If you have a large expanse that needs covering, try the magic
of this African beauty. Creeping foxglove is the most rewarding
and friendliest of all the groundcovers (it may even prove too friendly
in a small garden!).
is an attractive, fast-growing, spreading, herbaceous groundcover
that grows from 300 mm to 600 mm in height. The stems root easily
at the nodes. Leaves are simple and dark green. It produces a cream-coloured
flower with tessellated purple markings on the palate (lower petal
of the corolla) in spring and summer. Flowers are produced over
a long period and are followed by capsules with brown seeds. It
is semi-hardy, and young plants require protection in areas of heavy
frost. In tropical areas it can grow rampantly.
Aystasia gangetica is not threatened in any way as is listed as LC (Least Concern) in the Red Data List.
According to the Global Invasive Species Database this creeper
has caused major problems in the ecosystems of the Pacific Islands. It is potentially highly invasive.
Aystasia gangetica is widely distributed from tropical Asia
to southern Africa. The subspecies found in South Africa differs
from the Asian plant which usually has larger pink flowers. The
South African subspecies occurs along the eastern coastal areas
of the country and in the north. It is recorded from the Eastern
Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, Botswana
Asystasia means inconsistency and relates to the fact that
the corolla is more or less regular which is unusual in the family
Acanthaceae. The word gangetica is derived from the Ganges
River in India where it is presumed the species occurs.
In nature, Asystasia has developed a good relationship with
the honeybee that pollinates the flowers. The white petals of the
flowers and purple blue strip on the lower petal attract the insect,
indicating to the honeybee where to find the nectar. The flowers
also serve as food for beetles and the plant receives visits from
ants. The flowers are very attractive to butterflies too.
Uses and cultural aspect
This ground cover can be used as a mass planting under large
trees and borders in full sun, semi-shade or full shade. It is also
a good container plant. Leaves have been eaten as spinach by the
Growing Asystasia gangetica
This ground cover thrives in semi-shade and will also grow in sunny
spots if it receives adequate moisture. It can be planted in any
soil in the garden, but will do better if plenty of compost is added.
Propagate from cuttings taken after flowering or by removing rooted
runners (small plants must be protected from frost).
Watch out for the most common pest. It is called dodder (Cuscuta
campestris). It is a slender, leafless, parasitic herb with
yellow, twining stems reaching a height of up to 2 m and forming
dense patches up to 5 m across. It forms little whitish flowers
in November to April. The fruit are greenish yellow capsules. The
affected plants must be removed and destroyed immediately.
Please note that this creeper can be highly invasive and should be planted with care. Its ability to reproduce by vegetative propagation can result in it smothering surrounding vegetation with its herbaceous layer.
References and further reading
- Edwards, T.J. & Getliffe Norris, F.M. 1993. Asystasia gangetica.
The Flowering Plants of Africa 52: t. 2076.
- Jackson, W.P.U. 1990. Origins and meaning of names of South
African plant genera. Ecolab, Botany Department, University
of Cape Town.
- Joffe, P. 1993. The gardener's guide to South African plants.
Tafelberg, Cape Town.
- Pooley, E. 1998. Field guide to wild flowers of Kwazulu-Natal
and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Retief, E. & Herman, P.P.J. 1997. Plants of the northern
provinces of South Africa: keys and diagnostic characters. Strelitzia
With additions by