Haplocarpha scaposa


Family : Asteraceae
Common names : false gerbera (Eng.); melktou (Afr.); Khutsana (Southern Sotho); Isikhali (Xhosa)

Haplocarpha scaposa

If you have a wetland or stony area in your garden, try the secret power of the false gerbera. Its magic carpet is suitable for small and large gardens.

Haplocarpha scaposa is a fast-growing perennial plant that forms a mat of yellow flowers. The strong, thick rootstocks reach down to 600 mm; flat leaves arise from the base. The entire surface of the leaf is densely hairy, giving a white, woolly appearance,especially to the underside ; the veins are almost parallel on the undersurface of the leaf. It bears pale yellow flowers up to 40 - 80 mm diameter, from September to March. The flowers are followed by very thin seeds, easily dispersed by the wind.


Hairy leaves


Conservation status
The genus has about 10 species in Africa of which about five occur in central Africa; it is absent from Namibia and Botswana. Haplocarpha scaposa is endemic to Africa. It is a very common plant and is not regarded as a threatened species.

Growing near Dullstroom

Distribution and habitat
Haplocarpha scaposa is widely distributed in wetland areas of Mpumalanga, the southeastern Free State, Swaziland and the Eastern Cape; it also extends to eastern Africa. False gerbera is a frost-tender groundcover and young plants require protection in areas that experience heavy frost.

Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name Haplocarpha is derived from the Greek words haplos which means single, spread out, and karphos, referring to the pappus. The epithet scaposa is a Latin word that means with scapes, referring to the leafless flowering stems.

In its natural habitat, Haplocarpha scaposa is often visited by beetles and honey bees that feed on the pollen, thus pollinating the flowers. The flowering stalk remains attached for lasts about 21 days. As soon as the seed dries out, it is dispersed by the wind, up to 15 m away.

Uses and cultural aspects
This groundcover can be used in large areas of the garden, in semi-shade or full sun. Pooley (1998) reports crushed leaves used by women during menstruation; also used by traditional healers when consulting their divining bones; the white felt of the leaves was once used as tinder.


Growing Haplocarpha scaposa  

This groundcover thrives in semi-shade or full sun and it also grows well in wetland or moist areas. It can be a problem if it is not well controlled as it seeds itself and spreads quite quickly, but it produces good results, as it prevents weeds from growing in the same flowerbeds. The plant is easily propagated from seeds. Reap the dry flower heads and sow the seeds in well-drained seed trays using a seedling mix, (± 0.2 cm deep) and place in a sem i-shaded area, ensuring that they do not dry out. Germination usually takes 7-14 days if the seeds are sowed correctly. Seedlings can be transplanted to individual Polly bags when they have 2-3 leaves. As an alternative, mature plants can be divided, but this should be done after flowering and when the plants have formed large clumps. This groun dco ver is ideal for summer rainfall areas, giving an excellent show when in flower.

These plants have their own problems with regard to pests and diseases. Watch out for Spotted Maize Beetle on the flower heads; it lays its eggs in clusters under dry leaves. Adults eat pollen, clustering on various flowers. The beetles are active from middle to late summer. Another insect is the common Rose Aphid, but it is only found in smaller colonies on the flower stalks. To prevent the aphids from eating the flowers, inter-planting with wild garlic is an ideal solution.

References and further reading

  • Fabian, A. & Germishuizen, G. 1982. Transvaal wild flowers. Macmillan, Johannesburg.
  • Jackson, W.P.U. 1990. Origins and meaning of names of South African plant genera. Ecolab, Botany Department, University of Cape Town.
  • Manning, J. 2003. Photographic guide to the wild flowers of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • Pooley, E. 1998. Field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.


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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 www.plantzafrica.com.