Monopsis unidentata (Dryand. Ex Aiton)E.Wimm
Common names: wild violet
This lovely, dainty plant caught our attention and was collected growing wild with buffalo grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) around Nature's Valley. With its little mauve flowers creeping on long green stems through the grass, it looked as if the buffalo grass was flowering.
It has many long, thin stems that root where they touch the ground, forming mats about 20cm high and 50cm wide. The stems and leaves are bright green and soft. The small, serrated leaves are grouped near the base of the stems with the little violet-like flowers at the tips. The delightful little flowers, appearing in early summer (October - January), are deep purple with 5 narrow petals; 3 pointing upwards and 2 pointing downwards.
Distribution and habitat
In nature, Monopsis unidentata is found growing in damp, sandy flats and rocky slopes from Riversonderend in the southern Cape and further along the east coast to KwaZulu-Natal. It is a fast growing perennial that loves sunny, wet spots.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
There are 13 species in the genus Monopsis, found in central and southern Africa. The only other species grown at Kirstenbosch is Monopsis lutea or yellow lobelia, which also flowers in summer. Another flat growing perennial, it creeps along, also preferring damp places, but the flowers are bright yellow and the stems are far fewer, longer and thicker than those of Monopsis unidentata. In nature it is found growing in damp areas, from the Grootwinterhoek mountains in the Western Cape to Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape.
Bees visit these flowers and may be the pollinators.
Growing Monopsis unidentata
Monopsis unidentata flowers throughout the summer, creating a beautiful display when planted in pots, along the front edge of borders or around ponds. To enjoy a mass of flowers, space the plants about 30cm apart. They are also very attractive twining through other plants.
Even though Monopsis unidentata prefers damp areas, it will grow just as well in ordinary light garden soil if it is kept moist throughout the year. It is unaffected by cold weather, but dies down for a short time in winter and shoots again in the spring.
Monopsis unidentata is easily propagated from cuttings taken throughout the year. Because the plants root as they spread, it is easy to divide the mother plant or to remove and replant rooted stems.
Liesl van der Walt
Plant Type: Ground Cover, Perennial
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Early Summer
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Blue, Purple, Mauve/Lilac
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Average