At first glance, Senecio macroglossus looks like a kind
of ivy, but on closer inspection, the bright yellow daisy flowers
amongst the foliage make it clear that it bears no real relationship
to ivy whatsoever. Senecio macroglossus belongs in the Asteraceae
(daisy family) whereas ivy, Hedera helix, belongs in the
Araliaceae (ivy family), along with Cussonia species, the
cabbage trees, and Schefflera.
ivy is an evergreen slender, twining but not tendril-climbing herbaceous
perennial. It has smooth, thin, flexible branches bearing triangular
or five-pointed ivy-like foliage. When creeping along the ground,
the branches sometimes develop roots at the nodes. The leaves are
a bright glossy green and are somewhat succulent. When broken, both
the leaves and stems release a fresh lemony scent. Large, conspicuous
pale yellow daisy flowers are borne just about all year round, but
mainly during the summer months. They remain open on cloudy or dull
days, and are visited by bees, moths and wasps. The seeds are small
and stick-like with a tuft of greyish-white bristles at one end
(the pappus). Before being disturbed, they make quite decorative
little dandelion-like tufty balls on the plant, but are soon carried
off by the breeze.
Senecio macroglossus is found on the eastern coast of South
Africa from around Knysna in the Western Cape through East London
in the Eastern Cape and further north into Lesotho and the KwaZulu-Natal
south coast, where it is commonly found growing in forest and thicket
Senecio is a large and variable genus containing about 1250
species of which about 300 occur in southern Africa, the rest occurring
mainly in South America and the rest of Africa. Senecios can be
annual or perennial herbs, shrubs, subshrubs, small trees, vines
or succulents. It is a member of the Asteraceae (daisy family),
a huge family of some 1535 genera and 25 000 species spread all
over the world and absent only from Antarctica. The name Senecio
is derived from the Latin senex meaning old man and alluding
to the whitish grey hairy pappus that is typical of, but not exclusive
to this genus. Macroglossus means large-tongued (macro= large;
Growing Senecio macroglossus
macroglossus does well in sun or shade. It requires a neutral
to slightly alkaline loamy soil that is well-drained. It grows best
in fertile soil to which well-rotted compost is added regularly
as a mulch, and it responds fast to foliar feeding. Senecio macroglossus
is not hardy to frost although established plants in a protected
position should be able to survive the odd cold snap to -1oC / 30oF
but it is best suited to frost free gardens (zone 11 above 4oC /
40oF). It is very drought and heat tolerant. Senecio macroglossus
is not as fast growing as its relative Senecio tamoides,
the canary creeper, and it is much neater and longer lived. It is
relatively easy to control and can be pruned when necessary to keep
tidy or in late winter just before the new spring growth commences.
Senecio macroglossus is relatively pest free, but aphids
may sometimes be found on flower buds or on the young growing tips.
Flowering ivy makes an excellent hanging basket subject. At Kirstenbosch
we have them growing in the large permanent hanging baskets in the
Visitor Centre and outside the Restaurant. It is also a good trellis
plant against a wall, even a west-facing wall, and is suitable for
balconies and roof gardens where it will grow nearly 3m downwards
if allowed to hang, or upwards if encouraged to climb up a trellis.
It can also be used as a ground cover and is suitable for indoor
cultivation. It mixes well with Aloe ciliaris and other climbing
aloes where they can be grown together on a wire fence to create
a living fence.
Senecio macroglossus can be propagated by cuttings or seed.
Cuttings root easily in well-drained medium, like washed river sand,
and placed in a cold frame or under intermittent mist. Seed can
be sown in spring or during summer, in well-drained soil, but seedlings
are prone to damping off and should therefore be sown thinly and
treated with an appropriate fungicide.
Although Senecio macroglossus is not particularly well known
or widely grown in South Africa, a silver variegated form has been
grown in the United Kingdom, where it is a favourite conservatory
subject, since the early 1900's. This variegated form is now also
available from some South African nurseries.
Author: Christien Malan
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden