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Flowering in the heat of summer the glossy pink stars of Orphium
frutescens always attract attention, especially with the surrounding
vegetation going brown and dormant. The sea-rose is found along
the coast of the south western Cape, growing in clumps on the sandy
flats and marshes from Lambert's Bay to George.
Orphium frutescens is an evergreen perennial, growing upright,
often bushy to about 60 cm. The lush green leaves and stems have
small white hairs which give them a velvety feel. The size of the
leaves vary, but they are all long and narrow, pointing upwards,opposite
each other all the way up the stems.
November to February large showy flowers are formed at the tips
of the stems, singly or in clusters. The flowers also vary in colour
and size, but deep pink is the most common. Each delicate flower
has 5 broad glossy petals, that are slightly sticky, and bright
yellow twisted anthers in the centre. These twisted anthers have
adapted in a fascinating way to only release pollen. They open pores
at their tips, when visited by a certain bee whose wings vibrate
at a particular frequency - this is called buzz pollination.
In the garden Orphium frutescens is a wonderful plant with
its bright summer flowers, fresh green leaves and the ability to
grow in wet spots. It is a remarkably tough plant, able to grow
close to the sea, coping with ease with the wind, sand and brakish
It grows just as well in the garden with light, well-drained soil
containing compost and regular watering. Plant orphiums in full
sun and pinch the tips of the young plants to encourage bushy growth.
For the best display plant them close to each other for support
as they often get untidy at the base and fall over. Orphium
plants should be replaced after two years in the garden as they
become rather straggly and untidy. They also look beautiful peeping
through the long narrow stems of restios and the strappy leaves
of Dietes or Agapanthus.
Growing Orphium frutescens
Orphium frutescens can be propagated from seed or cuttings.
The seeds are hard, little, brownish balls, which germinate freely
in about two weeks. Sow them in a container filled with well-drained
soil and cover lightly with a thin layer of milled bark or white
sand after sowing. Place the tray in a well-ventilated shady spot
and keep moist. The seedlings can be planted out as soon as they
are big enough to handle, directly into the garden or into pots
to grow on. Orphium frutescens responds well to feeding with
organic fertilizer like Seagro. Cuttings made from the tips also
root quite easily.
was named by Linnaeus after Orpheus of classical myth. With
no obvious character link between Orphium the plant and Orpheus
the greek god, one assumes that Linnaes desperate for names, borrowed
from the classic history to enable him to continue classifying thousands
of plants from around the world.
Orphium frutescens is the only species in the genus.
Author: Liesl van der Walt