Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’ll be looking at a member of the rather large Asteraceae (Daizy) family.
Gazania krebsiana Less. subsp. serrulata (Common Gazania in English, Bruingousblom in Afrikaans and shoeshoe in Sesotho) is a perennial herb, distributed from the Western Cape – Mpum. Don’t let its’ diminutive size fool you though – this tough little guy can survive tough high-altitude winter and summer conditions at up to 3000m A.S.L.
The specimen photographed was observed recently on the Kloof Mountain trail. This find was lucky as usually the rocky grassland plateau is heavily grazed by cattle (for whom the flower is a delicacy).
The leaves of the Common Gazania are lanceolate measuring around 150X4mm, and the margins are sparesly hairy and rolled under, with an off-white midrib; dark/khaki-green above and grey-green below. A milky latex may be exuded when the leaves are damaged. The inflorescense is bourne aloft a stem of 100-120mm. The flowerheads (30-50mm) are mostly solitary, often with a few others in close proximity to the parent plant. The ray-florets are a butter-canary yellow. Some variants my even appear orange-red with dark spots at the base of the rays. Flowering usually occurs from Spring-mid summer; although this specimen was observed in early July (possibly as a result of warmer than usual winter tempretures and slightly elevated winter-rainfall). Uses:
Decoctions and infusions from several species of the Gazania genus may be used as analgesics to reduce pain in patients.
Eaten raw by herdsmen and cattle alike as a source of nourishment and moisture. The felt/fine hairs on the underside of the leaves was rolled into twine to make skirts for rite-of-passage ceremonies. This was a painstakingly slow (and therefore costly) process as very small quantities of twine could be collected from each leave at a time. It makes sense then that these skirts were of high value to the Sesotho, and usually passed down from generation to generation until new skirts were required.
The resilience and widespread distribution of this plant has made it a popular choice for gardens, with numerous cultivars having been produced over the last 60 odd years.
Gazania krebsiana Less. subsp. serrulata is listed as of Least Concern by SANBI.
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Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve