Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Melianthus major L.

Half hardy, tall, erect to spreading shrub with robust, hollow stems, spreading, pinnate leaves, to 50cm long, with 9-17 leaflets, and spike-like racemes, to 80cm long, of crimson to brick-red flowers, to 2.5cm long, in spring and summer.  To 3m.  [RHSE, Hortus, Hilliers’].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘Native of the Cape of Good Hope whence it was brought to Holland in the year 1673, and thence to England by Mr. Bentinck, afterwards Lord Portland.  An undershrub, (that is, a perennial plant, which is partly woody and partly herbaceous) sometimes attaining the height of ten feet, or even more, and spreading itself in all directions by suckers.

Usually kept in the greenhouse; but Miller says, the surest method to have it flower, is to plant it in the open ground, and to cover the shoots in frosty weather, so as to prevent their being killed at the top; having first chosen a wall with a southern aspect, and placed the plant in dry rubbish, that it may shoot less vigorously, be consequently less succulent, and therefore farther without the influence of frost. For, if the stalk is killed at the top, although it sprouts again, it will not flower the same season. Multiplied by suckers taken off at any time from March to September. In favourable summers it ripens seed. The drawing was taken at Mrs. Howard’s nursery, King’s Road, Little Chelsea, in May last.’  [BR f.45/1815].

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [T.673/1843], it still grows in the gardens but is thought to be a relatively recent re-introduction.  Naturalised in the Sydney region [FNSW].  This plant is toxic and is now considered a significant weed in eastern Australia.


Published Mar 21, 2009 - 05:12 PM | Last updated Mar 24, 2010 - 03:08 PM

Illustrated are pinnate, toothed leaves and a spike-like raceme of crimson to brick-red flowers.  Botanical Register f.45, 1815.

Melianthus major L. | BR f.45/1815 | BHL

Family Melianthaceae
Region of origin

South Africa

Common Name

Honey bush, Cape honey flower

Name in the Camden Park Record

Melianthus major 

Confidence level high