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Friday, September 6, 2013

False Gerbera (Haplocarpha scaposa)

Family Asteraceae
If you have a wetland or stony area in your garden, try the secret power of the false gerbera. Its magic carpet is suitable for small and large gardens.


Description

Haplocarpha scaposa is a fast-growing perennial plant that forms a mat of yellow flowers. The strong, thick rootstocks reach down to 600 mm; flat leaves arise from the base. The entire surface of the leaf is densely hairy, giving a white, woolly appearance,especially to the underside ; the veins are almost parallel on the undersurface of the leaf. It bears pale yellow flowers up to 40 - 80 mm diameter, from September to March. The flowers are followed by very thin seeds, easily dispersed by the wind.

Conservation status

The genus has about 10 species in Africa of which about five occur in central Africa; it is absent from Namibia and Botswana. Haplocarpha scaposa is endemic to Africa. It is a very common plant and is not regarded as a threatened species.

Distribution and habitat

Haplocarpha scaposa is widely distributed in wetland areas of Mpumalanga, the southeastern Free State, Swaziland and the Eastern Cape; it also extends to eastern Africa. False gerbera is a frost-tender groundcover and young plants require protection in areas that experience heavy frost.

Derivation of name and historical aspects

The genus name Haplocarpha is derived from the Greek words haplos which means single, spread out, and karphos, referring to the pappus. The epithet scaposa is a Latin word that means with scapes, referring to the leafless flowering stems.

Ecology

In its natural habitat, Haplocarpha scaposa is often visited by beetles and honey bees that feed on the pollen, thus pollinating the flowers. The flowering stalk remains attached for lasts about 21 days. As soon as the seed dries out, it is dispersed by the wind, up to 15 m away.

Uses and cultural aspects

This groundcover can be used in large areas of the garden, in semi-shade or full sun. Pooley (1998) reports crushed leaves used by women during menstruation; also used by traditional healers when consulting their divining bones; the white felt of the leaves was once used as tinder.