It is not the size of the flowers, but rather the reliable show
Aerva leucura gives in the herbaceous border from summer
to autumn, that makes this a worthwhile plant for the garden. From
each plant tall, graceful stems shoot from the ground in spring
and grow to almost 1 metre.
The attractive, creamy spikes are formed on thin side branches off
the main stems. Fascinating and strange, the flowering spikes hang
like little woolly worms from the stems. The creamy spikes are densely
packed with the new buds and old flowers of which only the woolly
bracts and perianth (calyx and corolla collectively) are seen. When
looking very closely one can see the tiny, green flowers that open
randomly and only a few at a time. The egg-shaped leaves with their
wavy edge are sparsely arranged along the stems. The dull green
leaves turn yellow or red in autumn. The stems and leaves are covered
in tiny white hairs.
Aerva leucura is widespread in the summer rainfall regions
of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
Growing Aerva leucura
the garden Aerva leucura has the potential to be used far
more for landscaping. The dense flowering spikes create an interesting
texture for contrast, while the soft, creamy colour is easy to blend
with other colours. Plants flower from summer to autumn (November-
April). Aerva leucura goes dormant during the cold winter
months and the plants are cut down to the ground. Fresh, new growth
starts to shoot again in spring. New plants take about a year to
establish and then get more vigorous and tough with age. At Kirstenbosch
Aerva leucura has been very successful in the herbaceous
planting with the wild forget- me- not (Anchusa capensis),
the ribbon bush (Hypoestes aristata) and Vernonia glabra
which also flowers till late autumn. Aerva leucura requires
full sun and water during the summer when it is actively growing.
It will do best in a well drained, loamy soil.
Aerva leucura is propagated from cuttings of the new shoots
in spring and early summer. The cuttings root fast and usually within
3 months the young plants are ready to be planted into the garden.
About 10 species of Aerva are found in the warmer parts
of Africa and Asia with three species occurring in Southern Africa.
In Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk's book Medicinal and Poisonous Plants
of Southern and Eastern Africa they mention that the dry flowers
of Aerva leucura were used to stuff pillows in Bechuanaland.
Betsie Rood mentions in her book "Uit die veldapteek"
that roots of Aerva leucura were used medicinally for treating
piles and as a blood purifier.
- Leistner, O (editor), 2000, Seed plants of Southern Africa
- Rood, B. 1994. Uit die veldapteek
- Van wyk,B, Malan, S. 1988 Field guide to wildflowers of the Witswatersrand
- Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk. 1962. Medicinal and Poisonous Plants
of Southern and eastern Africa
Liesl van der Walt