virgatum is a beautiful, evergreen, perennial shrub that can
grow up to 2,6m high. It has slender, flexible, silvery gray branches.
Leaves are oppositely arranged, simple and narrowly shaped. It makes
a stunning show when covered in white scented flowers during summer
(December and January).
The name Gomphostigma comes from the Greek gomphos,
a club referring the club shaped-shaped stigma; and virgatum
means willowy or twiggy.
The river star occurs along rivers and watercourses throughout
South Africa, including Zimbabwe. It is one of those plants that
will grow with their roots at the edge of a stream.
Gomphostigma virgatum is used traditionally to restore strength
to a very tired person. Serviceable brooms are made from the longer
twigs, which are cut before the flowers appear. It is also browsed
down by stock.
Birds apparently use the juvenile branches for nest building because
of their flexibility. This plant is a specific host for an endemic
dodder (Cuscuta sp.) which is a curious plant parasite.
Growing Gomphostigma virgatum
Propagation of this plant is very easy from semi-hardwood cuttings
taken during the growing season. It also propagates well by simple
layering of juvenile branches. Once is established it can be pruned
down to encourage bushiness. . It is a beautiful plant for a water
garden. In the garden it should be planted in full sun provided
there is adequate water supply. Cut back drastically after winter
to encourage bushiness and more flowers for the following season.
At the Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden it is growing at
the Water Garden and in the wetland area at the SASOL dam.
- Germishuizen, G., Meyer, N.L., Steenkamp, Y. & Keith, M. (eds) 2006. A Checklist of South African plants. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 41. SABONET, Pretoria.
- Pooley, E, 1998. A Field Guide to Wild Flowers Kwazulu-Natal
and the eastern region. Natal Publication Trust
- Fabian, A, and G. Germishuizen, 1997. Wild Flowers of Northern
South Africa. Fernwood Press
- Smith, C.A, 1966. Common Names of South African Plants. Pretoria
Thompson T Mutshinyalo
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden