near our front path.