The African dogwood tree for bees also provides the gesho sticks that are used in the traditional Ethiopian mead called tej. Its flowers are also loved by sunbirds and insects; the fruit by many of our feathered friends.
In South Africa it's known as the shiny-leaf buckthorn or blinkblaar. The leaves are dark green, almost black colour when mature, glittering in the sun.
The flowers are an inconspicuous green colour producing reddish fruit about the size of a pea.
Beekeepers love the African dogwood for two reasons; it's a good source of nectar and the woody stems, known as gesho sticks, are used in making a traditional beer; in much the same way as hops.
It grows into a smallish tree about 4m tall throughout much of Africa; more of a dense shrub really. It can be found quite high above sea level in forests and along stream beds.
Plants can easily be propagated from seeds; they are hardy and can be grown in frosty areas.
Bees are threatened throughout the world by a poorly understood condition known generally as "colony collapse disease." There is much speculation about the cause; high levels of radiation, ecocides used in agriculture and various pests like the mite have all been fingered.
Growing huge areas of monocultures like corn and wheat has contributed; where many different indigenous flowers once bloomed providing nectar and pollen for the bees.
Since bees pollinate the plants that produce about a quarter of the food that humans eat, the economic consequences of colony collapse disease cannot be overstated.
In addition conservationists have successfully called for the eradication of invasive tree species such as the eucalyptus that once produced much nectar for bees. Modern farming has destroyed many of the "weeds" that once provided copious amounts of food for insects in general.
I remember the days when a drive in the country meant a windscreen splattered with dead insects; now thoughts of a Silent Spring begin to haunt us.
Along with the Halleria and Spekboom, the African dogwood for bees is a welcome new discovery to this apiarist and brewer of honey beer.
So beekeepers are always on the hunt for trees like the African dogwood for their nectar; and meaders for the sticks used when brewing a traditional Ethiopian t'ej.
The problem with meads in general is that they are really quite strong and need to be sipped cautiously. T'ej has a much lower alcohol content and can be enjoyed more freely.
The African dogwood tree for bees is also widely used in traditional herbal remedies for a variety of complaints from arthritis and joint sprains to a gargle for sore throats.
A traditional braggart is a honey beer made using hops. T'ej on the other hand employs the branches of the African dogwood tree for bees for the bitterness loved by the swillers of an ale.
The African dogwood tree for bees and the birds too, is known as the shiny-leaf buckthorn; or blinkblaar.
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