Metarungia galpinii

(Baden) Baden

Family: Acanthaceae (Acanthus family)
Common names:
Southern orange-lips


Flower spike and leaves
© Tony Dold

Metarungia galpinii is a very rare and attractive garden plant that occurs mainly in the East London area in the Eastern Cape.

Metarungia galpinii is an evergreen, much-branched shrub with large and slightly glossy leaves from the base, reaching a height of 3 m in gully bush, but does not grow quite as tall in open areas. Leaves are opposite, prominently veined, has a wooly midrib and margins with rounded teeth pointing forward. Inflorescences are situated at the tips of spikes or on side shoots. Flowers are cream and tinged with pink and ochre. Capsules are 2-locular with sparse hairs. The whole plant has a distinctive pungent smell. Flowering time is mainly in February to March, but occasionally blooms irregularly after heavy rain.

Conservation status
This plant is Red Listed as Endangered (EN) as it is only known from two locations, of which one is declining due to expansion of an informal settlement. Although local authorities intervened to relocate the Nahoon Dam subpopulations, these plants were unfortunately lost, as the habitat to which they were relocated was not suitable for them. Hence, only two known locations for this species remain .

Distribution and habitat
Metarungia galpinii is only known from the East London district, in forest along rivers, below 500 m.

Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name galpinii commemorates the collector E.E. Galpin, who first collected the plant on the banks of the Nahoon River in May 1912, and again in March 1929. The genus Metarungia consists of three species and has a distribution range extending from Ethiopia through tropical East Africa southwards to the Eastern Cape. Metarungia galpinii is closely allied to M. longistrobus which has cone-like inflorescences. Metarungia galpinii differs in having larger sized leaves, flower spikes, bracts and flowers .

Metarungia galpinii has very long, remarkably tough roots and is able to withstand long periods of drought very well.

Uses and cultural aspects
Horticulture is the only known use for Metarungia galpinii as it makes an attractive garden specimen.

Floer spike
© Tony Dold

Growing Metarungia galpinii

Metarungia galpinii is easily propagated from either seed or cuttings.

Once the seeds have been shed from the capsules, use a tray and sow the seeds into free-draining seedling mixture to ensure that the young roots do not become waterlogged. Move the tray into the shade once the seeds start to germinate, as this is a shade-loving plant. Always ensure that you are able to keep the soil temperature up to encourage growth. Once the first proper leaves are produced, prick the young seedlings out and plant them into the ground where they will be growing permanently.

Take tip cuttings when plants are actively growing. Rooting takes place in 1014 days if the bed is bottom-heated and there is a mist to keep the shoots cool. Young plants derived from cuttings usually flowers in their third year of growth.

References and further reading

  • Baden, C. 1984. Metarungia , a valid name for Macrorungia auctt. (Acanthaceae). Kew Bulletin 39(3): 638.
  • Baden, C. 1989. The Flowering Plants of Africa 40(2), Plate 1989: Metarungia galpinii.
  • Baden, C. 1995. Acanthaceae. Flora of southern Africa 30,3. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Red List of South African Plants,


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Vathiswa Zikishe

Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW)

Images Tony Dold

March 2014










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