Impatiens flanaganiae is a little known member of the popular busy lizzy family and has a lot of potential as a potplant or for growing near a shady water feature.
Impatiens flanaganiae is deciduous, with perennial underground tubers which overwinter in the leaf litter near shady watercourses, and in spring send up succulent, reddish stems and large, dark green leaves. In early to midsummer it bears pink, butterfly-like flowers above the foliage. Given the correct care, this plant will give pleasure for many years.
Impatiens flanaganiae is a protected plant and is listed as Vulnerable (Scott-Shaw 1999), as it occurs in only one locality in KwaZulu-Natal and one in Pondoland. The greatest threats are from the encroachment of alien plants, which are changing the habitat, and the fact that regeneration appears to be by vegetative means rather than by seed.
Distribution and habitat
Impatiens flanaganiae This plant is found in two very small populations in KwaZulu-Natal and a much larger population on the Pondoland coast. It grows on and near to sandstone boulders in the leaf litter under forest trees near waterfalls. Coming as it does from the warm, subtropical coast, it is unlikely to withstand frost, though the dormant tubers could be stored in a protected area during winter.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name is taken from the Latin, impatiens meaning impatient, the way the ripe seedpods explode when gently touched. The species name, flanaganiae the plant was derived from named after Mrs Flanagan, the name of the lady who discovered it in the Eastern Cape.
World-wide there are 850-100 species of Impatiens, with 25 species occurring in southern tropical Africa and five species found in South Africa. The best-known member of this genus is the busy lizzy or Impatiens walleriana from tropical East Africa. This much-hybridized plant is grown world-wide as a summer annual.
Very little is known about the breeding mechanisms of this plant and it would seem that reproduction is predominantly by vegetative means. The succulent stems root readily when they come into contact with moist soil and quickly form small tubers which are able to survive the long, dry winter and give rise to new plants when the rains come the next season.
Uses and cultural aspects
The most important use for this plant is in the garden where it is equally at home as a potplant or planted out near a shady pond or water feature. There is no record of it being used in traditional medicine.
Growing Impatiens flanaganiae
The large green leaves and delicate pink flowers, when planted with other shade-loving plants, will create a wonderfully textured planting around a very shady water feature or dark slope in a hidden corner of the garden. Plants such as Scadoxis multiflorus, Clivia miniata, Peperomia retusa, Streptocarpus spp. and Allophyllus africana are some of the plants to use.
Once acquired, it is easy to grow and multiply Impatiens flanaganiae. To plant a pot or hanging basket, mix equal quantities of washed river sand, fibrous loam, leaf mould and half a handful of pelleted plant food. Fill the container up to three quarters and place the tubers on top. Cover the tubers with the mixture equal to their diameter and water well. Keep the container in a shady spot and only water again when the leaves appear.
If the plants are to be grown in the garden, it is very important that the position is very well drained and the soil contains a lot of organic matter such as compost or leaf mould. Planting and care are the same as for the container plants. Feed the plants regularly with a commercial plant food and keep the plants moist at all times.
During the growing season take tip cuttings and put them in a pot containing sharp river sand. Alternatively, lay mature stems along the surface of a sand-filled seed tray and peg them down so that the stem is in close contact with the sand. Water well and keep in a cool, shady place until roots are formed. The rooted cuttings can then be potted up into a suitable mixture and grown until the tubers form.
The two main pests are white fly and eelworm. Control white fly by spraying with a commercially available insecticide. Eelworm is more problematic and can be kept under control by regularly renewing the growing medium. In the garden it is advisable to lift the tubers at the end of the growing season and store them over winter.
References and further reading
- Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds). 2003. Plants of southern Africa : an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- Leistner, O.A. (ed.). 2000. Seed plants of southern Africa : families and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers: KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern region, Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Scott-Shaw, R. 1999. Rare and threatened plants of KwaZulu-Natal and neighbouring regions. Botanical society of South Africa, Pietermaritzburg.
KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden