Not everyone will recognize members of this genus
as belonging to the Asteraceae. There are no showy ray flowers
and the white or pink disc flowers are very small. The florets
are, however, aggregated into globose or spike-like inflorescences
that can be very showy en masse.
In a recent revision (Koekemoer 2002), the genus was re-defined
to include only the species with white or pink disc florets. Species
with unobtrusive, reddish florets (e.g. S.
plumosum) were transferred to Seriphium L.
Plants are erect, prostrate or scrambling, woody shrubs. Leaves
are small, often ericoid and twisted and characterized by a woolly-hairy
upper surface, a character that is unique to Stoebe and a
group of related genera. This characteristic can be used to distinguish
this group from species of Helichrysum which are very similar
vegetatively. The leaves of Helichrysum are hairy all over
or on the lower surface only.
Flowerheads are 1-flowered, the florets white or pink, with 5 well-developed,
spreading lobes protruding from the involucral bracts. The flowerheads
are aggregated into round or spike-like inflorescences at the end
of branches. Nectaries are present. Pappus bristles are plumose
and present in all species except S. montana and S. schultzii.
Although some species are quite rare and are fairly localized,
they are not threatened or endangered.
The genus is endemic to South Africa and restricted to the winter
rainfall area. It is mainly found in the mountainous and coastal
regions of the Western Cape with a few species spreading into Eastern
and Northern Cape. It is commonly found on rocky ridges or flat
areas from sea level to 2 200 m.
Flowering times vary from species to species with peak flowering
ranging from September to March. It is not uncommon to find plants
flowering outside their normal flowering times. Most species are
pioneers on disturbed soil such as roadsides. They are also one
of the more prominent species to germinate after a fire. They can
be dominant in a burnt area for up to three years, after which they
may be replaced by more vigorous shrubs.
Pollination is mainly by bees and flies and dispersal of seeds
by wind and water.
Economic and cultural value
Very little is known about the economical and cultural value of
the genus. The name Stoebe is derived from the Greek word
stoibe meaning stuffing. It was used for packing wine jars
and making brooms (Jackson 1990). According to Rees (1819) it was
also used for bedding, but he was of the opinion that the hard,
rigid shrubs were unfit to make a bed except for a rhinoceros or
The genus consists of 16 species, of which the following species
are more often seen:
S. aethiopica-Juniper-leaved stoebe
A very rigid, erect shrub up to 1.6 m tall, with tightly packed
terminal inflorescences and white florets. Leaves variable:
from broadly cymbiform to narrowly triangular. Distributed
throughout the Western Cape, eastwards to Uniondale and Avontuur
and northwards to the Cederberg, growing in dense, moist or
dry fynbos at altitudes of 100-1 900 m and flowers from September
||S. alopecuroides-katstert slangbos,
cat's tail stoebe
A robust, erect shrub up to 1.8 m tall. Branches very leafy
with numerous short side branches. Capitula in thick finger-like
terminal spikes of up to 150 mm long and 20 mm in diameter.
Florets white. Distributed in the Western Cape up to Matjiesfontein
in the north and Uniondale in the east; also in the Eastern
Cape as far as Uitenhage, growing on moist mountain fynbos slopes
at altitudes of 100-1 200 m and flowering from August to November.
Erect or procumbent shrub up to 0.8 m tall, becoming straggly
with age. Leaves variable: from ericoid to broad and flat. Capitula
in terminal heads of up to 25 mm in diameter. Florets white
or pink. Cypselas hairy. Distributed in the Western Cape south
of the Langeberg Mountain Range from the Peninsula to Albertinia,
growing on flats and mountainous coastal areas below 500 m and
flowering from November to January.
Low, spreading shrubs up to 0.8 m tall. Branches often in whorls
and candelabrum-like. Leaves greyish, densely hairy, flat, curling
inwards. Capitula in terminal spikes up to 40 mm long and 10
mm wide. Florets bright pink. Distributed around Stilbaai and
Bredasdorp along the coast on limestone ridges below 100 m.
A very attractive foliage plant, it is becoming more prolific
along roadsides. It flowers from March to April.
Small, erect, stiffly branched, rigid shrublets up to 0.3 m
tall. Leaves not twisted, pungent, with a prominent midrib.
Capitula loosely arranged in small numbers, bracts up to 8 mm
long. Florets white, deeply lobed. Distributed in the Western
Cape with disjunct distributions around Riversdale and Albertinia
in the east and Rocher Pan in the northwest, growing in deep
sand or gravel on sandy flats from sea level to 900 m and flowering
from March to April.
Much-branched, densely leafy shrub up to 0.5 m tall. Leaves
rigid, ericoid, keeled with a prominent midrib, tips pungent.
Capitula in very dense, terminal round inflorescences. Florets
bright pink with small incurved lobes. Pappus prominently displayed.
Endemic to the Cape Peninsula. Known only from two localities:
Constantiaberg and Rooihoogte (Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve),
growing in rocky ridges below 600 m and flowering from January
Wiry, profusely branched shrublet up to 0.3 m tall. Leaves very
small, diamond-shaped, tightly pressed to the stems, with fringed
margins. Capitula in small or larger terminal inflorescences
of up to 15 mm diameter. Florets white or pink. Distributed
in the Western Cape from De Hoop and Bredasdorp to Gans Bay
and inland to Caledon, often in seasonally moist areas and along
roadsides and flowering from October to November.
In the Garden
Many of the species have horticultural potential as foliage or bedding
plants, but this potential has yet to be explored. See Seriphium
plumosum for more information regarding cultivation.
- Jackson, W.P.U. 1990. Origins and meanings of names of South
African plant genera. Ecolab, Botany Department, University
of Cape Town.
- Koekemoer, M. 2002. Systematics of the Metalasia group in
the Relhaniinae (Asteraceae-Gnaphalieae). Unpublished Ph.D.
thesis. Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg.
- Rees, A. 1819. The Cyclopedia or Universal Dictionary of
Arts, Science and Literature 34. London.