Shrub Berkheya

Berkheya bipinnatifida; Shrub Berkheya, khakasi (Zulu)

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It took me a long time, in the 1970s, to realise this was a local species of plant. It grows commonly on verges and forest margins throughout the coastal and escarpment areas of Durban and inland to the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. It is often found growing alongside the introduced invasive plants like Lantana and Triffid Weed.

It is the largest of our Thistle-like daisies. It will grow in full sun and semi-shade and reach a maximum height of around 2.5m, with a spread of about 1.5-2metres. Its sprays of small, cream-coloured flowers appear from about July to February. The flowers are not that attractive to a human eye but our insects all happily visit the flowers for either pollen or nectar. The local butterflies and other insects like wasps and bees visit the flowers in late summer.

This shrub is evergreen, with its most noticeable feature being the grey-green leaves having silver undersides. The leaves are large, with scalloped edges that are spine tipped, and have a rough feel to them. The upright stems are a silver-grey colour. These plants are frost hardy and will reshoot if the stems are frosted, burnt or pruned back at the end of the winter.

It is best used in a garden as a background planting mixed with similar-sized plants like Wild Dagga Leonotis leonurus and Hedgehog Sage Pycnostachys urticifolia. The silver leaves are a great texture and colour change in any local garden. It will grow happily in damp or dry soils and persists for years re-seeding itself and for this reason alone, is also a good plant for re-establishing vegetation on disturbed areas like railway and road reserves that have steep banks.

This plant is easily grown from seed sown in late winter. The seedlings will develop rapidly and will be mature enough to flower in the second growing season.

 

 

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