Chrysanthemoides monilifera (L.) T.Nord.

Family: Asteraceae (daisy family)
Common names:
Bietou, tick berry, bosluisbessie, weskusbietou.

Chrysanthemoides monilifera

The name Chrysanthemoides pertains to its likeness to the genus Chrysanthemum (meaning yellow flower), many of which are popular garden subjects.The specific name 'monilifera' means 'bearing a necklace' and pertains to the shiny, fleshy fruit arranged on the margins of the daisy flowers, like a necklace. This plant was named Osteospermum monilifera by Linnaeus in 1754. The present name was given by T. Norlindh in 1943.

Chrysanthemoides consists of 2 species, both endemic to southern & eastern Africa, both with fleshy fruit, immediately separating it from all other plants in the daisy family (Asteraceae) to which they belong. C. monilifera is a today a serious weed in Australia.

Chyrsathemoides monilifera is a fast growing perennial, semi-succulent, spreading to 2 m tall. Branches grey to grey-green, smooth ascending, fleshy at first becoming woody. The leaves are simple, alternately arranged, oval to to broadly lanceolate, fleshy and have short petioles of up to 10 mm long. The leaf blade are about 45 mm long and 24 mm broad green to grey green and the surface of the young leaves covered with dense cobweb-like hairs, becoming smooth with age. The flowers are borne on branch ends in groups of up to 5. The flowers are typical daisy-like (involucre) and up to 40 mm in diameter, bell-shaped and bright yellow. This larger 'flower' typical of the daisy family is made up of many individual densely arranged tubular male and female flowers and termed the involucre. The marginal female florets are sterile and each with a single yellow petal. The fruit is unique, deviating from all other members of the daisy family. It is fleshy, egg-shaped, edible and sweet, at maturity brown, blackish or purple and up to 6 mm in diameter.

The bietou is one of the most variable and widespread indigenous shrubs and has been divided into a number of distinct subspecies. It is widely distributed along the coast from the N. Cape, W. Cape, E. Cape and along the Drakensberg escarpment in KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Mpumalanga and further into the Chimanimani Mountains of eastern Zimbabwe and to northern eastern Africa. It occurs in fynbos, strandveld, grassland, subtropical coast, and margins of afro-temperate forest- and grassland vegetation. The subsp. monilifera is from the Western Cape and is the one most often find in cultivation. Here it occurs in both strandveld and fynbos.

The plant occurs in full sun in well drained situations such as coastal dunes, hills, mountains (fynbos, or grassland) or rocky terrain, often part of a natural shrubbery or sometimes growing as asolitary individual. It is a pioneer, often appearing after fires. Its life span is between 8-12 years, after which the plants become woody and untidy and are best replaced. Its semi-succulent nature makes it drought tolerant. The Afrikaans vernacular name bietou is derived from the original Khoi name. Although it may flower throughout the year, its main flowering time is during late autumn and winter. It is pollinated by insects and bees find it particularly attractive. The fleshy fruits, appearing shortly after the flowers, are very popular among frugatory birds .

According to Smith in his Common Names of South African Plants (1966) bietou fruit was formerly used by the Khoi and San as a food source. Other uses an infusion of the leaves as an enema to treat fevers (Coates Palgrave).

Close-up of flowers

Growing Chrysanthemoides monilifera

The bietou is easily grown and makes an attractive garden asset and especially useful pioneer shrub for the new garden. It thrives well in strandveld, fynbos, seafront and grassland gardens. It is a rapid grower, requires a sunny, well-drained position and sufficient space. The shrub is very striking during winter, when the bright dense yellow flowers appear. It makes a striking combination grown with white blombos (Metalasia muricata) and orange hedge aloe (Aloe arborescens) candles. It can also be pruned into a hedge.

Ample compost annually during winter or spring will enhance growth and performance. Bietou is relatively pest free and an asset to any garden.

Seed germinates with some difficulty and needs scarification (mechanical or chemical). Plant seed in sandy, well drained soil and sow in spring. The seedlings are fast growing and should be transplanted to small containers when large enough to handle.

The vaalbietou (Chrysanthemoides incana) is closely related ground cover shrub bearing grey leaves and similar flowers and fruits to our treated species and is excellent for difficult seafront gardens.

Hutchings, A. 1996. Zulu Medicinal Plants, an inventory. University of Natal Press.
Palgrave, K.C. 1977. Trees of Southern Africa.
Van Breda, P.A., & Barnard, S.A. 1992. 100 Veld plants of the winter rainfall region. Department of Agricultural Development, Bull. 422.

Ernst van Jaarsveld
April 2001

To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.

This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website


© S A National Biodiversity Institute