This is a very attractive, dense, upright, tufted
plant that can be used as an accent plant or to provide a grass-like
accent in a mixed border or fynbos garden. The sparsely branched
flowering stems, rising like a fountain out of a mass of finely
branched, bright green, juvenile stems, have dark brown bracts for
most of the year.
multiflorus is a reed-like plant, which grows to a height of
1 m in its natural environment, but grows to a height of about 1.5
m if planted in a reasonably fertile soil with the normal amount
of water given in a garden. The plants have strong, upright stems
and grow in a more or less tufted form. Like many other Restionaceae,
the young plants produce finely branched juvenile stems which increase
the photosynthesis process and enable the plants to grow faster.
R. multiflorus plants have a large amount of these juvenile
stems, which are bright green in colour.
When the flowering stems start to grow in the second year they
seem to rise like a fountain from this low base of fluffy stems,
which produces a striking and very attractive plant. When mature
after three years, the plants can reach a diameter of about 1 m
at ground level. Plants of both sexes are strong growing and can
easily reach an age of about seven years. The main growth period
is at the end of the Cape winter (August to November).
Restio multiflorus has a wide distribution in the Cape Floristic
Region of the Western Cape and occurs on the lower slopes of mountains
from Piketberg in the north to the Bredasberg Plains in the south.
The plants are often difficult to recognize as they can grow entangled
in other fynbos vegetation, looking quite different to the plants
in cultivation in a garden.
The plants prefer to grow in cool, well-drained places and can be
found on bedrock Table Mountain Sandstone as well as granite, shale
The family name of Restionaceae refers to the Latin restis,
which means cord or rope and alludes to the use of the plants in
southern Africa. More than 400 species in about 40 genera of the
Restionaceae family occur in the winter rainfall regions of South
Africa and Australia, with outliers in Africa, Madagascar, Indo-China
and Chile. The species name of multiflorus is derived from
multus = many and flos = flower and refers to the
many spikelets, each with their own lot of flowers, giving a many-flowered
the other reed species, the male and female flowers are on different
plants and both are small. The plants flower during March - April
in the Southern Hemisphere and produce seed during November or December.
The male flowers are greenish yellow, but the female flowers are
very pretty, small but pure white and very frilly. The flowering
season is very short, only about two weeks and the decorative dark
brown bracts around the male and female inflorescences provide a
longer period of attraction, from about two months before the flowering
starts, to just after the seed ripens.
The plants are wind pollinated. The wind distributes the pollen
from the free-hanging anthers of the male flowers to the female
inflorescence where the large bracts catch the pollen from the air
and funnel it towards the female flowers. Sometimes bees are present,
but always around the male plants, where they collect the pollen.
The seeds ripen in small capsules, three seeds to a capsule. When
the seeds are ripe, the capsule opens up and dispels the seeds,
which makes daily inspection during the ripening period absolutely
necessary, if the seeds are to be collected for propagation. The
seeds are quite small, shiny, dark brown nuts and are produced in
large quantities per plant.
Uses and cultural aspects
The economic use of plants of this family has been limited, as the
plants contain a large amount of tannin and so are grazed only as
a last resort by cattle and sheep. The species that have simple,
unbranched stems are sometimes used for thatching, while the species
with branched stems are used as brooms or besems. The plants have
been introduced to horticulture and are available from nurseries.
Restio multiflorus is quite popular as a garden plant, or
planted in larger groups in landscaped gardens around large buildings
or along roads.
Growing Restio multiflorus
This species is best used as an accent plant or grown in a large
pot and can also be used in a fairly large garden as a plant in
a large border, planted behind a group of smaller plants. The plants
fit in with fynbos plants, other indigenous South African plants
as well as any other plants in a garden. They can be used as if
they were small shrubs and would provide the touch of grass-like
plants now so fashionable in landscaping. Another use would be as
a group of plants in a large landscaping project, the plants are
especially suited to planting on a slope.
The plants are best grown from seed, which has a good germination
rate and germinates even better if treated with smoke or 'Instant
Smoke Plus' seed primer.
This species must be grown in full sun, prefers a well-drained
soil and plenty of air movement. The plants adapt to a large variety
of soil types. The best time for planting restios is at the beginning
of the rainy season, as the plants need regular watering during
the first six weeks to two months after planting. After this initial
period the plants can survive with a little additional watering,
but grow better with a normal garden watering regime. They may be
fed with standard organic fertilizers based on seaweed, or by sprinkling
the surrounding soil with a small amount of ammonium sulfate during
the growing season. Restios will respond to regular watering by
showing more robust growth, but they are essentially plants adapted
to a long, dry season.
In the garden, plants should be grown with a regular amount of
irrigation and are suited to cultivation in gardens in the Southern
Hemisphere. As with other reed species, the roots are sensitive
to a combination of frost and wet soil and in the Northern Hemisphere
should be grown in pots.
This is a fast-growing species that will be nearly 1 m high one
year after sowing and will have formed a handsome plant three years
after sowing. The plants produce a new growth flush in the centre
of the plant every year. The individual stems start to deteriorate
during the third year but by that time already two new flushes of
growth will have appeared for the yearly renewal of the plant. This
governs the maintenance of the plant, which only needs a regular
removal of the brown, dead stems on the outside part of the plant.
- ANDREWS, S. & MCCLINTOCK, D. 1982. Notes on Restio subverticillatus.
The Plantsman 37: 230-233.
- BROWN, N., JAMIESON, H. & BOTHA, P. 1998. Grow restios.
Kirstenbosch Gardening Series. National Botanical Institute, Cape
- DORRAT-HAAKSMA, E.& LINDER, H. P. 2000. Restios of the
Fynbos. The Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
- LINDER, H.P. 1985. Conspectus of the African species of Restionaceae.
- LINDER, H.P. 1991. A review of the southern African Restionaceae.
Contributions from the Bolus Herbarium No. 13.