Helichrysum umbraculigerum is a relatively new addition
to the herbaceous borders in Kirstenbosch. With its sulphur-yellow
flowers and naturally long stems, it is a plant with great potential
for most gardens.
umbraculigerum is a fast-growing, erect, perennial herb, reaching
a height of ± 1 m and a spread of ± 1 m. It becomes
woody with age. The leaf shape is extremely variable depending on
its geographical distribution. According to Hilliard (1977) there
are five very different leaf forms of this plant. The form growing
in Kirstenbosch has ovate, untoothed leaves, 20-80 x 3-25 mm, with
a long petiole (leaf stalk). The leaves are green above and slightly
silvery and woolly on the underside. They become smaller upwards
on the cobwebby, grey stems. The flowers resemble large, flat, yellow
umbrellas with a white woolly underside. They are irregular in shape
and vary from 30-100 mm in diameter. Flowering time is from late
January to April. Flower heads become golden in colour as they age,
remaining handsome for many weeks.
The wide range of this plant stretches from the Eastern Highlands
of Zimbabwe to the highlands of the Eastern Cape. It occurs in grasslands,
forest edges and streambanks. The natural distribution implies a
frost tolerant, summer rainfall plant.
The genus name Helichrysum comes from the Greek (h)elios,
meaning sun and chrysos, meaning gold; the Latin word umbraculigerum
means, bearing woolly umbrellas. The genus Helichrysum has
244 species in southern Africa with many noteworthy horticultural
species. Mention 'everlasting' and most South Africans can immediately
put a plant to mind!
Several species, such as H.
splendidum, H. populifolium
and H. argryophylum have
found their way into gardens
From the common Afrikaans name kerriekruie (meaning curry herb)
it can be speculated that Helichrysum umbraculigerum has
been used for medicinal purposes. Many other helichrysums such as
H. nudifolium are used for
their wound-healing and antifungal properties.
Horticulturally, this plant has uses as an excellent filler in
herbaceous beds, flowering at a time when little else is colourful
and as a cutflower it lasts for over two weeks in the vase.
Growing Helichrysum umbraculigerum
plant naturally occurs in the summer rainfall areas of southern
Africa, but can be successfully grown elsewhere, with moderate watering
in summer. Planted en masse it produces a wonderful display of colour.
It can also be used in herbaceous borders as a background filler.
It is an excellent cutflower, producing up to 50 long stems per
Helichrysum umbraculigerum must be grown in full sun or
dappled shade. It requires a well-drained, loamy soil with added
compost. In the winter rainfall areas, a good watering every 4 to
5 in days in summer is sufficient.
Easily propagated from tip and stem cuttings, H. umbraculigerum
is fast growing and will flower in its first summer. By year three
it produces many long flower stalks. Cut back heavily in winter
to prevent the plant from becoming too woody.
- Hilliard, O.M. 1977. Compositae in Natal. University
of Natal Press, Pietermaritzberg.
- Hilliard, O.M. 1983. Asteraceae: Inuleae: Gnaphaliinae. Flora
of southern Africa vol. 33, part 7, fascicle 2. Botanical
Research Institute, Pretoria.
- Pooley, E. 1988. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal
and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Pooley, E. 2003. Mountain flowers. The Flora Publications
Kirstenbosch Garden Centre