Felicia aethiopica (Burm.f.) Bolus & Wolley-Dod ex Adamson & T.M. Salter subsp. aethiopica
Common names: wild aster, dwarf Felicia (Eng.); wilde-aster, bloublombossie (Afr.)
This lovely plant with its bright blue flowers is a must in every garden as it flowers all year, keeping your garden bright and beautiful.
Felicia aethiopica subsp. aethiopica is a compact, straggling shrub up to 1 m, stems usually rough-hairy. The leaves are loosely arranged, oval, almost sessile and 2-5 mm wide. Leaves are spreading or bent down and sparsely covered with rough hairs.
The solitary flower heads are carried well above the foliage on long, rough-textured stalks, flowers are sky blue with a yellow centre. It flowers all year round. The seeds are winged for wind dispersal.
This plant does not appear on the Red Data List.
Distribution and habitat
It grows frequently in bushy places on the lower plateau slopes of Table Mountain and has a large distribution range on flats from the Cederberg to the Eastern Cape.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
There are 83 different species of Felicia and 78 are native to southern Africa, most of which are found in the Cape. The other species are native to other parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia. The genus Felicia Cass. was named after Felix, a German official at Regensburg, who died in 1846. Felicia aethiopica has two subspecies, aethiopica and ecklonis. The two subspecies can be distinquished by the fruit (achenes). In subsp. aethiopia the fruit are glabrous and in subsp. ecklonis the fruit are hairy.
The bright blue flowers attract many small flying insects such as bees, butterflies and wasps. This plant produces large amounts of fruit. Attached to the fruit is a tuft of hairs called a pappus. Fruit are small and light and the hairs act like a parachute when the wind blows, to disperse the seed.
Felicia aethiopica subsp. aethiopica is an attractive plant that can be used in rock garden pockets, mixed borders, as edging for taller perennials, filler, ground cover, containers or allowed to sprawl over low garden walls. In a mixed border it can be planted with Helichrysum cymosum, Bulbine frutescens, Ursinia paleacea, U. sericea, Plecostachys serpyllifolia, Cineraria saxifraga, C. geifolia, Dimorphotheca fruticosus, Pelargonium betulinum (white) and Geranium incanum (white).
Growing Felicia aethiopica
Sow seeds in spring or autumn on sandy loam soil with good drainage. Cover the seeds with a light dressing of sand. It takes up to three weeks to germinate.
Cuttings can be taken in autumn or spring. Fill a container with a mixture of 1:1 fine milled pine bark and polystyrene. To propagate cuttings use stems 30-50 mm long, remove side shoots, a third to half of the lower leaves and flowers if present. The stems must be cut just below the node and the end of the stems can be covered in rooting hormone to encourage root growth. Shake all excess powder off before putting them in a container as too much powder will burn the cutting. Put the cuttings about a third of the stem length in the soil. Cover the container with a plastic bag to retain the moisture. The cuttings can also be placed in a mist unit with bottom heating at 25º C. Roots start developing after 2-3 weeks. Once the plants are established, they grow fast. Grow in full sun or semi-shade. They easily adapt to new soil types. It is a water-wise plant and grows well in coastal gardens. Fertilizer for flowering plants (with ratio of N:P:K = 3:1:5) can be added to the soil to enhance growth.
- Bean, A. & Johns, A. 2005. Stellenbosch to Hermanus. South African Wild Flower Guide 5. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
- Brown, N. & Duncan, G. 2006. Grow fynbos plants. Kirstenbosch Gardening Series. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town.
- Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds). 2003. Plants of southern Africa : an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9: 323. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria & Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St Louis.
- Leistner, O.A. (ed.). 2000. Seeds plants of southern Africa : families and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- Trinder-Smith, T. 2006. Wild flowers of the Table Mountain National Park. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
Millennium Seed Bank
Plant Type: Perennial, Shrub
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring, Sporadic/All year
Flower colour: Blue
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy