This pretty perennial shrub flowers profusely at this time of year, adding contrasting blues to all the oranges and yellows of autumn. Known in isiZulu as idololenkonyane an in Afrikaans as Bosviooltjie.
Naturally, it tends to scramble through other shrubs but can be cut to form a rounded bush or even clipped as a low hedge. The small, dark, oval leaves are soft and hairy and often browsed by game. The violet-blue tubular flowers attract butterflies- particularly the Pieridae family. As it is fast growing and easily propagated, Barleria obtusa makes a good groundcover in light shade and is useful to cover a difficult bank. If you want to keep it compact, it is a good idea to prune it back after flowering.
There are about 60 species of Barleria in Southern Africa. A few years ago a new variety was discovered on a farm outside Estcourt – Barleria greenii with lovely fragrant, pale pink flowers. Many different varieties of this rewarding shrub are now available at local nurseries, including the pinkish red Barleria repens and the spiny yellow Barleria rotundifolia. Plant one this Autumn!