This lovely, dainty plant caught our attention and was collected
growing wild with buffalo grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)
around Nature's Valley.With its little mauve flowers creeping on
long green stems through the grass, it looked as if the buffalo
grass was flowering.
In nature, Monopsis unidentata is found growing in damp,
sandy flats and rocky slopes from Riversonderend in the southern
Cape and further along the east coast to KwaZulu-Natal.
It is a fast growing perennial that loves sunny, wet spots. It has
many long, thin stems that root where they touch the ground, forming
mats about 20cm high and 50cm wide. The stems and leaves are bright
green and soft. The small, serrated leaves are grouped near the
base of the stems with the little violet-like flowers at the tips.
The delightful little flowers, appearing in early summer (October
- January), are deep purple with 5 narrow petals; 3 pointing upwards
and 2 pointing downwards. Bees visit these flowers and may be the
unidentata flowers throughout the summer, creating a beautiful
display when planted in pots, along the front edge of borders or
around ponds. To enjoy a mass of flowers, space the plants about
30cm apart. They are also very attractive twining through other
Even though Monopsis unidentata prefers damp areas, it
will grow just as well in ordinary light garden soil if it is kept
moist throughout the year. It is unaffected by cold weather, but
dies down for a short time in winter and shoots again in the spring.
Growing Monopsis unidentata
Monopsis unidentata is easily propagated from cuttings
taken throughout the year. Because the plants root as they spread,
it is easy to divide the mother plant or to remove and replant rooted
are 13 species in the genus Monopsis, found in central and
southern Africa. The only other species grown at Kirstenbosch is
Monopsis lutea or yellow lobelia, which also flowers in summer.
Another flat growing perennial, it creeps along, also preferring
damp places, but the flowers are bright yellow and the stems are
far fewer, longer and thicker than those of Monopsis unidentata.
In nature it is found growing in damp areas, from the Grootwinterhoek
mountains in the Western Cape to Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape.
Liesl van der Walt