The California bay is a very tall tree (20-30 m) which is renowned for its many medicinal, nutritional and artisanal properties.
Also known as ‘Bird’s eye bush’ by English speakers, the Mickey Mouse bush has a very original look, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the famous Walt Disney character. It must be noted that this plant is considered to be invasive in some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand.
|Common name||Mickey mouse plant|
|Binominal name||Ochna serrulata (Hochst.) Walp.|
|Synonyms||Ochna atropurpurea auct.|
|Area of origin||South-Africa|
Ochna is the name given to the wild pear-tree in Greek (due to the resemblance of the genus' pointed leaves (oc) to those of wild pear-trees). Serrulata means : (of leaves) with finely toothed margins.
Description and flowering period
This is a densely ramified shrub generally reaching 1 to 2 meters in height but occasionally up to 6 meters. Its branches are covered in lenticels (corky eruptions on bark that allow gas exchange) and its leaves are small and serrated. The golden-yellow fragrant flowers – which are either solitary or in pairs – appear in spring. The fruits, green at first and later black, mature throughout the summer. They are borne on a fleshy bright red receptacle surrounded by 3 equally red persistent sepals. Each receptacle can bear up to 5 or 6 fruits, but when it bears only 3, it really resembles Mickey mouse’s nose and ears – hence the plant’s common name. Seed dispersal is taken care of by birds, which are extremely fond of the fruits. The flowers are pollinated by bees and butterflies.
It requires full sun or part-shade. It tolerates light frosts. This species grows in diverse subtropical environments : from rocky slopes to dense forests.
Medicinal : fruits are used by Zulus to treat bone diseases.
Ochna serrulata is considered an invasive species in eastern Australia. In New Zealand, it has even been added to the list of the National Pest Plant Accord (NPPA) which forbids the trade, ownership and distribution of the plant.
Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN
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