Saturday, November 23, 2013
Smooth Lolly Bush
To me, this is a less familiar plant than its hairy cousin Clerodendrum tomentosum, which we see closer to the great Dividing Range. The hairy lolly bush (See article Feb 2009) is not noticeably hairy, but on feeling the leaves you notice the soft, puppy’s ears texture.
The smooth lolly bush, however, has stiff leaves without a hint of hairiness.
The plant has white flowers, followed by these brilliant, showy red calyces. The fruits in them mature from green to red.
Obviously their appearance has reminded someone of lollies, but please don’t eat them.
These fruits are not edible. I can find no record that they are toxic, but given the use of many other Clerodendrum species for medicinal purposes, they are very likely to be. There is a very fine line between drugs which cure and poisons which kill.
The name "Clerodendrum" can be translated as "lottery tree" and they are sometimes called chance trees. They were used as cures for some particularly deadly diseases, so the name is a reference to the chance that they might save a life. (It may also have referred to a chance that the cure was even worse than the disease.)
The fruits ripen from green to black, and were just beginning to turn on these plants.
This would be a very hardy garden plant, tolerating extreme drought and some frost. We can expect them to respond well to pruning, like C. tomentosum.
If you want to grow them, and have young children, you may feel it is better to refer to the plant by the name “chance bush” to discourage unsupervised trialling of the “lollies”.
Posted by Patricia Gardner at 11:10 PM