Greyia sutherlandii, or Natal bottlebrush, is a small tree endemic to South Africa that is, for reasons well demonstrated by today’s photo, popular among gardeners in warm, dry climates. The flowers–tightly-packed racemes–emerge in late winter before the leaves, looking particularly bright and stunning against the silvery bark. Towards the end of the flowering period, the leaves emerge bright green and then later age to a darker green colour.
Its genus and species name both honour male colonialists who spent time in South Africa. Sir George Grey was a governor of the Cape Colony, while Dr. Peter Cormack Sutherland, a Scottish physician, was the first to deliver a specimen of this species to England in 1850. I imagine that the African people noticed and used this beautiful tree long before Grey and Sutherland ever stepped foot in Africa. I found one account that the soft, light-pink wood was traditionally used to make cutlery. This species also has a number of common (non-English) names, including isiDwadwa, inDalu, and uBande in Zulu, and umBere-bere in Xhosa.