Psychotria capensis (Black Bird Berry)

Scientific Name

Psychotria capensis (Eckl.) Vatke

Common Names

Black Bird Berry, Bird Berry, Bastard Lemonwood, Lemon Bush


Logania capensis (basionym), Grumilea capensis, Grumilea cymosa, Grumilea globosa, Grumilea oblanceolata, Psychotria capensis subsp. capensis, Psychotria capensis var. capensis, Psychotria eckloniana, Psychotria zambesiana, Uragoga capensis, Uragoga zambesiana

Scientific Classification

Family: Rubiaceae
Subfamily: Rubioideae
Tribe: Psychotrieae
Genus: Psychotria


Color: Golden yellow
Bloom Time: Spring to midsummer


Psychotria capensis is an evergreen shrub or small tree, up to 26 feet (8 m) tall, with a slender stem, horizontal branches, and pale brown bark. The leaves are shiny, light to dark green above and paler below, smooth and leathery. They are fairly large, up to 6 inches (15 cm) long, up to 2.4 inches (6 cm) wide, elliptic to obovate, opposite, and often drooping. Golden yellow flowers are borne in flattish, terminal, branched heads up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) in diameter from spring to midsummer. The flowers are followed in late summer to winter by large, flat clusters of pea-sized, shiny yellow fruits ripening to red or black.

Psychotria capensis - Black Bird Berry
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USDA hardiness zone 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Hot Lips grows where the soil is rich and humid from leaf litter, moist, and sheltered from the most powerful sun rays by upper story trees. Interior growers turn to plants from around the world to add exotic touches to the home. Hot Lips plant fits the bill but requires a tropical environment. For this reason, it is mostly a collector's plant for much of the United States.

Growing Hot Lips plants requires a heated greenhouse or solarium, high humidity, and shelter from harsh solar rays. Growing Hot Lips plant means mimicking the tropical understory environment for which it is suited. Most potting soil will not have both the excellent drainage and moisture retentiveness necessary to raise these plants. Add a bit of vermiculite and peat moss before potting up the plant. Place it in an area with temperatures of at least 70ºF (21ºC), the humidity of at least 60%, and bright indirect lighting. See more at How to Grow and Care for Hot Lips Plant.


Native to South African south and east coasts, from Knysna through the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.


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