Where to find it:
The Buddleja salviifolia grows on the lower southern slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain range and does well near water. It is often found near drainage lines on these lower slopes. Look out for it growing in groups on the edge of wooded areas and even in sheltered areas near exposed rocky habitats.
General description and features:
Buddleja Salviifolia is a member of the Wild Elder family that has 21 tree species all over the world. South Africa is richly blessed to have 20 tree species of the Wild Elder family.
The Sagewood is a fast growing, multi-stemmed shrubby plant with an aggressive root system. Its numerous branches spread out horizontally from the main stem, and as they get longer, they tend to droop down towards the ground, creating a dense mass of untidy branches. The deeply veined greyish leaves that look similar to the sage herb, are green on top, greyish on the underside and feel rough when touched. It is semi-deciduous, losing some of its leaves during winter. Being frost and drought resistant, as well as a fast grower, the Buddleja Salviifolia is a most suitable plant for Conservancy areas.
The most striking feature of the Sagewood are their flowers that vary in colour from creamy white to lilac to purple – you can’t miss these gorgeous flowers in the flowering season between August and October. Their sweet-scented perfume and its valuable nectar will attract bees, butterflies and many other insects. The flowers form in clusters of little trumpet–shaped flowers. The fruits that appear from October to December look like little hairy capsule-shaped berries, approximately 4-5 mm in size, sticking out from the outer petals of the dried flowers, at the end of the flowering season.
Trunk and Bark:
The bark is greyish-brown on mature branches and in contrast, the younger branches look like they are covered in grey woolly hair. The wood is tough and hard and is often used to make fishing rods. Assegai/spear shafts were also made from Sagewood.
What people use this tree for:
Consider planting Sagewood if you need to stabilize banks along side dams, rivers or streams as its aggressive roots are strong to help bind the soil, and the roots will even grow in flowing water too. It recovers well after fire by sending out strong shoots to begin the growing process again. If you need a wind barrier hedge, consider clipping and shaping the Sagewood for this purpose. If you are adventurous in your tea drinking, you may want to brew tea from boiled fresh or dried leaves – add honey to sweeten the flavour. Medicinally, the leaves of Sagewood can be made into an infusion and used as an eye lotion. Coughs and colic can be treated with a decoction of the root. A decoction of flowers can be used to clean sores. If you enjoy the art of Bonsai, then Buddleja salviifolia is a must for your collection!
The ‘provider’ for other creatures:
Sagewood is an excellent fodder tree and is enjoyed by cattle and goats alike. Game animals such as kudu, impala, grey duiker, eland and bushbuck browse the leaves. If you were a bee (Apis mellifera scutellata), the Buddleja salviifolia would be one of your favourite nectar and pollen destinations. It has been observed that 15 different butterfly species visit Sagewood together with a variety of other insects that in turn attract the insect-eating birds! It is the host plant for only one species of butterfly, the African leopard (Phalanta phalantha aethiopica).
How to grow your own Buddleja salviifolia:
It is a fast growing tree – 600 to 800 mm a year. If a tree-shape is required from Sagewood, you need to prune it regularly, otherwise it will continue to grow as a large shrub. Buddleja salviifolia grows happily in either full sun or shady areas.
Here’s how to grow your own…
Plant out into larger nursery bags filled with a mixture of river sand and compost (mix 5:1).
Take care when transplanting into bigger bags or into the ground, as the root is very delicate.
Protect the young plants during the first winter and also from browsing.
(Tip: When ready to plant the sapling into the ground, position a 50 mm size x 1m length of plastic piping vertically near to the sapling, leaving +- 5 cm above ground level. When watering around the sapling, also pour water into this pipe, as it will encourage the roots to grow downwards, looking for the moisture below. Keep the ground around the sapling well mulched with dry leaves, etc. to assist with water retention above ground.)
If you don’t find this tree on your property consider growing one!