Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Lamiaceae (Sage and mint) family.
Ajuga ophrydis (Bugle Plant in English & Senyarela in Sesotho) is a perennial herb which may grow to 250mm tall. This remarkable yet understated herb grows sparcely distributed in rocky grassland areas, in close proximity to rocky slopes at higher altitudes up to 2700 m A.S.L, occurring from the Eastern Cape through to Mpum.
An altogether attractive plant, this specimen was observed above the Porcupine Trail, along what will soon be our new cycle route – the Caracal Contour. Interestingly this specimen and several new wildflowers were only observed in the area in which cattle have been excluded and in which an intact portion of fence remains, and is evidence of the need to conserve our natural heritage. As a matter of interest, this is the only member of the Ajuga genus which has been recorded in S.A.
The paddle-like leaves of A.ophrydis are basal and rosetted for the most part, measuring 30-170mm long by 15-40mm wide. The margins are covered in fine hairs and are toothed, sometimes slightly roled inwards. The inflorescence measures approx. 200mm long and is spiked. The whorled flowers are relatively small (12-14mm) and are blue-mauve. Each flower consists of a 5-toothed calyx with 1 reduced upper “lip”. 4 brown curved stamens appear as “eyes” on each floret, giving each flower the semblance of a miniature face. Flowering occurs from Oct-Feb. Uses:
The flowers of this plant attract a host of pollinators thus assisting with pollination of both wild plant and food-crop species.
This plant has been used in the formulation of traditional medicines and has apparently been used in traditional medicine to relieve menstrual pains.
Those who’ve tried to propagate A. ophrydis have found it an easy plant to grow from cuttings.
The SANBI conservation status for A. ophrydis is listed as Least Concern
Article and photography by Damien Coulson
Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve
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