Characteristics of Mickey Mouse Plant (Ochna serrulata) in the Wild

Ochna serrulata
Mickey mouse plant or Carnival ochna is a species of a flowering shrub native to Africa belonging to the genus Ochna. The plant is named “Mickey Mouse” because of its bright red petals, resembling Mickey Mouse’s face.

This plant was first described by the German naturalist, Christian Ferdinand Friedrich Hochstetter, and was given its current binomial name by Wilhelm Gerhard Walpers. Its specific nickname comes from the Latin serrula “little saw” which refers to the fine serrations on the edges of the leaves.

The Mickey mouse plant comes from dry areas in South Africa, from Cape Town, Kwazulu-Natal, inland Swaziland, and Gauteng.

Mickey mouse plant is a tough and adaptable plant because it can grow in dry open land and under the full sun all day long.

 

Characteristics of Mickey Mouse Plant Leaf

Ochna serrulata Leaf
Source : flickr.com/Flora & Fauna of the Mid North Coast of NSW

The leaves are 3-6 cm long by 2-3 cm wide, shiny green, and have fine serrations along the edges of the leaves.

 

Characteristics of Mickey Mouse Plant Flower

Ochna serrulata Flower
Source : flickr.com/Alison Klein

The flowers are yellow, fragrant, and about 2 cm in diameter. Mickey Mouse flowers bloom in spring (transitioning from winter to summer). The flowers attract bees and butterflies, while birds tend to eat the fruit.

 

Characteristics of Mickey Mouse Plant Fruit

Ochna serrulata Fruit
Source : growwild.co.za

The fruit grows on sepals, 5 mm in diameter, pale green and turns black when old. As the fruit develops, the sepals enlarge and turn bright red. Its red sepals can last until late summer.

When the tree is planted in fertile, nutrient-rich soil when it blooms the entire plant appears to be completely red.

 

Characteristics of Mickey Mouse Tree

Ochna serrulata Tree
Source : wikimedia.org

The Mickey mouse plant grows as a small shrub that grows to 1-2 meters tall, although it can sometimes be a small tree up to 6 meters in height (rarely found).

The Mickey mouse plant has been cultivated widely outside South Africa as an ornamental tree. In Hawaii, this plant is one of the few species of ornamental flower plants that are valued.

But in New South Wales and southern Queensland in eastern Australia, this plant is considered a weed. Whereas in New Zealand, this plant is legally registered as a National Plant Pest which is prohibited from commercial sale, propagation and distribution.

 

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