Mpati mountain and its bountiful Bottle brushes – Greyia Sutherlandia

This small tree is endemic to South Africa – found mainly growing on the rocky cliffs of the Drakensberg. Our Mpati mountain however is also home to this lovely small deciduous tree. This tree (or large shrub) although having ‘bottle brush’ like flowers, is not to be confused with the Australian common bottlebrush ‘Calistemon’ which is grown extensively in gardens.

Our indigenous ‘Bottle brush’ has bright fire engine red flowers which start late in Winter, often before the leaves, and put on a showy display right through to early Summer. In Autumn the leaves add their own show, changing to lovely shades of red and orange.

The bottle brushes on Mpati have formed extensive colonies in and between the rocky cliff sides together with the Aloes and other lovely indigenous trees. Their splashes of red as they start flowering making for quite a spectacular show. Some of these small Bottle brush trees are truly ancient, their trunks and stems twisted and gnarled with the passage of time. One wonders what stories they could tell!

This painting with its Sun bird pollinator – A ‘Greater collared’ male sunbird, was painted using water colours and Acrylic onto board, in honor of these beautiful Mpati trees.

Greyia Sutherlandia with a male ‘Greater collared” sun bird

7 thoughts on “Mpati mountain and its bountiful Bottle brushes – Greyia Sutherlandia

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  1. Carol – may I call you that? – you have captured the details of both the plant and the bird beautifully! Seeing the photograph of the Greyia sutherlandia when I opened your blog drew me back to the Drakensberg ‘just like that’. We spent many happy and energetic days hiking there while living in KZN. I was delighted to discover a tree in a nearby neighbour’s garden when we arrived in Grahamstown. They are special trees and – as you have pointed out their age – ones that have always struck me as being both wise and wizened. You have lifted my spirits today, thank you.

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    1. Thank you Anne! I also love these iconic trees and look out for the first to flower when I explore the mountain – usually in July already! I am very pleased you like my painting as I used 3 photographs to put it all together and was not sure it would work.

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  2. I didn’t even know that we have an indigenous bottle-brush! And then one that’s popular among the nectar-feeding birds to boot! Thanks for the introduction; I wonder whether a nursery specialising in home-grown plants would stock this species up here on the Highveld?

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  3. I love this plant too – although it is best to see it in the wild, I really treasure the one we have in our garden. Those late-winter-into-early-spring flowers really cheer me up that winter is ending, and as you mention the leaves when they change colour are showy too. Your painting is also lovely – the sunbird and the flowers complement each other perfectly.

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