Cephalaria zeyheriana Szabó
Common names: mock scabious
A well-adapted grassland perennial with elongated inflorescence stalks, white or creamy white flower heads, with protruding stamens. Known from the northern to southeastern parts of South Africa.
Herbaceous perennial, leafy only at the base. Lower leaves more variable than upper leaves, oblanceolate to broadly obovate, lanceolate or lyrate, densely hairy; margins smooth or toothed. Upper leaves pinnatisect, narrower in size, normally in 2 pairs.
Inflorescence terminal, a globose capitulum, 15–30 mm wide; inflorescence stalks (peduncles) about 1 m long, slender, erect, hairy; corolla up to 9 mm long. Flowering in summer, between Nov.–Mar. Fruit unknown.
Closely similar to Cephalaria decurrens with soft-textured leaves, but differs with sub-orbicular to obovate involucral bracts.
Cephalaria zeyheriana is assessed as Least Concern (LC), according to the Red List of South African plants.
Distribution and habitat
This species grows in the Lowveld savanna and sub-escarpment grasslands from Limpopo, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State and extends to KwaZulu-Natal, and in parts of Eswatini and Lesotho, in well-drained sandy or clay soils along the streambanks and rivers. Altitude range is 750–2 800 m.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Cephalaria is derived from the Greek word kephale, meaning ‘a head’ referring to the inflorescence that is a cluster of separate flowers. The species name is in honour of German naturalist Carl Zeyher (1799–1858), who collected extensively in South Africa.
Cephalaria is a genus of approximately 100 species with distribution in Asia, western Eurasia, tropical and southern Africa. In southern Africa the genus has ca. 14 species and differs from Scabiosa by having scarious involucral bracts and non-persistent calyx bristles. Dipsacaceae comprises of annual and perennial herbs, with about 300 species in 15 genera.
The flowers are pollinated by bees and other insects.
There are no known medicinal or cultural uses regarding this species.
Growing Cephalaria zeyheriana
Cephalaria zeyheriana is not in cultivation in the National Botanical Gardens, and there is no information on growing and propagating this species.
- Avhurengwi, P.N. 2005. Berchemia zeyheri (Sond.) Grubov. (Rhamnaceae). PlantZAfrica. Online http://pza.sanbi.org/berchemia-zeyheri Accessed 03/03/2020.
- Foden, W. & Potter, L. 2005. Cephalaria zeyheriana Szabó. National Assessment: Red List of South African plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2020/03/05.
- Germishuizen, G. & Fabian, A. 1997. Wild flowers of northern South Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
- Manning, J.C., Goldblatt, P. & Johns, A. 2014. A taxonomic review of Cephalaria (Dipsacaceae) in the Cape Floristic Region. South African Journal of Botany 94: 195–203.
- Mkhipheni, N. 2017. Cephalaria pungens Szabó. (Dipsacaceae). PlantZAfrica. Online. http://pza.sanbi.org/cephalaria-pungens. Accessed 03/03/2020.
- Napper, D. M. 1968. Notes on some tropical and South African Dipsacaceae. Kew Bulletin. 21: 463–470.
- Plants of the World online. Cephalaria zeyheriana Szabó. http://plantsoftheworldonline.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:319205-1. Accessed 03/03/2020.
- Szabó, Z. (1922). Diagnoses Cephalariarum novarum. Botanische Jahrbücher für Systematik, Pflanzengeschichte und Pflanzengeographie. 57: 641–644.
Acknowledgements: the author gives a special thank you to Prof. Sebola for checking and correcting mistakes.
Plant Type: Perennial
SA Distribution: Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Early Summer, Late Summer
Flower colour: White
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Challenging