Dimorphotheca pluvialis is always one of the first spring
annuals to flower at Kirstenbosch. Flowering in masses the glistening
white daisies look like snow covering the ground of the large annual
beds, small pockets along the footpaths and rockeries. For the best
display it is important to visit the garden on a sunny day as these
sun loving daisies only open with the warmth of the sun from about
10 o'clock in morning to 4 o'clock in the afternoon. As the sun
moves across the sky their flowers follow, always facing the sun.
pluvialis is an annual endemic to Namibia, Namaqualand and the
south western Cape. During spring huge fields are covered with this
bright white daisy, forming a dazzling mass. In their natural habitat
the flowers are pollinated by small horseflies that get covered
with pollen as they fly from one daisy to the next in search of
tiny amounts of nectar.
These annuals are adapted to germinate, grow, flower and set seed
during the rainy winter and to survive the long dry summer as seed.
The seeds are interesting in that two different forms are produced.
The ones we usually sow are flat, papery and fly away easily in
the wind. They are formed in the center of the flower by the disk
florets. The outer ray florets form seeds which looks like little
thorns with a thick coats. Under favorable conditions the papery
seed of the disk florets germinate in abundance, while the seeds
of the ray florets have delayed germination to protect the species
against unpredictable conditions in their arid environment.
grows two different forms of Dimorphothece pluvialis, which
were selected from plants growing in the wild. Dimorphotheca
pluvialis "Flat White" (left) has pure white flowers,
with its petals backed with mauve, and a yellow centre. The plant
grows about 15 cm high.
pluvialis "Purple Centre" (right and below) also has
white flowers but with a deep violet ring around the yellow centre.
It grows to about 40 cm in height.
Dimorphotheca pluvialis forms a bushy plant that is covered
with large white daisies all flowering at the same level. The flowering
season is from July to October, depending on the rain. The narrow
leaves are light green, about 7 cm long and have indented edges.
They are numerous at the base of the stems, becoming fewer and smaller
near the top.
Growing Dimorphotheca pluvialis
This species grows easily form seed. The best time to sow is in
autumn directly into the planting beds or first in seed trays or
seedbeds from where the seedlings can be planted out. Scatter the
seed on well-prepared soil with good drainage and in full sun. The
seeds can be lightly covered with sand or fine milled bark. Germination
is fast, usually within 4 days. Watering the young seedlings regularly
is important, as the young plants require plenty.of water. The annuals
respond very well to fertilizers but only apply fertilizers if the
plants look stunted or deficient otherwise they grow to soft. The
annuals transplant well and within 3 -4 weeks after germination
they usually a good size to handle. When planting be generous with
the annuals, as a very full and rich effect is gained by close planting.
beautiful and interesting displays can be made by mixing the different
annuals like the blue flax (Heliophila coronopifolia) which
grows tall and thin, Felicia heterophylla a striking blue
daisy and the brightly coloured Bokbaai vygies, Dorotheanthus
bellidiformis. Bulbs like the arum lilies (Zantedeschia
aethiopica) and watsonias grown in clumps work very well mixed
with the annuals. At Kirstenbosch we collect all our own seed from
the garden to be sown again the next year. If the seed is not collected
Dimorphotheca pluvialis usually seeds it self the next year.
Dimorphothecea pluvialis has no major pests at Kirstenbosch
other than the guineafowl, which love to eat the soft new growth.
Author: Liesl van der Walt