Scented Shrub has Pros and Cons
This article was first published on 17 Feb 2017.
Photo by the Otago Daily Times
Sky flower, pigeon berry and golden dew drop are some of the common names for the shrub Duranta erecta.
A long flowering period, a food source for birds, bees and butterflies, a good hedging plant in subtropical climates and its soft scent are all noteworthy characteristics, but there are also some un favourable characteristics. The fruits are much loved by birds but poisonous to humans. It has naturalised in many parts of Australia, South Africa, China and the Pacific Islands and has been registered as an invasive species in many parts of Australia.
Duranta erecta is from the tropical parts of South America and Mexico and can be grown as a tropical or subtropical. In cooler climates, such as Dunedin’s temperate one it needs winter protection in a glass house or conservatory. This also has the benefit of stopping it becoming invasive.
Grown as a multi-branching shrub or small tree up to 6m, some plants have long sharp spines on the stems while others have none. Fortunately the one growing in the central house of the Dunedin Botanic Garden Winter Garden glasshouse is spineless.
The small lavender-blue flowers have a faint vanilla scent and are arranged in clusters at the end of the branches then followed by bunches of golden yellow-orange fruits. The stems tend to have a drooping or arching habit.
Generally fairly pest free, it can still get hit by spider mite or mealy bugs in summer. This can usually be controlled with a blast from the hose or with a horticultural soap spray.
Stephen Bishop is curator of the winter garden glasshouse at Dunedin Botanic Garden.