Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Buddleja alternifolia at Northcourt Gardens,
Isle of Wight. 24 June, 2013
Strictly speaking the title for this blog should be "Buddlejas" since Buddleja is the correct spelling for the genus but, like Aubretia (which should be Aubrieta), I am sticking to the familiar spelling. 

When on the Isle of Wight recently I visited the lovely private gardens at Northcourt, in the village of Shorwell. Buddleja alternifolia was growing particularly well, making a waterfall of lilac bloom on a steep slope.

The shrub has more delicate foliage than the coarser leaves of the common Buddleja davidii giving a more graceful overall effect.
Buddleja alternifolia in greater detail.
Structurally the individual flowers are very similar and also attract a wide range of insects. I have it in my garden but it is not well positioned and is slightly over- whelmed by more robust plants. 

Buddleja globosa, Niton, Isle of Wight.
24 June, 2013
Superficially quite different is Buddleja globosa, sometimes called the Orange Ball Tree. Again, a close examination of the flowers shows a clear similarity to B. davidii but this shrub, native to the Andes (in Chile the leaves are made into a tea), is far more robust and requires plenty of space. My photograph was taken, curiously enough, only a few metres from a pub called the Buddle Inn, in the village of Niton. Adam Buddle (1662-1715) after whom the genus is named, was a botanist from Essex, but whether there is any connection between the inn and the botanist I have no idea. 

Buddleja davidii of course also commemorates the Basque explorer, missionary and naturalist, Father Armand David, known as Pere David, who first recorded it from China. This extraordinary man collected and described an enormous number of plants and animals and he seems to have been the first European to see a Giant Panda. To zoologists he is best remembered through Pere David's deer, which he helped to save from extinction. Botanically he lives on through the lovely shrub Rhododendron davidii and the Pocket Handkerchief Tree, Davidia involucrata, just two of many species named after him.
A dark form of Buddleja davidii
Byfield, 30 July, 2013

The Butterfly Bush, as B. davidii is often known, is now available in a range of colours from deep purple to almost a pure white. (The white form has a yellow centre, making the individual flowers look like tiny fried eggs.) Its original colour is a pale lilac and where the plant has escaped - as it has done on an enormous scale - seedlings soon revert to this shade. I was intrigued to notice, on a recent journey, that the sides of a road cutting near Newbury are covered with buddleia to the exclusion of almost anything else. Indeed, in some parts of the world it has been declared a noxious weed. All the three species mentioned occur with some regularity on waste ground but B. davidii is obviously the garden escapee par excellence.

The classification of the Buddleja genus, with about a hundred species, is confusing. For a long time they were placed, together with a few other genera, in their own family, the Buddlejaceae, but many botanists found this situation unsatisfactory and placed them in the Loganiaceae. However they are now generally regarded as belonging to the Scrophulariaceae. Surprisingly few of the species seem to be in general cultivation.

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