Honeybush

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Cyclopia genistoides – Honey Bush

 
Family: Fabaceae

Common names

  • Honeybush tea
  • Heuningbos

Description

Cyclopia genistoides is a small, typical fynbos shrub. It has many branches. It grows to about one metre tall. The short needle-like leaves are arranged in threes along the branches. When it flowers in spring, this shrub is very pretty with a bold display of bright yellow flowers. Plants from the genus Cyclopia are easily recognized by their sweetly scented, yellow, pea like flowers.

Distribution

All 23 species of Cyclopia occur only in fynbos; from the Cederberg Mountains, southwards to the Cape Peninsula and eastwards to Port Elizabeth. Usually species are restricted to very small areas and then also to very specific habitats like high mountain peaks, marshy areas, shale bands and wet southern slopes.

Cultural value

To make the tea the stems and leaves are chopped into small pieces, wet and then left in heaps where they ferment spontaneously. They may be heated in an oven to about 60°C – 70°C to enhance the process. After sufficient fermentation, the tea is spread out in the sun to dry. After sifting, it is ready for use. Honeybush tea, with its own distinct sweet taste and aroma, is made like ordinary tea, except that simmering enhances the flavour. Drinking honeybush tea is said to promote good health, stimulate the appetite, and the milk flow of lactating mothers.

Growing Cyclopia genistoides

Money beetles are attracted to the sweet smelling flowers at the tip of the branches. They are responsible for most of the pollination. The brown seeds are formed in small pods that turn brown. The pods dry and split open within a few weeks as the seed ripens.

Honeybush needs to be planted in full sun and well-drained soil. The plants are sensitive to severe frost. The plants grow fairly fast but start to look untidy after a few years if not regularly pruned or burned, which is what usually happens in nature. After a fire, old honeybush plants shoot out vigorously from the surviving roots,which act as a storage organ.