Osteospermum moniliferum L. (=Chrysanthemoides monilifera (L.) T.Norl.)
Common names: bietou, boneseed, tickberry, brother berry, bush-tickberry (Eng.) bietou, boetabessie, bosluisbessie, bokbessie, weskusbietou, skilpadkos (Afr.), inkupheyana, itholonja (Zulu), motlempe, ntloyalekxwaba (South Sotho)
SA Tree No: 736
A fast growing shrub with bright yellow daisies in autumn and winter followed by edible berries; a useful pioneer, screening plant and popular with birds and bees. This species has for many years been known as Chrysanthemoides monilifera.
Osteospermum moniliferum is a fast growing semi-succulent, spreading shrub to 2 m tall. Branches grey to grey-green, smooth ascending, fleshy at first becoming woody. The leaves are simple, alternately arranged, oval to to broadly lanceolate, fleshy and have short petioles of up to 10 mm long. The leaf blade are about 45 mm long and 24 mm broad green to grey green and the surface of the young leaves covered with dense cobweb-like hairs, becoming smooth with age. The flowers are borne on branch ends in groups of up to 5. The flowers are typical daisy-like (involucre) and up to 40 mm in diameter, bell-shaped and bright yellow. This larger 'flower' typical of the daisy family is made up of many individual densely arranged tubular male and female flowers and termed the involucre. The marginal female florets are sterile and each with a single yellow petal. The fruit is unique, deviating from all other members of the daisy family. It is fleshy, egg-shaped, edible and sweet, at maturity brown, blackish or purple and up to 6 mm in diameter.
Osteospermum moniliferum is not threatened.
Distribution and habitat
The bietou is one of the most variable and widespread indigenous shrubs and has been divided into a number of distinct subspecies. It is widely distributed along the coast from the Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and along the Drakensberg escarpment in KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Mpumalanga and further into the Chimanimani Mountains of eastern Zimbabwe and to northern eastern Africa. It occurs in fynbos, strandveld, grassland, subtropical coast, and margins of afro-temperate forest- and grassland vegetation. The subsp. monilifera is from the Western Cape and is the one most often find in cultivation. Here it occurs in both strandveld and fynbos.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
This plant was named Osteospermum monilifera by Linnaeus in 1754. In 1943 T. Norlindh placed it in the genus Chrysanthemoides, a small genus it shared with one other species, C. incana. They were separated from Osteospermum because of their fleshy fruits but today are both back in the larger genus Osteospermum. The name Osteospermum means 'bone seed', from the Greek osteon meaning 'bone' and sperma ''seed', referring to the hard fruits. The former name Chrysanthemoides means 'resembling the genus Chrysanthemum', referring to its Chrysanthemum- like yellow flowers. The specific name moniliferum means 'bearing a necklace' and pertains to the shiny, fleshy fruit arranged in a ring on the margins of the daisy flowers, like a necklace.
The Afrikaans vernacular name bietou is derived from the original Khoisan name.
The plant occurs in full sun in well drained situations such as coastal dunes, hills, mountains (fynbos, or grassland) or rocky terrain, often part of a natural shrubbery or sometimes growing as a solitary individual. It is a pioneer, often appearing after fires. Its life span is between 8-12 years, after which the plants become woody and untidy and are best replaced. Its semi-succulent nature makes it drought tolerant.
Although it may flower throughout the year, its main flowering time is during late autumn and winter. It is pollinated by insects and bees find it particularly attractive. The fleshy fruits, appearing shortly after the flowers, are very popular among frugatory birds.
Osteospermum moniliferum was introduced to Australia to stabilise soil and is a today a serious weed in many parts of Australia.
According to Smith in his Common Names of South African Plants (1966) bietou fruit was formerly used by the Khoi and San as a food source. Other uses an infusion of the leaves as an enema to treat fevers (Coates Palgrave).
Growing Osteospermum moniliferum
The bietou is easily grown and makes an attractive garden asset and especially useful pioneer shrub for the new garden. It thrives in strandveld, fynbos, seafront and grassland gardens. It is a rapid grower, requires a sunny, well-drained position and sufficient space. The shrub is very striking during winter, when the bright dense yellow flowers appear. It makes a striking combination grown with white blombos (Metalasia muricata) and krantz aloe (Aloe arborescens). It can also be pruned into a hedge.
Ample compost annually during winter or spring will enhance growth and performance. Bietou is relatively pest free and an asset to any garden.
Seed germinates with some difficulty and needs scarification (mechanical or chemical). Plant seed in sandy, well drained soil and sow in spring. The seedlings are fast growing and should be transplanted to small containers when large enough to handle.
The grey bietou (Osteospermum incanum = Chrysanthemoides incana), ia a closely related shrubby ground cover bearing grey leaves and similar flowers and fruits to our treated species and is excellent for difficult seafront gardens.
Ernst van Jaarsveld
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
updated December 2016
Plant Type: Shrub
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Autumn, Winter
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy