Alepidea amatymbica Eckl. & Zeyh.
Common names: larger tinsel flower (Eng.); kalmoes (Afr.); Iqwili (isiXhosa); ikhathazo (isiZulu)
This would be a dream plant for every herbalist to have near at hand, as it is an important component of the healer's pharmacy.
Alepidea amatymbica is a robust, erect plant, up to 2 m tall in grassland; the leaves form a loose rosette with the flower spike rising above the surrounding grasses. The margins of the leaves are prominently toothed, each tooth ending in a bristle. The inflorescence is widely branched, with a number of small, star-shaped, white flowers, ± 250 mm in diameter.
Because it is an important component of the grasslands, which are subjected to regular burning, it regenerates from well-developed underground stems, which are able to survive the heat of a grass fire.
Distribution and habitat
It is common in the summer rainfall grasslands of southern Africa, and extends up the east coast as far as Zimbabwe, and northwards into Kenya and Ethiopia. There are about 28 species of Alepidea and most occur in southern Africa. Alepidea amatymbica is divided into three subspecies.
Used generally in traditional medicine to treat colds, coughs, rheumatism, wounds, and to wash divining bones. I have personally seen marijuana (dagga) smokers mixing it in their cigarettes and it is said that it takes away the smell of the herb.
Growing Alepidea amatymbica
This plant is best grown from fresh seed sown in trays filled with a very well-drained seedling mix in late summer or early spring. Once sown, the seed should be lightly covered and kept watered until germination takes place. The seedlings are very prone to damping off and so watering should be carefully monitored. Once potted into individual pots, the plants need to be grown until the underground stem develops, after which they can be planted out.
S.Nonjinge & B.B.Tarr
Natal National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Perennial
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Soil type: Loam
Flowering season: Late Summer
Flower colour: White
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Average