DescriptionThis is an attractive, fast-growing, spreading, herbaceous groundcover that grows from 300 mm to 600 mm in height. The stems root easily at the nodes. Leaves are simple and dark green. It produces a cream-coloured flower with tessellated purple markings on the palate (lower petal of the corolla) in spring and summer. Flowers are produced over a long period and are followed by capsules with brown seeds. It is semi-hardy, and young plants require protection in areas of heavy frost. In tropical areas it can grow rampantly.
Aystasia gangetica is widely distributed from tropical Asia to southern Africa. The subspecies found in South Africa differs from the Asian plant which usually has larger pink flowers. The South African subspecies occurs along the eastern coastal areas of the country and in the north. It is recorded from the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, Botswana and Namibia.
Asystasia means inconsistency and relates to the fact that the corolla is more or less regular which is unusual in the family Acanthaceae. The word gangetica is derived from the Ganges River in India where it is presumed the species occurs.
In nature, Asystasia has developed a good relationship with the honeybee that pollinates the flowers. The white petals of the flowers and purple blue strip on the lower petal attract the insect, indicating to the honeybee where to find the nectar. The flowers also serve as food for beetles and the plant receives visits from ants. The flowers are very attractive to butterflies too.
Uses and cultural aspect
This ground cover can be used as a mass planting under large trees and borders in full sun, semi-shade or full shade. It is also a good container plant. Leaves have been eaten as spinach by the local people.