Arctotis arctotoides is a fast-growing, soft, herbaceous
groundcover that forms carpets of light green foliage decorated
with cheerful, butter-yellow daisy flowers almost all year round.
leaves are 10-15 cm long with a wavy edge, the upper surface a fresh
light green, while the undersides are white and felted, with the
midrib quite prominent. The leaves and stems are covered with small
white hairs. The single daisy flowers are formed on stems that are
about 20 cm long. Each flower is about 4 cm in diameter and the
centre and the petals, or ray florets, are a bright golden yellow.
The undersides of the petals are purplish brown and are clearly
visible when the flowers are in bud or closed during a cloudy day.
On sunny days the flowers are frequently visited by bees, which
are the main pollinators. Every flower lasts for a few days, even
when picked for the vase. Small brown seeds are formed on the flat
base in the centre of the flower within a month. As the seeds dry
they drop to the ground, leaving the old flower heads brown and
beautifully patterned at the centre-well worth a closer look.
The genus Arctotis occurs in southern Africa and Angola,
and there are about 50 different species. The botanical name Arctotis
is derived from the Greek arktos, a bear and otis,
an ear. Just what part of these plants reminded the Swedish botanist
Linnaeus of the ear of a bear is unclear, one reference calling
it 'a Linnaean flight of fancy'! Arctotis arctotoides was
once classified in the genus Venidium, which makes sense
of the species name arctotoides, which means 'resembling
the genus Arctotis'.
This species, Arctotis arctotoides, is widespread throughout the
summer rainfall areas of South Africa and Lesotho, usually in disturbed
areas like road verges. The plants grown at Kirstenbosch were collected
at Collywobbles in the former Transkei, now Eastern Cape.
The rural people of Eastern Cape are known to use Arctotis arctotoides
for the treatment of epilepsy, indigestion and catarrh of the
stomach, and the leaf juice or a paste of the leaf is applied topically
to treat wounds. Studies have shown that extract of the leaf does
have anti-bacterial properties.
Growing Arctotis arctotoides
groundcover can look a bit weedy, but it is such a tough no-nonsense
plant with an abundance of pretty yellow flowers that it definitely
deserves a place in the garden. It grows and flowers best in full
sun, is happy in most soil types, from clay to sand, and loves both
well-drained and marshy areas. In the garden, it looks great in
informal plantings planted along the edges of paths, in rockeries
or between pebbles and gravel. In winter (June to August) it flowers
with the aloes and in summer it is valuable for planting in the
empty pockets left by the spring annuals. Arctotis arctotoides
makes a pretty combination in summer mixed with the blue Cape-forget
me-not (Anchusa capensis). The plants grow very fast, spreading
about 60 cm within 3 months and tend to get untidy after 3-4 years,
when it is best to replace them.
New plants are easy to propagate from cuttings or seed. The stems
root as they creep along the soil making it easy to divide the plants
by removing rooted parts of the stem. Cuttings of the growing tips
of the stems root easily at any time of the year. Seedlings often
germinate around the mother plants, but the seeds can be collected
and sown in seed trays in spring, summer or autumn, from where they
are pricked out when big enough to handle and grown in pots before
being planted into the garden.
- POOLEY, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of Kwazulu-Natal
and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust.
- AFOLAYAN, A.J. 1999. An ethnomedical study of Arctotis arctotoides
(L.f.) O.Hoffm. The XVI International Botanical Congress,
St Louis, Missouri. Abstract No.: 3925, Poster No. 2428.
- JACKSON, W.P.U. 1990. Origins and meanings of names of South
African plant genera. University of Cape Town.
- SMITH, C.A. 1966. Common names of South African plants.
Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No. 35. Dept.
of Agricultural Technical Services, Pretoria.
Author: Liesl van der Walt
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden