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 a rather large family, the Leguminosae (Legume or Pea family).
Tephrosia diffusa (Creeping Tephrosia in English, Visboointjie in Afrikaans) is a herbaceous perennial which, as its common name suggests, is a creeping wildflower. It tends to form relatively thick carpets in grassveld, usually in close proximity to water and rocky outcrops. T. diffusa is distributed from the Eastern Cape right through to KZN at altitudes of up to 1950 m A.S.L.
The genus name Tephrosia is derived from the Greek tephros (Ashen), most likely in reference to the grey-green or silvery green shade of the leaves of various species of the genus. The species name diffusa means diffuse and refers to the trailing nature of this species.
The pinnate leaflets occur in either pairs of 2-3 and are elliptic – oblong, measuring from 8-20mm long by 3-6 mm wide. The many-veined leaflets are prominent and large oval stipules are present. The inflorescence is an apical raceme and the flowers (15-20mm) are a brilliant pink, occurring on long stalks. Flowering occurs from October – May. Uses:
T, diffusa has many traditional uses, including treatment of a wide range of ailments including chest ailments, fevers, lice and even internal parasites.
The roots of this otherwise innocent seeming plant were once used as a form of fish poison.
The creeping nature of this species makes for good groundcover, is attractive, and as with all legumes, is a great way to naturally add nitrates to the soil.
The conservation status of T. diffusa, according to SANBI is listed as of Least Concern (LC ).
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Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve