Family: Wintersweet, Bushman’s Poison, APOCYNACEAE
In the days before the Europeans arrived, this genus of decorative African shrubs was valued principally as the source of arrow poison. But settlers eagerly adopted them for garden use, particularly in coastal areas, for Acokantheras are tolerant of poor soil, wind and salt air.
Plant in full sun as 3m/1()ft specimens, or trim as a hedge; all they need is ample water in summer to turn on a year-round show. In the case of Acokanthera oblongifolia, the evergreen leaves glow with red-purple, and dense clusters of pale pink flowers appear all year.
They are lightly fragrant and followed by 2.5cm/1in plum-coloured poisonous fruits in autumn and winter. Propagate from seeds, cuttings or, in the case of the variegated form, by grafting. Acokanthera should be pruned lightly after bloom, is hardy down to -2C/28F.