Dissotis canescens (E. Mey. ex R.A. Graham) Hook. f.
Common names: pink wild tibouchina, pink marsh dissotis, ordeal bean (Eng); kalverbossie (Afr); imfeyesele (Zulu)
This pretty shrub looks remarkably like a dwarf version of the related South American tibouchina trees (Tibouchina spp.) which are grown in the more tropical parts of the country. This is where the similarity ends!
Our pink marsh dissotis is a soft wooded shrub up to 1.5 m in height and 1 m in spread. It is deciduous in winter and may be grown in a warm position on the highveld where it is dormant for the coldest months.
The large brilliant magenta flowers appear from December to April and make a spectacular display. They contrast well with the dark green to purplish leaves and reddish stems of the plant. The flowers are quite unusual in that they have two sets of stamens (pollen producing parts) which differ from each other. Five are purple and curved and the other five are shorter and yellow in colour.
Dissotis canescens is not threatened, it is assessed as Least Concern (LC) on the Red List of South African Plants.
Distribution and habitat
The pink marsh dissotis can be found growing in marshy areas from the Eastern Cape through the eastern regions of South Africa and into tropical Africa.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name derives from dissos, meaning 'twofold', in reference to the anthers which are two different types; and canescens, referring to the greyish-white hairs on the plant.
Dissotis canescens has been traditionally used as a famine plant, and also to treat dysentery and hangovers.
Growing Dissotis canescens
Dissotis canescens is a rewarding garden plant provided it is given enough water in summer. It makes a good shrub border specimen. A prime position would be near a pond where it can obtain plenty of moisture. It prefers full sun, and thrives in good soil with lots of compost.
It may be grown from seed in spring, and from cuttings taken in spring and summer. It is also possible to propagate it from rooted runners which may be lifted.
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Perennial
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Soil type: Loam
Flowering season: Late Summer, Autumn
Flower colour: Purple
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Average