Sunday, 7 December 2008

Buddleja madagascariensis

Buddleja madagascariensis Lam.
Buddleja heterophylla Lindl.
Nicodemia madagascariensis (Lam.) R. Parker
Adenoplea madagascariensis (Lam.) Eastw.

Commonly spelt Buddleia. Linneaus spelt it with a 'j' and so we are stuck with it.

Someplaces it known as "smoke bush" and has several unpronounceable names from Madagascar: ramandravaka, Seva, Sevafotsy, Sevalhy. Lamarck called it "Vigne de Malgache".
The alternative generic name Nicodemia is classed separately by some botanists from the fleshy berry-like fruit. Seed is dispersed by birds. The berries, described variously as blue, violet, or orange, are never seen in Sintra.
Native of Madagascar. It grows with other scrub in mountains at 600-2000m. Flore de Madagascar et des Comores: "brousse en montagne ; alt. 600-2000m". Like other Buddlejas an early colonizer of bare earth.

This plant was herborised by Commerson and Sonnerat around 1770. Specimens were sent to the Jardin du Roi (later Jardin des Plantes) from where it was published by Lamarck as Buddleia madagascariensis in 1785. It was not however introduced to gardens until much later. A French scientific dictionary of 1822 states that it was not yet in cultivation. However shortly afterwards seeds of this plant were sent to Britain from Calcutta and it flowered at the Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh in the autumn of 1827.
It was described and illustrated in Curtis's Botanical Magazine (2824) in the following year. "A very desirable inmate of the stove, and may be found sufficiently hardy to bear the greenhouse ... rich orange colour of the flowers ... yield a powerful honey-like smell".
Berthold Seemann in 1850 tells how this plant was planted near the tomb of Napoleon on the South Atlantic Island of St. Helena. It was already well established on that island and used for hedges impenetrable by cattle. It was given the vernacular name of "Birdlayer" from the way the branches knitted into one another. Today it has become a problematic invasive plant on the island. It is also considered a weed in New South Wales, Florida and South Africa, and is naturalised along the Mediterranean coast of France.
In Sintra no fruit is ever produced and the plant is not at all invasive. The Monserrate Buddleja is possibly a hybrid selection. It does have exceptionally large and brightly coloured flowers.

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