Belonging to the sage family, Syncolostemon teucriifolius, a herbaceous perennial, will add a splash of colour to the garden during spring and summer.
Syncolostemon teucriifolius is a bushy, rounded, herbaceous perennial with a woody rootstock. The greyish annual stems are hairy and slender,150 to 300 mm high.
The slightly leathery leaves are 8-18 x 3-6 mm. The upper surface of the leaf is rough, hairy and dark greyish green. The undersurface of the leaf is greyish and velvety with the entire margins rolled under. The mauve flowers are 10 to 12 mm long and the calyx is 6 mm long, both are very hairy. Flowers occur in 4 to 6 clusters in the axils of leaf-like bracts, on simple, unbranched inflorescences which are 40 to 80 mm long. Flowering begins in spring (September) and ends in autumn (April).
Distribution and habitat
Syncolostemon teucriifolius occurs from the Eastern Cape , KwaZulu-Natal , along the Drakensberg Mountains to Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, at altitudes of 765-2 135 m. It occurs in forests and grassland where there is an element of fynbos. It grows in an open, sunny position, in quartzitic sandstone soils where it receives a summer rainfall and experiences fog frequently. The area in which it grows receives 100-1 250 mm of rain per annum.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Syncolostemon is derived from the Greek words, syn, meaning united; kolos, meaning stunted; and stemon, meaning pillar (Pooley 1998: 188). The lower pair of filaments are joined to the flower tube and therefore the name refers to the shape and size of the filaments in the flower. The species name, teucriifolius, means with leaves like Teucrium, a genus of shrubs, subshrubs (low-growing, woody shrubs) and herbaceous perennials native to the Mediterranean region of western Asia.
Plants will die back after severe frost but may recover quickly due to a woody rootstock which will resprout.
Uses and cultural aspects
Used in landscaping, Syncolostemon teucriifolius is an attractive garden subject when used as a potplant or as a low to medium height border plant, especially when in flower.
Growing Syncolostemon teucriifolius
Syncolostemon teucriifolius does best in a well-drained, sandy, well-composted soil, in semi-shade to full sun. It should be watered up to three times a week. Prune it back once it has reached the end of its flowering season. This will encourage a more bushy habit and prevent straggly growth.
Take hardwood cuttings after the flowering season, in autumn; take stem or tip cuttings when the plant begins to resprout, in spring, or while the plant is in active growth. Hardwood cuttings do not root as readily as stem or tip cuttings.
When making cuttings, select healthy cutting material. Use a rooting hormone, and place cuttings in trays with a light, well-drained medium, under mist with bottom heating. Under these conditions, cuttings should root within three weeks.
Once the cuttings have rooted, remove them from the bottom heating and harden them off under a shade net for a week. Pot the cuttings up and leave them under the shade net for three weeks. Thereafter, move them into a well-lit area.
Thanks to horticulturists Trevor Adams and Ernst van Jaarsveld at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden , for generously sharing information from their own observations, experience and research.
References and further reading
- Khanyile, S. 2005-01. Syncolostemon latidens (N.E.Br.) Codd (Lamiaceae). Internet 2 pp.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Van Jaarsveld, E. 2000. Wonderful water-wise gardening. Tafelberg, Cape Town.
- Website: Plants of southern Africa : an online checklist. http://posa.sanbi.org.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden