Aponogeton distachyos L.f.

Family: Aponogetonaceae
Common names: Waterblommetjie, Vleikos, Cape Pond Weed

Waterblommetjies in Kirstenbosch

This is a well known local delicacy for the cold winter months. It has become so popular that many commercial plantings have been made in ponds around the western Cape. Cooked with onions, mutton or lamb and a few leaves of the local sorrel/suring (Oxalis pes-caprae) it makes a delicious stew.

Aponogeton distachyosThe long, oval shaped leaves float on the water, but it is usually the flowers standing up out of the water above the leaves, that attract attention.

Waterblommetjies flower in profusion during winter and spring. Large areas of water in the western, southern and eastern Cape are covered with their sweetly scented, white flowers.

Click to enlargeThe flower is interesting in that it is really a forked inflorescence bearing tiny, white, one-petalled flowers with brown anthers. The flowers are also the edible part. Bees are very attracted to the flowers and may be one of the main pollinators.


Illustration by Cyntha Letty in Flowering Plants of AfricaAponogeton distachyos occurs naturally in the winter rainfall areas of the Cape. It is adapted to growing in ponds and vleis which dry up in summer. The dormant tubers sprout again as soon as the pools fill in autumn.

The family Aponogetonaceae is regarded as one of the more primitive of the plant families. There are several other species of Aponogeton in southern Africa, but A. distachyos is the best known.

Aponogeton distachyos is a hardy plant and was introduced into cultivation in Europe in the seventeenth century. It has naturalised in southern France and has been cultivated in England where different varieties have been named.


Growing Aponogeton distachyos

For a garden pond this is an excellent plant. Plant new tubers in a pot with loam and place it in shallow water until the plants starts growing strong. The pot can then slowly be moved to deeper water in the sun. Plants can also be planted directly into the pond. Waterblommetjies are vigorous growers that will seed themselves, and in some areas might even need to be controlled.

The seed of Aponogeton germinates freely on the water surface. The young seedlings can be collected and grown on. They will reach flowering size in one season given ideal conditions. Another easy way to propagate the plant is to divide the clumps of tubers in summer. Dormant tubers are sometimes available from plant nurseries in the Cape.

Recipe for Waterblommetjie Bredie (stew)

Flowers of Aponogeton distachyosThe recipe below is adapted from Ina Paarman's recipe for a superior stew.Waterblommetjies are usually available in the stores in the winter months. Only the flowers and buds are used. The quantities given below should be enough for 6 servings.

1 kg mutton (flank, shin or shoulder), cubed
2 T (30 ml) oil
1 T (15 ml) butter
1 t (5ml) seasoned salt, or salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar
2 onions, chopped
1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock or white wine or water
1 T (15 ml) vinegar (or lemon juice or a handful of sorrel/surings)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped (optional)
pinch of chilli powder or cayenne pepper (optional)
500 g waterblommetjies cleaned
2 potatoes, diced
2 T (30 ml) wine vinegar

Brown the meat in the oil/butter mixture in a big heavy-bottomed saucepan. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and season with seasoned salt or salt, pepper and sugar. Saute the onions in the same saucepan. Add the stock, vinegar, garlic and chilli powder. Bring to the boil. Return the meat to the saucepan. Simmer very slowly until the meat is nearly done. Add the waterblommetjies, potatoes and vinegar. Simmer until the vegetables are done. Season to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with rice.

BredieTraditional recipes are simpler and omit the garlic and chilli. They include surings/local sorrel or lemon juice in the place of the wine and vinegar, used above to sharpen the flavour.




Author: Liesl van der Walt
August 2000

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