Bergeranthus scapiger (Haw.) Schwantes
Common names: polvygie (Afr.)
A dwarf, clump-forming, water-wise succulent, with smooth, glossy leaves and branched clusters of golden-yellow flowers in winter and spring. It is grown primarily for its foliage.
Bergeranthus scapiger is an evergreen plant which grows 60–150 mm high. It has a thick, fleshy rootstock, which, when planted to some extent above soil level, gives the plant a bonsai-like appearance. It is subcaulescent (nearly stemless), with leaves in opposite pairs, the longer one may be up to 150 mm, and the other one a little shorter. The leaves are triangle-shaped in cross section, oblong, tapering, keeled, and form dense clumps. It is a succulent plant that stores water in its thick, fleshy leaves, which makes it drought resistant and able to thrive in dry and hot climates.
Its attractive golden-yellow flowers produce vibrant displays in winter, spring and early summer. It bears 3 or 4 flowers on compressed pedicels in branched heads, each flower up to 50 mm in diameter. Seeds are in hard, woody capsules.
According to the Rest List of South African plants website, Bergeranthus scapiger is considered to be not threatened and is assessed as Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Bergeranthus scapiger originates in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, where it grows on stony ground.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Bergeranthus is named after Alwin Berger (1871–1931), a well-known German horticulturalist. The species name scapiger, means ‘having a scape’ from the Latin scapus, ‘a scape’, and gerere, meaning ‘having’, referring to the flowers.
The genus Bergeranthus is a member of the Aizoaceae family, in the major group Angiosperms (flowering plants). It is a small genus of 10 species that all occur in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
Succulents share certain features, such as fleshy leaves, stems or roots that can store water, that allows them to survive in waterless, non-fertile and in semi-arid environments. Succulence and innovative water storage and saving mechanisms contribute to their resilience to drought. Flowers are mostly adapted to attract insects as pollinators.
Succulents hold on to life like no other plants. What this means, is that you can take cuttings of succulent plants and leave them outside for days or weeks, but still they will hold onto life without need for soil or even water. Succulents are the water-wise plants that we need to cultivate more, not only because they are beautiful and come in many different colours, shapes and sizes, but mainly because the days of having lovely lush gardens may be coming to an end because water is becoming more and more scarce as the planet gets hotter and hotter.
Bergeranthus scapiger is a rewarding, summer-growing, water-wise groundcover and thrives in containers.
Growing Bergeranthus scapiger
Bergeranthus scapiger is a hardy plant that grows best in an open position in full sun and will grow in temperate to hot climates. They are summer growers, and perform best with regular watering in summer, but take care not to over water, and they need to be kept drier in winter.
This plant will grow and flower in poor soils. It is drought-tolerant and suitable for xeriscaping. It is also suitable for containers. Succulents require minimal watering. To check whether the plant requires water or not, you can test the soil with your finger – if it feels dry, give it a little water. Direct the water to the roots to avoid it sitting in the crown of the plant as this can cause rot.
Bergeranthus is successfully propagated by division and from cuttings, which can be taken in late summer. It can also be propagated from seeds which can be sown in spring or early summer, either indoors before last frost or sown outdoors after the last frost.
To obtain seeds, allow the seed capsules to dry on the plant, collect the seed capsules and keep them cool and dry. They need to be properly cleaned before being stored.
The plants are prone to red spider mite.
- Burgoyne, P.M. 2006. Bergeranthus scapiger (Haw.) Schwantes. National Assessment: Red List of South African plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2019/11/27.
- Dave’s Garden, Bergeranthus. https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/198992/#b. Accessed on 2019/11/27.
- Koekemoer, M., Steyn, H.M. & Bester, S.P. 2015. Guide to Plant Families of southern Africa. Strelitzia 31. 2nd ed., 2nd print. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa.
- Pienaar, K. & Smith, G.F. 2011. The southern African what flower is that? An essential guide to garden plants. Struik, Cape Town.
- Rock Garden Plants, Bergeranthus scapiger. http://flora.kadel.cz/g/kvCard.asp-Id=17508.htm Accessed on 2019/11/27.
- SucculentGuide.com, Genus: Bergeranthus. https://www.succulentguide.com/cactus/?genus=Bergeranthus Accessed on 2019/11/27.
- The Plant List. Bergeranthus. http://www.theplantlist.org/browse/A/Aizoaceae/Bergeranthus/ Accessed on 2019/11/27.
- Van Jaarsveld, E.J. & Pienaar, U. de V. 2000. Vygies, gems of the veld. Cactus & Co. Libri, Venegono, Italy.
- Williamson, L. 2018. Succulent plants: 11 types of succulents and how to care for them. Better Homes and Gardens Online. https://www.bhg.com.au/succulent-plants-types-of-succulents.
KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Ground Cover, Succulent
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
Flower colour: Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy