Aristea ecklonii

Baker

Family : Iridaceae
Common names
: Blue stars (Eng.); blousterre (Afr.); umhushuza (IsiZulu)

Flowers

Aristea ecklonii is an indigenous, evergreen perennial with attractive, blue, star-like flowers that make quite a show in early summer and late spring. It grows fast and attracts butterflies.

Description
Aristea ecklonii is a frost-hardy perennial, growing in clumps up to 50 cm high. Leaves are broad, sword-shaped, mostly 8–12 mm wide and soft. Flowers deep blue, tepals 6, mostly 8–10 mm long, style three-lobed. Flowering September to December, each flower lasting a day. Grows well in direct sun or light shade. Prefers medium levels of watering. Rhizomatous roots system. The fruit is an oblong 3-angled capsule. Aristea ecklonii can take 2 to 3 years to reach its ultimate height.

Plant showing roots

Conservation status
Aristea ecklonii is listed as a species of low concern (LC), meaning that it is at low risk of extinction, because it is widespread.

Distribution and habitat
Aristea ecklonii is found in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, and as far north as Tanzania. It is frost-hardy and grows best in well-drained soils. Grows in shrubland, open and disturbed forest as well as on streambanks and on rocky, bare land.

Derivation of the name
The name Aristea is derived from the Latin word arista, meaning ‘spike' or ‘point' and refers to the rigid points of the leaves. The specific epithet ecklonii was named after Christian Ecklon 1795–1868, born in Denmark, an apothecary, traveller, and plant collector.

Ecology
Aristea ecklonii seeds are dispersed by wind and water. They germinate after fire, and plants flower most profusely in a year after the fire.

Uses and cultural aspects
Aristea ecklonii can be used as a potted plant or outdoors as a mixed perennial border or bed. It can be used for courtyard gardens, informal gardens as well as a ground cover.

Used as ground cover

Aristea ecklonii is also recorded as being used in traditional medicine to treat fever, coughs, and venereal diseases. It is also used to treat internal sores and as a protective charm.

Single flower

Growing Aristea ecklonii

Propagation : A.ecklonii is best propagated by seeds which are produced abundantly, as well as by division of the rooted clumps. Clumps are divided in autumn and should be watered immediately afterwards. Sow seeds onto a good soil-based compost. Cover seeds with fine grit or compost approximately as thickly as their own size. Germination is best achieved at 15–20 degrees Celsius. Although the seeds of Aristea ecklonii may be sown at any time, they wait for the spring before emerging.

Cultivation : Aristeas are not easily cultivated. Therefore, if cultivated in the garden, the soil should be humus-rich, with plenty of moisture and full sun. Lack of this may result in non-flowering of the plant. Aristea ecklonii can withstand temperatures down to 12 degrees Celcius. However, they need fire to stimulate flowering and produce more flowers in the spring following a fire.

References

•  Manning, J., Goldblatt, P., Snijman, D. 2002. The color encyclopedia of Cape bulbs . Timber Press, Oregon.

•  Pooley, E. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region . Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

 

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Sthembile Zondi
KwaZulu-Natal NBG
October 2013

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