The striking deep purple flowers and silvery quilted leaves of
Vernonia hirsuta make it a very desirable plant for an indigenous
up to 1m tall in colonies in grasslands. The woody rootstock gives
rise to hairy stems with thick stalkless leaves whose veins are
deeply indented on the upper surface, giving a 'quilted' effect.
'flowers', in common with all the members of the daisy family, are
actually composed of many tiny 'florets' grouped together. Appearing
from September to January (spring to midsummer), they range in colour
from magenta to purple, and occasionally pink or white. They are
followed by attractive silvery seedheads.
Vernonia hirsuta is not threatened.
A widespread species, occurring in Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal,
Free State, Lesotho, Swaziland, Limpopo (Northern Province), Mpumalanga,
Zimbabwe and Angola.. It is grows in grassland, scrub, and on forest
margins, in full sun to light shade, from the coast to1900m. Frost
hardy, it is found in the summer rainfall regions.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
This is a large genus of the daisy family with about 1000 species
found in the southern hemisphere, with 50 of these in South Africa.
The name Vernonia is after William Vernon, an English botanist
who collected plants in America and who died in 1711. "hirsuta"
refers to the hairy leaves.
There are many other very attractive species of Vernonia
which deserve more horticultural attention, including the silvery
leaved V. natalensis, V. oligocephala with bicoloured
leaves and Vernonia glabra
plant does not seem to have a specialized pollinator. It is visited
by bees, butterflies and beetles, which carry pollen from one flower
to another. The seeds are enclosed in hairy fruits with a 'parachute'
of hairs which assists in wind distribution.
Uses and cultural aspects
This plant is used in traditional medicine to treat colic, sore
throats, coughs, headaches and rashes. The Zulu common name means
'cure for the gall-bladder'. According to Pooley (1998), it is a
hardy garden plant.
Growing Vernonia hirsuta
This species grows easily from both cuttings and seed. Once established,
it needs to be cut back in late summer. The plant, which grows to
about a metre, is best used in a mixed border, or in a 'naturalistic'
grassland garden. It contrasts particularly well with the bright
yellow Berkheya species which flowers at the same time.
- HILLIARD, O.M. 1977. Compositae in Natal, Univ. Natal
- POOLEY, E. 1998. A field guide to wildflowers of Kwazulu-Natal
and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publ.Trust, Durban.
Natal National Botanical Garden