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 Agapanthaceae (Agapanthus) family.
Agapanthus companulatus subsp. paten (Bell Agapanthus in English, Bloulelie in Afrikaans & Lera-laphou in Sesotho) is a deciduous perennial herb which may grow to 100mm tall. This species prefers moist rocky areas such as waterways and drainage lines, near valley bottoms and rocky slopes. A mid-high altitude species, it is commonly found growing at the 1800-2400m A.S.L. band. A. companulatus subsp. paten is found occurring in the Eastern Mountain Region (EMR) of the Drakensburg in montane grassland through to Mpum, the Eastern Free State and Gauteng.
The derivatives agapé – love and anthos – flower, hint at the attractive nature of this particular wildflower. A conspicuous plant, it’s almost always found in colonies and it is hard to confuse the sky-blues and characteristic long, slender, bell-shape with other wildflowers. This particular specimen was found growing along the Titanic Trail and again along the Spruit (always in close proximity to water). This plant contrasts nicely with the various shades of green vegetation amongst which it grows, and is large enough to photograph without having to first get dirt on your elbows and knees…
The leaves of A. companulatus subsp. paten are long and slender (150-400mmX10-25mm) and dark green-grey grading to a red-purple colour towards the base of the stem. The umbel inflorescence is characteristic for this plant and the florets are wide-open to slightly reflexed. Each floret comprises 6 light-blue to purple tipped petals (approx. 35mm X 10mm) with a dark blue vertical mid-stripe and 6 stamens. The floret tube is shorter than the lobes by 1/3, with each floret borne on its own stalk and supported by a long, slender stem. Flowering occurs from Jan-March. Uses:
The flowers of this plant attract a host of pollinators such as bees whilst the seeds are wind-dispersed.
New-born Sesotho babes are bathed in a cooled infusion of the leaves to strengthen them against the elements. A soothing baby-lotion is also made from the rootstock to treat “cradle cap” (a dermatological condition of the head, unique to infants). It’s also been reportedly used as a lucky charm against lightning.
This is amongst the most popular and sought-after of garden ornamental species and is great at growing from cuttings. Many of the gardens in Clarens have these growing where the soil is moist.
Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve
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