One summer-rainfall sun kissed beauty: Gardenia volkensii

Written by Sandra Lennox (BotSoc Limpopo Branch) & Catherine Clulow

In previous blogs we have shared about a few shady characters, aka shade-loving indigenous plants, but today we are turning to the sun kissed beauties. There are many and a diversity out there, today we have picked a special gem from the north eastern parts of South Africa to share a few facts about.

  • One gorgeous indigenous sun loving plant is the Gardenia volkensii. Also commonly known as the bushveld gardenia, bosveld katjiepiering, umgongwane.
  • This white to yellow flowered shrub or tree, which prefers full-sun is suitable for small gardens, containers and bonsai. Easily propagated from cuttings or seeds, Gardenia volkensii are considered fast growing and make an attractive garden subject.
Fig 2 Gardenia volkensii (Photo Callidendron Nurseryl)
© Callidendron Nursery
  • In the garden, this is a deciduous, small tree with rigid, arching branches, growing up to 10m tall. The strongly scented flowers open at night and fade the next day, flowering in profusion after rain. While each flower is short-lived, they open in succession which extends the flowering season considerably.
  • They may be planted in groups of up to ten trees scattered in the veld in suitable habitats. The young plants require water during the first growing season to ensure survival. They are drought resistant but prone to damage by frost or cold winds.
  • In nature, the plants occur in open woodland and bushveld, growing in any soil type, but preferring well-drained soil and distributed from KwaZulu-Natal to tropical Africa.
  • The roots and fruits are used in traditional African medicine for several ailments, including respiratory issues and headaches. The roots are toxic and the smoke poisonous. Use at own risk, and always consult a specialist before ingesting or using for medicinal purposes.
Fig 1 Gardenia volkensii (Photo Callidendron Nursery)
© Callidendron Nursery
  • A valuable food plant for the big and small. Elephant, nyala and vervet moneys enjoy the warty fruits. Livestock and game browse the trees in dry periods and in winter. The Apricot Playboy (Deudorix dinochares) butterfly feeds on the leaves.
  • The poisonous smoke is used in agricultural fields by subsistence farmers and used and believed to be protective near villages as a charm to ward off lightning.

Offering an interesting branching structure and fragrant flowers this beauty is an advantageous indigenous choice to add to your green space if in the correct region. We hope to share about other sun-kissed beauties in the near future and hope that you learnt something and enjoyed this blog.

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Until next time…

Information sources & further reading:

Boon, R., 2010. Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Odendaal, C., Odendaal, G. (2014 onwards). Callidendron Indigenous Nursery. (Internet:, Accessed: June 2016).

Vandecasteele, P., Godard, P. (2008) In celebration of Fynbos. Struik, Cape Town.

Van Wyk, B., Van Wyk, P., 2013. Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa. Struik Nature: Cape Town.

Venter, F., Venter, J.A., 2002. Making the Most of Indigenous Trees. Briza, Pretoria.



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The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are an NGO conserving and educating about biodiversity for over 100 years.

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