Cineraria saxifraga DC.

Family: Asteraceae (Daisy Family / Compositae)
Common Name:
Wild Cineraria, Geelblom

Cineraria saxifraga


Cineraria saxifraga with its delicate foliage and bright yellow flowers, is a rewarding and versatile plant for the garden. It is a soft perennial shrublet with a spreading rounded bushy habit and reaches a height of 20 - 30 cm and has a spread of about 40 cm. It has attractive light green hairless leaves. Each one is quite small (1-2 cm x 1-1.5 cm) broadly triangular to almost semi-circular in shape and palmately-veined and -lobed (i.e. the veins originate at the same point at the base of the leaf).

During spring and autumn the little bushes are speckled with masses of small bright yellow daisies. Flowers are also produced here and there during summer, but the peak seasons are during spring and autumn. The seeds are very small, black in colour, and a flattened oblong in shape with a tuft of fluffy whitish hairs at one end (the pappus). They are very light in weight and are dispersed by the wind.

Although they share a common name, Cineraria saxifraga, the wild cineraria, does not look much like the brightly and variously coloured annuals or biennials that are also called cineraria or florist's cineraria. These cinerarias are in actual fact hybrids based on Pericallis cruenta and Pericallis lanata, both natives of the Canary Islands, and both having undergone name changes from Cineraria to Senecio to Pericallis, as the botanists try to bring taxonomic order to the huge and diverse daisy family.

Cineraria saxifraga occurs naturally from Swellendam in the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, where it usually grows on rocky slopes in the shade.

Cineraria is a genus of herbs and subshrubs that consists of approximately fifty species and occurs throughout Africa. Only two species are known to occur outside Africa, one with a distribution that extends into Yemen and one that occurs in Madagascar. The centre of diversification is southern Africa where at least forty (80%) of the currently described species can be found. The genus name Cineraria means grey or ash-coloured from the Latin cinerarius and refers to the leaf colour of the first known species. The species name saxifraga means of the rocks in Latin and alludes to this species preference for a rocky habitat. Cineraria belongs in the Asteraceae (daisy family), a huge family of some 1535 genera and 25 000 species spread all over the world and absent only from Antarctica, and is placed in the tribe Senecioneae.

Growing Cineraria saxifraga

Cineraria saxifraga in KirstenboschCineraria saxifraga is fast-growing and very easy to grow. It does best in well-drained, well-composted soil in semi-shade to full sun. A plant in a sunny situation will be more compact than one in a shadier spot. It needs regular watering until established, after which it will survive quite happily on much less. It is suitable for inland and coastal gardens and can withstand light frost (zone 10: -1 to 4°C / 20 to 30°F) although it is better suited to frost-free gardens (zone 11: above 4°C / 40°F).

With its neat rounded shape, Cineraria saxifraga makes an excellent edging plant. It is also an attractive addition to the mixed border and the rockery, a good ground-cover in semi-shade and it will drape over terraced walls. It also makes an excellent container plant suitable for window boxes and hanging baskets. Plants do not require pruning, but can be cut back where necessary. They will last for a number of years, but may become a bit woody and scruffy with age. At Kirstenbosch, to keep them looking at their best, we replace them with young plants every four to five years.

Cineraria saxifraga is propagated by means of cuttings or seed, or rooted runners can be removed from an established plant. A new plant produced from a cutting or a runner will take about three months to reach a good size.

Cuttings can be taken during spring, summer or autumn. It is very easy to root, and although best results are obtained using the nursery facilities, i.e. dipping the cut ends into a suitable rooting hormone powder and planting them in a well aerated medium e.g. equal parts of milled bark and polystyrene and then placing them over bottom heat of ±23°C under intermittent mist, rooting will also occur if the cuttings are placed in a cool spot and kept moist.
Seed can be sown in autumn in frost free climates, or in spring and early summer.

References

  • Cron, G.V. & Balkwil, K., 1997, Cineraria cyanomontana and C. argillacea, two new montane endemics from South Africa, South African Journal of Botany, Volume 63 (6): 400-402
  • Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J., 2000, Cape Plants, A Conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa, NBI, Pretoria & Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Missouri
  • Leistner, O.A. (ed.), 2000, Seed plants of southern Africa: families and genera, Strelitzia 10., National Botanical Institute, Pretoria
  • Jackson, W.P.U., 1990, Origins and Meanings of Names of South African Plant Genera, U.C.T. Printing Dept., Cape Town.


Authors: Ebrahim Lawrence & Alice Notten
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
March 2002


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