The lace-leaf ursinia is an attractive, easy-to-grow perennial, adding texture and silver highlights to the garden.
The lace-leaf ursinia is an herbaceous perennial which grows into a bushy shrublet, 200-500 mm high and wide. The silver, hairy leaves are toothed or finely divided; they are also once or twice pinnately lobed, which gives the plant its lacy, feathery appearance.
The bright golden yellow flower heads are solitary, on long, naked stalks, nodding while in bud. The flower head has a diameter of 20-50 mm. The involucral bracts, which are without appendages, are in several rows. Most of the inner row is usually covered by a conspicuous, papery tip. Margins of the involucral bracts are membranous. The seeds are usually topped with prominent, scale-like scales. Flowering is in spring to late summer (from September to February).
Ursinia sericea is not threatened and there is currently no decline in the population of this widespread species.
Derivation of name
The genus Ursinia was named by the German physician and botanist, Joseph Gaertner (1732-1791), after the author of Arboretum Bilicum, Johann Heinrich Ursinus of Regensburg (1608-1666). The species name sericea is derived from Latin and means silky.
With almost 40 species in southern Africa and even extending into North Africa, this genus shows lots of variation. It differs regarding growth forms, from annuals to perennial dwarf shrubs, and has a myriad of ecological preferences coupled with a wide geographical distribution.
The seeds are light in weight and have a tuft of papery scales at the tip, which aids wind dispersal.
Distribution and habitat
Ursinia sericea occurs in the Fynbos and Succulent Karoo Biomes from Namaqualand to the Swartberg Mountains where it grows on the upper sandstone slopes.
Growing Ursinia sericea
Propagate this perennial from seeds sown during the autumn (March or April) or alternatively take cuttings during the warmer months. Use a well-drained medium, such as a mixture of bark and polystyrene, or river sand. Place in a mist unit where rooting will occur within 14 days. Plant in light, well-drained, compost-enriched soil. This is a plant for full sun, it will not thrive otherwise. Water well, but take care not to overwater.
Ursinia sericea is ideally suited to an informal border where its silvery grey foliage will lighten up the garden. It will add colour to a rockery, is an excellent accent plant at the base of a flight of steps, does well in window boxes and is a versatile edging plant and groundcover. Not only does it grow well with plants such as Felicia amelloides, F. aethiopica (white and blue), F. filifolia, Lobelia valida and Pelargonium betulinum (white, pink and mauve), they also make a striking colour combination when in bloom.
Many thanks to Alice Notten of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden for her review and contribution towards this article.
References and further reading
- Eliovsen, S. 1960. South African wild flowers for the garden. How to grow them, identify them and use them for effect, edn 3. Howard Timmens, Cape Town.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Wildflowers of the fairest Cape. Red Roof Design, Cape Town.
- Joffe, P. 1993. Gardener's guide to South African plants. Tafelberg, Cape Town.
- Trinder-Smith, T. 2003. Levyn's guide to the plant genera of the southwestern Cape. Red Roof Design, Cape Town.
- Van der Spuy, U. 1971. South African shrubs and trees for the garden. Hugh Keartland, Johannesburg.
- Van Rooyen, S. & Steyn, H. 1999. Cederberg: Clanwilliam and Biedouw Valley. South African Wild Flower Guide 10. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden