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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dwarf Felicia (Felicia dubia)

Family Asteraceae
Felicia dubia is an erect annual growing 50–400 mm high. The oblanceolate leaves are sparsely toothed and hairy.

The flowerheads with blue ray florets and yellow disc florets are borne singly on a hairy stalk. These flowerheads are normally 25 mm in diameter. The involucral bracts are arranged in three rows, with the outer row shorter than the two equally-sized inner rows. Flowering is from July to October.

Distribution and habitat
This species is common in the Western and Northern Cape, specifically throughout Namaqualand and in the Karoo, and extends southwards towards the Cape Peninsula.

Habitats vary from gravel to sandy flats and slopes and other rocky places.
Felicia dubia flowers are visited by a variety of insects and bees, any one of which could do the job of pollination.

Felicia dubia , like most or all annuals, has a very interesting lifecycle. It usually has a short lifespan and because of this it invests a great deal of its resources in reproduction. In years of good rainfall plants appear in high densities which then results in the production of literally millions of seeds. Many of these get buried in the seed bank.

Plants will germinate with sufficient rains and signs of a general drop in temperature in autumn. This rain is also instrumental in rinsing off chemical germination inhibitors from seed coats. It also aids in reducing salt concentrations in the topsoil of saline soils. With this process now underway, the species grows fast and produces flowers to attract a pollinator (mid-winter to early spring). After the successful pollination, seeds develop, are dispersed from early to mid-spring and are buried in the soil just before the onset of unfavourable environmental conditions such as the harsh heat of summer in which hardly any rain falls, except perhaps in the form of fog from the cold Benguela Current. This winter or spring annual thus completes its entire lifecycle in a single year by dying off just after it has shed a plethora of seed for the following season.

It thus enables the survival of the species by ensuring it makes best use of good conditions: germination in autumn with the first rains or when the temperature starts dropping, only flowering when there is enough rain available and then dispersing the hairy, tiny and dry seeds through strong winds prevailing in the area.
Uses and cultural aspects
No cultural uses recorded, but it is used in horticulture. Grow the species in a sunny position as a mass planting, in a mix border with other annuals or perennials. It can also be grown in pots.