A mass of Dimorphotheca jucunda plants with their striking purple 'flowers' could create an illusion of a deep, dark pool with many hidden secrets in your garden!
D. jucunda is a perennial herb growing from an underground stem. The above-ground stems are erect or sprawling, up to 500 mm long. The leaves are alternately arranged, semi-succulent, linear-lanceolate, lanceolate, oblanceolate, narrowly elliptic or narrowly oblong, narrowing to a short petiole, with dentate or rarely entire margins. All the above-ground parts are covered with small glandular hairs giving it a rough feeling, especially when dry.
The flowering heads (capitula) are large, solitary and borne terminally on long, nude peduncles. The ray florets are magenta-pink or purple above, orange or coppery below. The disc florets are dark purple or yellow tipped blackish. See more about Asteraceae flowers.
The fruits (cypselae) that develop from the ray florets are 5-7 mm long, narrowly triangular-obovoid or ellipsoid with 3 prominent angles.
Sometimes cypselae also develop from disc florets. They are flat, winged and broadly cordate.
This species does not seem to be threatened as it is quite common in the areas where it occurs naturally.
Distribution and Habitat
The plants grow naturally on mountains and mountain slopes in sandy soil, among quartzite rocks or in mountain grassland. Its natural distribution ranges from mountains and hills in Limpopo through Mpumalanga, Swaziland, eastern Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho and the Eastern Cape. It seems to be fairly frost resistant as it survives cold, frosty winters in the Pretoria National Botanical Garden.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The generic name Dimorphotheca is a combination of three words: di = 2, morpho = shape, theca = fruit, meaning the fruits of this genus are of two kinds, those of the ray florets differ from those of the disc florets. The species name jucunda is derived from the Latin word jucundus meaning pleasing, delightful or lovely, a spot-on name for this beautiful plant.
[See Dimorphotheca ecklonis (Plant of the Week March 2005) for discussion on the genera Dimorphotheca and Osteospermum. ]
The white-flowered Osteospermum jucundum (E.Phillips) T.Norl. 'White Moon' (= Dimorphotheca jucunda E.Phillips) seems to be a variant of the true Dimorphotheca jucunda with purplish flowers as described here. Other Dimorphotheca species seen in gardens include: D. ecklonis, D. pluvialis and D. sinuata.
The flowerheads (capitula) are often visited by butterflies which seem to be its pollinators. The fruits (cypselae) of the ray florets are not adapted to any special kind of long distance dispersal, as they have no pappus, wings or glands. The cypselae that sometimes develop from the disc florets are light, winged and obviously adapted to wind dispersal.
The underground stems are a possible survival mechanism for this species to survive veld fires and cold winters.
Uses and cultural aspects
Apparently these plants were used medicinally by the Zulus for stomach and intestinal troubles.
Growing Dimorphotheca jucunda
D. jucunda must be planted in full sun for the 'flowers' to open to their full potential, but they will tolerate some shade during the day. It can be mass planted as a groundcover, as a border to a shrubbery, to line path ways or in a rockery or embankment where it can cascade over the rocks. It can be mixed with the similarly striking white and dark blue-flowered Dimorphotheca ecklonis.
It can be cultivated by lifting rooted runners from the mother plant. Propagation from seed is a slow process. Plants are fast growing, frost hardy and drought resistant. The peak flowering time is spring and summer, but some flowers can be found on the plants throughout the year.
There seem to be no garden pests that attack these plants.
References and further reading
- Hilliard, O.M. 1977. Compositae in Natal. University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
- Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. & Cunningham, A.B. 1996. Zulu medicinal plants. An inventory. University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg.
- Joffe, P. 1993. The gardener's guide to South African plants. Tafelberg, Cape Town.
- Joffe, P. 2003. Skeppende tuinmaak met inheemse plante. 'n Suid-Afrikaanse gids. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Nordenstam, B. 1994. New combinations in the tribe Calenduleae. Compositae Newsletter 25: 46-49.
- Norlindh, T. 1943. Studies in the Calenduleae. I. Monograph of the genera Dimorphotheca, Castalis, Osteospermum, Gibbaria and Chrysanthemoides. Gleerup, Lund.
- Pearse, R.O. 1978. Mountain splendour. Wild flowers of the Drakensberg. Howard Timmins, Cape Town.
- Phillips, E.P. 1936. Dimorphotheca jucunda. The Flowering Plants of South Africa 16: t. 629.
- Pooley, E. 2003. Mountain flowers. A field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho. Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Smith, C.A. 1966. Common names of South African plants. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No. 35.
- Van der Walt, L. 2003. Come to the fair. Veld & Flora 89: 10, 11.
National Herbarium, Pretoria