Pelargonium tomentosum Jacq.

Family: Geraniaceae
Common names: Pennyroyal pelargonium; Peppermint-scented pelargonium

Pelargonium tomentosum

Pelargonium tomentosum is an aromatic, low-growing, sprawling subshrub with branches spreading in all directions. The presence of soft hairs and numerous glandular hairs, lends a velvety touch to the leaves and stems. The peppermint-scented, simple leaves are showy, especially when covered with morning dew.

FlowersThe tiny, white flowers with purple markings on the petals are borne in a much-branched inflorescence, from spring to summer (October to January). The species name tomentosum refers to the leaves, which are thickly and evenly covered with short, curved, matted hairs.

The genus Pelargonium belongs to the family Geraniaceae which consists of four more genera; Geranium, Erodium, Monsonia and Sarcocaulon. The genus Pelargonium consists of ± 220 species, most of which occur naturally in southern Africa.

Pelargonium tomentosum is confined to mountains where it occurs naturally in semi-shaded, moist habitats, on the margins of ravine forests near streams. It grows in sandy soil derived from sandstone. This plant is common and occurs on the Hottentots Holland Mountains near Somerset West, on the Riviersonderend Mountains near Greyton, and on the Langeberg Range from Swellendam to Riversdale in the southern Cape.

Pelargonium tomentosum is an attractive garden plant. It can be used as a ground cover in semi-shady, moist areas, providing that the soil drains well. It can also be used on embankments in semi-shaded areas or grown in pots, provided they drain well. The peppermint-scented leaves can also be used as a culinary herb. Barbara Hey (1994) suggests lining the tin with them before baking a chocolate cake.

Growing Pelargonium tomentosum

LeavesPelargonium tomentosum grows easily from cuttings . Stem cuttings of ± 10 cm in length are taken in autumn (March to May ) and spring (September to November ) The cuttings are then dipped into a suitable rooting hormone powder, and placed in trays containing coarse river sand which has been watered with a fungicide. These trays are then placed into cold frames or a shady spot.

When planting in the garden, choose a semi-shaded position for this plant and keep the soil reasonably damp, but not water-logged. The plant responds very well to applications of organic, seaweed-based fertilizer in spring (September to November ) and summer (December to February). Remove old or damaged leaves to keep it looking at its best and site it where you will enjoy the silvery beauty of its velvety, dew-spangled leaves.


References

HEY, B. 1994. A South African guide to herbs. Struik, Cape Town.
VAN DER WALT, J.J.A. et al. 1981. Pelargoniums of southern Africa, vol. 2. Juta, Cape Town.

Ebrahim Lawrence
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
September 2002


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