Macowania corymbosa M.D.Hend.
Common names: No common names are recorded for this species.
Macowania corymbosa is an extremely attractive shrub. Its slender leaves create a vivid, moss-green foliage that is topped by a bouquet-like cluster of large yellow flowerheads. Its natural habitat, on streamsides and in rocky river beds in the high northern KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, forms a dramatic backdrop for viewing this spectacular shrub in the wild.
Macowania corymbosa is a tall, single-stemmed shrub, growing up to about 1.2 m high and with a tree-like shape; the slender main stem branching to form a ‘canopy’ of leafy branches. The stems and branches are greyish brown and covered with fine glandular hairs. The older branches are rough and covered with the remains of old leaf-bases.
The leaves are dark green, long and narrow and densely clustered on the branches. The very regular arrangement of the leaves produces a visually very pleasing effect. A close look shows that the leaves are only dark green on their upper surfaces, which are also covered in fine, hair-like glands. The leaf margins are rolled around the lower surface, which is covered with soft white wool except for the pronounced midrib.
The typical daisy flowerheads are grouped in small clusters at the branch tips, and the flowers are lemon-yellow. The involucral bracts are pale, with striking dark brown margins. The buds form an attractive arrangement of pale, spherical structures. The main flowering period is in winter (June–August).
The old flowers wither while the small, light fruits are developing. These are dry and with a small, feathery pappus to aid in dispersal.
This species is listed as LC (Least Concern), indicating stable populations and no habitat threats (http://Redlist.sanbi.org).
Distribution and habitat
Macowania corymbosa occurs in the northern KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg and Lesotho, in the upper reaches of rivers and streams. It has been collected only in rocky river beds or near streams. This habitat is normally very well vegetated and M. corymbosa subsequently is one of the tallest members of the genus Macowania, no doubt due to the need to compete for light with other streamside shrubs and trees.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The generic name Macowania commemorates Peter MacOwan, a botanist and teacher from Hull, England, who came to South Africa in 1861, and contributed significantly to the development of botany and other fields in the country. The species name corymbosa refers to the arrangement of the heads, in corymbose clusters of 5–15 flowerheads. This feature distinguishes M. corymbosa from close relatives in the genus, all of which have solitary flowerheads.
There are 12 species in the genus Macowania, and most occur in the greater Drakensberg region, although 2 species occur disjunctly on the East African highlands.
Like many indigenous plant species, little is known about the ecology of Macowania corymbosa. It undoubtedly prefers rocky soils derived from typical Drakensberg geological formations, and clearly requires a moist habitat with a high water table. The plant might also use stream beds to escape the frequent fires that sweep through Drakensberg grassland habitats, as it does not appear to have any resprouting ability.
Other daisies with similar flowers are frequently pollinated by beetles, although there is no record of the specific pollinator of M. corymbosa. Not all the tiny florets in the flowerhead produce seeds, but the seeds have a flimsy pappus (parachute of fine, fluffy hairs) and so are unlikely to be distributed far.
The glandular leaves are resinous, which probably makes them unpalatable.
There are no documented medicinal or cultural uses for M. corymbosa, but its attractive flowers, as well as its foliage and pretty habit, would make it an ideal garden shrub, if it cultivates well.
Growing Macowania corymbosa
Although M. corymbosa has not (to my knowledge) been cultivated, it would make an attractive taller hedge or shrubby border plant in wetter sites in all gardens, except possibly those in the hottest and most humid areas of the country.
- Busch, B. & Bergh, N.G. 2013. An interactive digital key to the Relhania clade of southern African daisies using Delta-Intkey. Available free for download at: http://biodiversityadvisor.sanbi.org/research-and-modelling/identification-keys/
- Hilliard, O.M. & Burtt, B. 1976. Macowania. Notes from the Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh 34,3: 260–279.
- Pooley, E. 2003. Mountain flowers, a field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Smith, C.A. 1966. Common names of South African plants. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No. 35. Government Printer, Pretoria.
The Compton Herbarium
Plant Type: Shrub
SA Distribution: KwaZulu-Natal
Soil type: Loam
Flowering season: Winter, Sporadic/All year
Flower colour: Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun, Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Challenging