Halleria lucida (SA Tree List No. 670), the tree fuchsia, in Afrikaans known as kinderbessie or notsung, has a long history of diverse usage by the people of southern Africa. The tree was grown in the Cape Town Government Gardens and in Europe since the beginning of the 19th century. Today its main use is as a garden plant.
The flowers hold great attraction for birds due to their abundance of nectar. The tree fuchsia name is explained by the brick-red curved-tube flowers growing on the old stems. Flowers, fruit and shiny foliage all contribute to adorn spots in outdoor living space.
In Zulu traditional medicine the plant was associated with the treatment of several maladies, mainly to do with ear ache and skin complaints, but warding off evil and appeasing ancestral spirits also featured.
The old Cape Colony had timber shortage from the start. Controlled cutting of the better timber trees prevented the colonist farmers from denuding the countryside. They had to be allowed some access to materials by the authorities, for they largely had to manufacture furniture and utensils for themselves. Free harvesting of Halleria lucida wood (and some other species) was permitted.
The name notsung comes from the German noun Nutzung, meaning the right to use or usufruct. Many early Cape colonists could understand some German or were German. Cutting stems while leaving the base facilitates coppicing and continued growth for more poles later (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.plantzafrica.com).