saccifera is fairly widespread along the southern coast of South
Africa, where it occurs on stony clay slopes from the Riviersonderend
mountains and Bredasdorp in the Western Cape to Uitenhage in the
Eastern Cape. In its natural habitat the plant is a low sprawling
strangling shrublet to 400 mm, however in cultivation, although
still a sprawler, it maintains a very compact habit, rarely exceeding
100 mm in height.The leaves are smooth, hairless, shiny, regularly
toothed and bright green in colour. The flowers, usually 2 per peduncle,
are bright yellow, pendulous, bell-shaped and cover the plant during
spring (August to October) making quite a show.
Hermannia saccifera was first described in
1858 as Mahernia saccifera by Turczanimow. It was later transferred
to the genus Hermannia, by K. Schuman. Hermannia is named
after Paul Herman (1640-1695), German professor of botany at Leyden
and one of the first travellers and collectors at the Cape, while
Mahernia is an anagram of Hermannia, although missing
one of the n's, and has no significance other than that. The specific
name saccifera is Latin and loosely translated means carrying
or bearing a bag. It is known locally as the komynbossie (cumin
bush), and honey made from the nectar is known as komynheuning (cumin
honey), presumably because the flavour it gives the honey is reminiscent
Growing Hermannia saccifera
saccifera is a medium to fast growing, evergreen, prostrate,
mat-forming herbaceous perennial. It is best on a slope in a sunny
position, in a neutral, well-drained, sandy loam soil. A single
plant can be expected to cover one square meter in a year. Hermannia
saccifera is wind tolerant, but is sensitive to frost and requires
protection in the colder regions of South Africa. It also qualifies
as a water-wise (drought tolerant) plant, and when established tolerates
the winter rainfall - summer drought conditions in the Western Cape
very well, but does require at least a weekly watering in summer.
It has no major pests or diseases, and can be pruned to shape as
Hermannia saccifera can be used as a groundcover, a container
plant, or a hanging basket plant, and is suitable for coastal gardens.
It works particularly well as a groundcover on a slope, hanging
over a wall, in a rockery, or in terraforce walls.
Propagation is by seed or cuttings, but seed grown plants appear
to make stronger plants and are quicker to establish themselves
when planted out than those produced by cuttings. Seed is best sown
in late summer to autumn, or in spring. The seedlings should emerge
within 10 days and can be pricked out when large enough to handle.
Softwood or herbaceous cuttings should be taken from a vigorous
actively growing mother plant in spring to early summer, treated
with a rooting hormone, and placed in a propagation unit with bottom
heat of up to 28C (80F) and intermittent mist. Rooting should occur
within 4 weeks, with a 40% success rate.
There are about 180 species of Hermannia, approximately
162 of which occur in southern Africa and 11 in tropical Africa
with 30 southern African species that extend their ranges into tropical
Africa. There are only 3 species in America and 1 or more in Australia.
- Saunders, R. 1987, A plant worth cultivating - Hermannia
saccifera, Veld & Flora, Volume 73(1):24-25
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J., 2000, Cape Plants, A Conspectus
of the Cape Flora of South Africa, NBI, Pretoria & Missouri
Botanical Garden Press, Missouri
- Smith, C.A., 1699, Common Names of South African Plants,
Dept. of Agricultural Technical Services, Botanical Survey Memoir
No 35, Government Printer.
- Jackson, W.P.U., 1990, Origins and Meanings of Names of South
African Plant Genera, U.C.T. Printing Dept., Cape Town.
- Kirstenbosch Horticultural Notes
- Leistner, O.A. (ed.), 2000, Seed plants of southern Africa:
families and genera, Strelitzia 10., National Botanical Institute,
Bernard Brown & Alice Notten