Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a shrubby species that many of you who have ventured out onto our trails will no doubt have noticed, and whose importance will soon become apparent.
Chrysanthemoides monolifera subs. canescens or the Bush-Tick Berry (commonly known as Bietou or Boetabessie in Afrikaans, or ntlou-ea-lekhoaba in Sisotho), is a succulent bushy shrub of up to 2 m in hight. Monilifera is derived from the Latin for necklace (it refers to the arrangement of the fruits on the plant). The word canescent is the Latin for grey. C. monilifera is generally found growing around the rocky bases of cliffs, among boulders and sandy slopes at altitudes of generally between 1880 and 2240 m A.S.L. This shrub is widespread, growing from the Eastern Cape – Mpumalanga in S.A. and from Namaqualand – tropical Africa. C. monilifera has undergone several name changes since first identified.
Small white and woolly hairs can be observed on the leaves and stems of C. monilifera, giving it a soft felted appearance and texture. The leaves vary in length from 15 – 75 mm and width from 5 – 40 mm in mature plants and narrow until they resemble short stalks. The leaves are generally thick and slightly leathery with coarsely toothed margins. Flowers are sunshine yellow at approximately 30 mm and occur in small terminal clusters. C. monilifera is unique in that it flowers all year round – an interesting and costly strategy that could possibly serve to increase the chances of seed dispersal. The berries are small and green to glossy black when ripe and fruit from March – July. Some common uses of C. monilifera include:
The fruits are often eaten by birds and humans and the leaves are browsed by antelope.
This plant is relatively hardy and makes a good windbreak when used in hedges. It can also be grown from seed or cuttings.
Certain parts of the plant are used in traditional medicines.
The importance of C. monilifera in an ecosystem cannot be understated as it attracts insects such as ants and beetles which are known to disperse seed, as well as pollinators such as bees and butterflies that are essential to the life-cycles of many flowering plants.