Senecio macrocephalus is one of the first large, pink-flowered senecios to flower in the grassveld in early spring and often shows up as large patches amongst the dry grass.
Senecio macrocephalus is a perennial herb which grows up to 0.4 m tall with a stout woody stock. Leaves are mostly in a basal rosette, up to 150 x 30 mm, fleshy, thick-textured and brittle, with a prominent midrib, slightly more white-hairy below than above, margins are smooth to shallowly toothed. Multiple flowering stems develop from the base. These stems are almost bare and often branch below the flower heads to produce a group of up to 6 heads. Involucre is glandular-hairy. Flower heads are about 16-28 mm in diameter. Ray florets are bright pink to purplish. Disc florets are white or pink with purple anthers. The fruits are cylindrical and narrow, with a dense pappus. Flowering is from spring to late summer, but in wet seasons it may be found flowering for longer periods.
Senecio macrocephalus flower head
Senecio macrocephalus seeds
Due to its wide distribution and common occurrence S. macrocephalus is listed as Least Concern in the Red List of South African Plants 2009 (Raimondo et al. 2009).
Distribution and habitat
Senecio macrocephalus grows wild in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Free State and Lesotho but is absent in the Western Cape. It often grows in damp, open grassland and around moist rock sheets.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Senecio was named by Linnaeus from senex a Latin word meaning “an old man”, probably on account of the white beard on the seed capsule. Some authors suggest alternately that the naked receptacle of the of the old flower heads resembles a bald head.
The specific name macrocephalus refers to the relatively large heads.
Senecio macrocephalus often flowers after fires in spring. This plant is attractive to bees and other insects.
Growing Senecio macrocephalus
Senecio macrocephalus requires a sunny position but it can also tolerate partial shade. It grows easily from seed and is suitable for growing in containers. It may also be grown from cuttings of the stem or root.
Plants need to be watered regularly and can do well in wetland situations. Allow seeds to dry on plants before harvesting.
References and further reading
- Burtt, B.L. & Hilliard, O.M. 1976. Notes on some plants from southern Africa chiefly from Natal: IV*. Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh 34: 73-91.
- Eliovson, S. 1980. Wild flowers of Southern Africa. M Publishers. Johannesburg.
- Glen, H.F. 2004. SAPPI tree spotting. What's in a name? - The meanings of the botanical names of trees. Jacana Media. Johannesburg.
- Herman, P.P.J., Retief, E. 1997. Plants of the northern provinces of South Africa: keys and diagnostic characters. Strelitzia 6. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- Hilliard, O.M. 1977. Compositae in Natal. University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg.
- Pooley, E. 2003. Mountain flowers - A field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho. The Flora Publications Trust. Durban.
- Walker, J. 1996. Wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal. W. R. Walker Family Trust, Pinetown, South Africa.
Nditsheni Rose Netshimboni & Marinda Koekemoer
National Herbarium, Pre toria