Fine Art

Ochna serrulata

Ochna serrulata, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Malpighiales

Familia: Ochnaceae
Subfamilia: Ochnoideae
Tribus: Ochneae
Subtribus: Ochninae
Genus: Ochna
Species: Ochna serrulata

Ochna serrulata (Hochst.) Walp., Repert. Bot. Syst. 5(3): 400. 1846.

Diporidium serrulatum Hochst. in C.Krauss, Flora 27(18): 304. 1844.

Misapplied names
Ochna atropurpurea auct. – non Ochna atropurpurea DC., Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. 17: 412. 1811.

Native distribution areas:

Southern Africa
Cape Provinces, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Northern Provinces, Swaziland.

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Krauss, F. 1844. Pflanzen des Cap- und Natal-Landes, gesammelt und zusammengestellt von Dr. Ferdinand Krauss. Flora 27: 261–274, 277–307, 346–359, 423–432, 551–556, 819–835. BHL BHL BHL BHL BHL BHL Reference page.
Walpers, G.G. 1845–1846. Repertorium Botanices Systematicae. Tomus V. 982 pp. Sumtibus Friderici Hofmeister, Lipsiae [Leipzig]. BHL Reference page.

Additional references

Du Toit, P.C.V. & Obermeyer, A.A. 1976. Ochnaceae. Pp. 1–13 in Ross, J.H. (ed.), Flora of Southern Africa, Vol. 22. Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agriculture Technical Services, Pretoria, ISBN 0-621-02870-3. Reference page.


International Plant Names Index. 2019. Ochna serrulata. Published online. Accessed: 20 February 2019.
Global Biodiversity Information Facility. 2019. GBIF Backbone Taxonomy. Checklist dataset. Taxon: Ochna serrulata.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Ochna serrulata in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 2019-02-20.
Hassler, M. 2019. Ochna serrulata. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2019. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2019 February 20. Reference page. 2019. Ochna serrulata. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 20 February 2019.
African Plants Database (version 3.4.0). Ochna serrulata. Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève and South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. Accessed: 20 February 2019.

Vernacular names
Afrikaans: Fynblaarrooihout
English: Small-leaved plane, Carnival ochna, Bird's Eye Bush, Mickey Mouse bush

Ochna serrulata (commonly known as the small-leaved plane, carnival ochna, bird's eye bush, Mickey mouse plant or Mickey Mouse bush due to the plant's ripe blackfruit, which upside down resembles the ears of Mickey Mouse, and bright-red sepals, which resembles his trousers) is an ornamental garden plant in the family Ochnaceae which is indigenous to South Africa. It is planted in southern African gardens and is an invasive species in Australia and New Zealand.


Ochna serrulata was first described by the German naturalist Christian Ferdinand Friedrich Hochstetter, and given its current binomial name by Wilhelm Gerhard Walpers. Its specific epithet is derived from the Latin serrula "little saw",[1] and refers to its fine-toothed leaf margins.

Flower of Ochna serrulata
Pollen of Ochna serrulata
Ochna serrulata with fruits and the bright-red sepals that resemble the ears and trousers of Mickey Mouse.
An ochna serrulata shrub

Ochna serrulata is a small shrub growing between 1 and 2 m (3.3 and 6.6 ft) high, although it may occasionally become a small tree up to 6 m (20 ft) high. The narrow leaves are oblong to elliptic and measure 30–60 mm (1.2–2.4 in) in length by 8–15 mm (3⁄8–5⁄8 in) wide, and are shiny green with fine toothed serrations along the leaf edges. During the spring, the shrub's fragrant yellow blossoms that appear are usually around 2 cm (0.79 in) in diameter. Though, the petals tend to drop soon after they bloom. Pollens are elongated, approximately 35x18 microns in size. Five or six fruits grow from the plant, which are attached to the sepals. While the fruit is developing, the sepals enlarge and turn bright red, in most cases turning the whole plant red. The 5 mm (1⁄4 in) diameter fruit are initially pale green and turn black.[2] In places including Kirstenbosch, the fruits on the plant start ripening in the early summer, while the red sepals last until around late summer. The flowers usually attract bees and butterflies, while the birds tend to eat the fruits from the plant. The seeds can be released by birds and water.[3]

Distribution and habitat

The plant is native to the forest areas of South Africa. It occurs throughout the country, from Cape Town in the south, along the east coast as far as Kwazulu-Natal, and inland through Swaziland and Gauteng. This tough, adaptable shrub grows in sunny, open positions as well as in the shade of deep forest.

It has been widely cultivated outside of South Africa as an ornamental garden plant, and has become a weed in New South Wales and southern Queensland in eastern Australia, where it is found near human habitation in and around large towns and cities.[2]


This plant makes a very attractive indigenous shrub for South African gardens. It is hardy and resilient and can be planted both in the sun as well as in shady areas. It is initially slow-growing, but speeds up once it is established, especially if it is watered frequently. This is a very good plant for attracting birds to the garden. It does not tolerate frost well, but adapts well to light pruning and is attractive throughout the year, even when not in fruit.

Ochna serrulata is also one of several cultivated plants in Hawaii for their colorful flowers and unusual fruits.[4]

Invasive species

Ochna serrulata is a weed in parts of eastern Australia with a potential to spread from its current range.[5] In New Zealand it is listed on the National Pest Plant Accord prohibiting its sale, commercial propagation and distribution.[6]


Simpson DP (1979). Cassell's Latin Dictionary (5 ed.). London: Cassell Ltd. p. 883. ISBN 0-304-52257-0.
Wolff, Mark A. (1999). Winning the war of Weeds: The Essential Gardener's Guide to Weed Identification and Control. Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press. p. 40. ISBN 0-86417-993-6.
"Ochna serrulata". Retrieved 2008-09-29.
"Overview of the Ochna serrulata" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-29.
"Weeds Australia - Weed Identification - Ochna". Australian Weeds Committee. Retrieved 18 December 2011.

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