Calopsis paniculata [Rottb.] Desv.

Family: Restionaceae
Common names:
Calopsis (English); Besemgoed (Afrikaans)


Calopsis paniculata

 

Calopsis paniculata is a tall reed like plant with bright green leaves and stems reaching a height of 3m. It bears clusters of brown grass-like flowers at the terminal ends of the stems. The male and female parts are borne on separate plants, with the female plants bearing small snowy white inflorescences and the male plants bearing less showy inflorescences. The stems arise out of the ground from a strong underground rhizome with the lower parts of the stem looking somewhat bamboo-like.

This is an attractive waterside plant which is normally found growing in waterlogged soils on river or stream banks. It is widespread, occurring from the south western Cape through the wetter areas along the seaboard into KwaZulu-Natal.

As is the case with most restios, calopsis is wind pollinated, relying on the wind to carry the pollen from the male to the female plant. It is therefore necessary to plant several specimens reasonably close together if you wish to harvest seed.

Calopsis is often used for the making of brooms in the Eastern Cape province as it has shorter branches and more wiry stems than many of the other Cape reeds, which are more often used for thatching.

The name Calopsis is derived from Kalos meaning beautiful and opsis meaning sight. The specific name paniculata means a tuft.

Growing Calopsis paniculata

Calopsis is most attractive when used either fresh or dried in flower arrangements and in the garden forms a wonderful lush green backdrop to a water garden. Calopsis can tolerate a moderate degree of frost and enjoys being planted in full sun with its roots in water. Care should be taken when transplanting young plants out of the bag into the garden as undue disturbance and especially root desiccation can be fatal.

Plants may be propagated from seed which can be sown in spring or autumn . The seed needs to be sown on a fine sandy medium and kept consistently moist throughout the germination period. Seed germination can be increased by the use of watering with water treated with smoke treated paper which stimulates germination.

Calopsis is comprised of 24 species in South Africa, mostly occuring in the south western Cape. The genus Calopsis belongs to the family Restionaceae, more commonly known as Cape reeds or restios. Restios are somewhat similar in appearance, although not related, to the grasses. The fact that Restionaceae are often diocecious (separate male and female plants) can be confusing as the males and female plants may look like totally different species.

References:

  • Arnold, T.H. & De Wet, B.C. (Eds) 1993. Plants of southern Africa: names and distribution. Memoirs of the botanical Survey of South Africa No 62. National Botanical Institute: Pretoria.
  • Brown, N., Jamieson, H. & Botha, P. 1998. Grow Restios. Kirstenbosch Gardening Series. National Botanical Institute : Cape Town.
  • Dorrat-Haaksma,E.& Linder, H.P. 2000. Restios of the Fynbos. Botanical Society of South Africa: Cape Town.
  • Jackson. W.P. U. 1990. Origins and meanings of names of South African plant genera.UCT Ecolab: Capetown.
  • Stern, W.T. 1983. Botanical Latin - New edition. David & Charles inc. : USA.

Andrew Hankey
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
February 2002



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