Psychotria capensis

Black Bird Berry

Psychotria capensis

Psychotria capensis is one of the most useful plants in a garden because it can be grown in both sun and shade. Shady conditions produce a shrub that can grow to seven metres. Glossy leaved, it produces bunches of small, bright yellow flowers that are followed by clusters of fruit which age from green through yellow, to red, to black.

They are adored by birds and quickly snapped up – Black-eyed bulbuls are the first to arrive at the feast in my garden. Best of all, the plant produces flowers from early spring through summer, so one is treated to several months of rich yellow. The multi coloured bunches of fruit are borne from January through to July so hardly a month goes by without a show!

Quite by chance a few came up in my garden in full sun (planted there by the birds no doubt) and what a joyful surprise they have been. Full sun produces a shorter, dense bush absolutely laden with flowers and groaning with fruit. Admittedly they require some watering in this position, particularly in winter – but do not hold this against them.

The Psychotria capensis occurs naturally in the Southern and Eastern Cape, in KwaZulu-Natal from the coast through to the mist belt forest and up into Mpumalanga. It cannot stand frost, so if you can supply it with a damp, frost-free spot, in sun or shade.

The Gardener