Melianthus major (honey bush)

Melianthus major is the most familiar of the 8 species of Melianthus, a genus of shrubs endemic to southern Africa.

Along with the small genera Greyia and Bersama, Melianthus is included in the comparatively isolated family, Melianthaceae.

Melianthus major is a striking plant that has large, light blue-green pinnate leaves with toothed margins.

Long stems support extended inflorescences of numerous reddish flowers above the leaves.

Melianthus is well adapted to accommodate birds that rest on the strong stems and collect pollen as they drink nectar from within the flowers.


In its native South Africa, Melianthus major is found in both the winter and summer rainfall areas of the country where it favours wetter soils.


The honey bush is widespread and its conservation status has been assessed as of least concern in the Red List of South African Plants 2009.

Species detail

  • Melianthus major

    This plant’s flowers and stems are well designed to accommodate nectar-drinking birds. Find out more.


Melianthus major

Melianthus major.

Melianthus major

Melianthus major.

Melianthus major

Melianthus major.

Melianthus major

Melianthus major.


Dr Charlie Jarvis

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A cluster of flowers.


Stalks that support inflorescences.


A leaf composed of a central axis to which opposite pairs of leaflets are attached.


Linder, H P et al (2006). The evolutionary history of Melianthus (Melianthaceae). Amer. J. Bot. 93: 1052–1064.

Raimondo, D et al (eds) (2009). Red List of South African Plants 2009. Strelitzia 25: 1–669.

Ronse Decraene, LP et al (2001). Evolution and development of floral diversity of Melianthaceae, an enigmatic family from Southern Africa. Int. J. Plant Sci. 162: 59–82.