Helichrysum umbraculigerum 

Less.


Family:
Asteraceae (daisy family)
Common names:
woolly umbrella helichrysum (Eng.); kerrikruie (Afr.)

H.umbraculigerum

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.

Description
Golden autumn flower headsHelichrysum 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.

Distribution
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.

Name derivation
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

Uses
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

Flower heads on long stalksThis 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 adult plant.

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.

References

  • 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 Trust, Durban.

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    Trish Hutton-Squire
    Kirstenbosch Garden Centre
    March 2004

     

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


 

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