Helichrysum petiolare Hilliard & B.L.Burtt
Common names: silver bush everlasting, herbal helichrysum, bedding helichrysum (Eng.), kooigoed, kruie (Afr.), imphepho (Xho.)
Helichrysum petiolare is one of the best known and the most commonly used members of this genus which consists of about 245 species and is found throughout South Africa.
Other members which are sometimes found in gardens include Helichrysum splendidum, Helichrysum argrophyllum, Helichrysum umbraculigerum, Helichrysum populifolium and Helichrysum nudifolium which is mainly used medicinally.
A soft, vigorous shrub, which grows 0.5m - 1m x 1m. The dense, aromatic foliage consists of roundish leaves which are covered with silver-grey hairs. Tiny creamy-white flowers make up abundant flower heads on long stalks which add to the decorative effect of this plant in midsummer (December and January).
Distribution and habitat
Helichrysum petiolare occurs in the drier inland parts, sheltered slopes and forest margins of the Western Cape (Cederburg and Jonkershoek Mountains), Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Helichrysum is derived from the Greek (h)elios for sun and chrysos for gold, although not all species have golden flowers; petiolare refers to long leaf stalks.
Ailments such as coughs, colds and infections are treated with this popular medicinal plant. The leaves are used by Rastafarians to make an infusion to treat asthma, chest problems and high blood pressure. The smoke of the burning leaves is inhaled as a pain reliever. The leaves are also widely used on wounds to prevent infection.
The Khoikhoi used the leaves and flowers as bedding; campers still do the same today. Burning a mixture of Helichrysum and Artemisia afra leaves, makes a pleasant insect repellent. It is very effective at keeping flies and mosquitoes away.
Growing Helichrysum petiolare
This plant can be propagated from cuttings or from seed sown in autumn (March). It should be planted in full sun in well-drained soil. This decorative plant spreads rapidly and should be cut back occasionally.
The cultivar Helichrysum petiolare 'Limelight' has luminescent yellow-green foliage in place of the usual grey. It does well in semi-shade and looks good inter-planted with dark coloured foliage plants to create interesting contrasts. It is short lived and need replacing every 2 years.
- Dyson, A. 1994. Getting to know Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: Indigenous Healing Plants of the Herb and Fragrance Garden. National Botanical Institute. Cape Town.
- Eliovson, S. 1984. Wild Flowers of Southern Africa: How to grow and identify them. 7th Edition.
- Goldblatt, P and Manning, J. 2000. Cape Plants, A conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa, Strelitzia 9. NBI and MBG Press, Pretoria and St Louis.
Harold Porter Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Ground Cover, Perennial, Scrambler, Shrub
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Early Summer
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Cream
Gardening skill: Easy