T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Ochna serrulata (Mickey Mouse Plant)

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Ochnaceae
Genus: Ochna
Species: O. serrulata
Binomial name: Ochna serrulata
Synonyms: Ochna atropurpurea, Ochna multiflora
Common names: Mickey Mouse Plant, Mickey Mouse tree, Small-leaved plane, Carnival ochna, Bird's eye bush, Carnival bush.

Ochna serrulata is a small, semi-evergreen shrub which is indigenous to the subtropical forest areas of southern Africa.Its common name ‘Mickey Mouse Plant’ is due to the plant's bright-red sepals, which resemble the face of Mickey Mouse.

Ochna serrulata is a small shrub growing up to 2 m and rarely to 6m tall. The shiny green leaves are spirally arranged and are oblong to elliptic (30–60 mm in length by 8–15 mm wide). Their margins are finely serrated. Its specific epithet is derived from the Latin serrula "little saw", and refers to its fine-toothed leaf margins. 
During spring it losses its shiny green leaves and new, pink-flushed foliage quickly appears. Also during spring Ochna serrulata develops 2 cm diameter, fragrant, yellow blossoms at the tips of the branches. The petals quickly turn a bright red and quickly drop. 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 diameter fruit are initially pale green and turn black from November to January, with each fruit containing one oval green seed.

Ochna serrulata is now an invasive species in Hawaii, Australia, Norfolk Island and New Zealand. In New Zealand it is listed on the National Pest Plant Accord prohibiting its sale, commercial propagation and distribution. Ochna serrulata is a weed because it quickly colonises areas quickly developing dense cover completes with native plants for space, sunlight, water and nutrients. The seeds are spread by birds. Due to its dependence on a frost free environment Ochna serrulata is currently only a major weed problem in Northland.



The fragrant, yellow flowers


Unripe fruit.
  

The black shiny ripe fruit.