Struthiola argentea is a sun-loving, slender shrublet with yellow to reddish orange flowers. It is dramatic when massed, especially if planted close to an entrance or next to a window in order to enjoy the scent which the flowers exude at night. S. argentea is one of many fynbos species that is under-utilized as a garden subject in South Africa.
Roemenaggie is a shrublet that grows 0.6 to 2 m tall. The leaves are entire and opposite, overlapping like tiles on a roof (imbricate). They are leathery, faintly ribbed below and the margin is fringed with fine white hairs. The shape of the leaves varies with locality, from oval to narrowly elliptic. The small, tubular, stalkless flowers are borne along the upper sections of the branches. The colour of the flowers varies between yellow to reddish orange. It flowers from early winter until midsummer (May-December), peak flowering occurring in spring (August, September).
Struthiola argentea is not listed as threatened.
Distribution and habitat
Struthiola argentea occurs from Stellenbosch in the Western Cape to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. It is found on coastal flats and lower mountain slopes. Around Stanford in the Western Cape, S. argentea grows commonly in sandy limestone together with Olea exasperata, Muraltia sp., Metalasia muricata, Jordaaniella dubia, Agathosma riversdalensis, Osyris compressa, Chrysanthemoides monilifera and Protea compacta.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Struthiolia, from the Greek struthion, meaning small bird, refers to seed that is like the beak of a sparrow. The Afrikaans names roemenaggie ( juffertjie roer by die nag ) and aandgonna refer to the evening scent, and gonna is the Khoisan name for this group of fibrous shrubs. Slapgonna means lax or slender gonna. There are about 40 species of Struthiola that occur in southern Africa. These include S.ciliata and S. myrsinites.
Struthiolas are well known for their sweet-scented flowers in the evening. The sweet scent attracts moths to pollinate the flowers.
Uses and cultural aspects
The fibre bark or gonna family, Thymelaeaceae,, includes genera such as Gnidia, Passerina, Lachnaea and Dais. Most of the plants in this family were traditionally used by the San and Khoi Khoi people to manufacture string and rope.
Growing Struthiola argentea
Struthiola argentea is easily propagated from tip cuttings treated with rooting hormone during spring or in early summer. Cuttings respond well to a well-aerated growing medium that is placed on a heated bench (25º-27ºC). Rooting can take up to six weeks; rooted cuttings can be potted and grown in the nursery until planting time in the winter rainy season ( Western Cape ).
Seed is difficult to harvest because it is not retained by the plant. Sow seed in autumn (April). Smoke treatment is advisable to ensure a better germination rate.
Grow Struthiola argentea in a sunny position in well-drained soil. With its long flowering season and strong evening scent, it is dramatic when massed, and perfect for fynbos gardens, coastal gardens and water-wise gardens. It is also a wonderful addition to the evening garden-plant it near the patio or sitting room window where the sweet scent can be enjoyed.
References and further reading
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria & Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri.
- Mustart, P., Cowling, R. & Albertyn, J. 1997. Southern Overberg. South African Wild Flower Guide 8. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Smith, C.A. 1966. Common names of South African plants. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No. 35.
Phakamani m'Afrika Xaba
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden