If one is looking for a striking waterwise plant for a Karoo garden or Namib Desert garden, look no further!
Ruschia spinosa is a spinescent shrub, 350–700 mm high with a rounded habit; whitish grey internodes turning black with age. Flowers are scented, with striking purple petals, arranged in spiny cymes, a flower cluster in which all floral stems end with a flower and central flowers opening first, flowering profusely from September to December. The flowers are scented. Fruit are five-lobed capsules, with or without narrow valve wings. Seeds very small.
Ruschia spinosa takes about two years to be fully grown.
Ruschia spinosa is not a threatened plant.
Distribution and habitat
Ruschia spinosa can be found in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, and Western Cape and Namibia, occurring in the Succulent- and Nama-Karoo Biomes.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Ruschia is named in honour of the late Mr Ernst Julius Rusch (1867 – 1957), originally from Germany, who settled on the farm Lichtenstein, near Windhoek in Namibia. He was one of the founders of Windhoek. Ruschia has a very wide distribution with 224 species. The specific name spinosa, is derived from the Latin word for spine, Ruschia spinosa being a spinescent shrub.
A spinescent succulent shrub with beautiful purple flowers, Ruschia spinosa, was brought to Kirstenbosch in July 1914 by James Dugal Cameron Lamb, a keen plant collector. He started a herbarium, ‘Herbarium Lambii' and donated his plant collection of more than 1 000 specimens, to the South African Museum Herbarium shortly before his death in 1937.
The very small seeds are dispersed by raindrops as the capsule valves open in wet conditions.
Uses and cultural aspects
Ruschia spinosa is eaten by small stock and springbuck, depending on the growing conditions. It is a waterwise plant, suitable for Karoo and Namib Desert gardens.
Growing Ruschia spinosa
Crush capsules to release seeds. Sow seeds from March to August. Use two parts sand, one part loam and one part compost and not wood, straw or stone as mulch. Cover seeds with a thin layer of sand. Place in partial shade and keep moist until germination occurs. Always water with a fine spray.. Always harden plants off before planting out.
References and further reading
- Codd, L.E.& Gunn, M. 1981. Botanical Exploration of southern Africa. Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria.
- Codd, L.E.& Gunn, M. 1984. J.D.C. Lamb and the ‘Herbarium Lambii'. Veld and Flora. 70,2:61,62.
- Leistner, O.A. (ed.). 2000. Seeds plants of southern Africa: families and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- Renu-Karoo unpublished data. www.renu-karoo.co.za ruschia. Accessed 4 July 2020.
- Snijman, D.A. (ed). 2013. Plants of the Greater Cape Floristic Region, Vol. 2: the Extra Cape flora. Strelitzia 30. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 2010. Waterwise gardening. Struik, Cape Town.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden