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Articles - Gourmet Pleasures:

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A magical plant for children

With a name like Mickey Mouse bush, this plant can't help being interesting for children. If you're familiar with Mickey Mouse comics – and who isn't? – it's obvious how the plant got its name. The glossy black berries and the vivid red sepals call to mind the Walt Disney character.

 

Luckily the berries of this attractive plant are relatively harmless. The flesh is edible, though the seeds could make a child nauseous. So they should be spat out. The plant has various other names including bird's eye bush and carnival bush. Its botanical name is Ochna serrulata and it's a native of southern Africa.

Exotic plant with a delicious scent

It's not only the ripe berries that make this plant attractive; in spring it bears golden yellow flowers with a sweet perfume. It does well in sun or semi-shade and planted in a large pot it makes a striking display on a patio or balcony. It's not frost hardy, so it needs to spend the winter in a light, cool cellar or even in a warm room. In South Africa its berries are very appealing to birds which spread the seeds far and wide. Unfortunately, it was introduced into Australia and New Zealand where it has become an invasive weed and very difficult to eradicate.

 

There's little risk of this happening in countries where the temperature drops below freezing in winter. If you want to try growing it, check that you are getting Ochna serrulata, because there are quite a number of plants that go by the name of Mickey Mouse bush and they're not nearly so attractive.

 

Source: Anne Staeves, www.aid.de