Senecio elegans ( L )
Common names: wild Cineraria (Eng.); strandblommetjie (Afr.)
During spring this mauve annual daisy flowers in abundance along the west and south coast of the Cape. The plants vary considerably in height and flower colour, even those growing in close proximity.
The leaves are soft and curly, sometimes almost succulent. The flowers grouped together at the top of the stem make a beautiful display when flowering in mass, with colours varying from white to dark mauve and bright pink. The centres of the daisies are bright yellow, full with pollen and nectar which attracts bees and beetles. Once pollinated the flower heads turn into fluffy white balls, ready for the wind to disperse the seeds.
Distribution and habitat
This plant occurs the coast in the southern Cape and Western Cape.
Flowers are pollinated by bees and beetles and the seed is wind dispersed.
Growing Senecio elegans
Senecio elegans may be a bit weedy by some gardener’s standards, but planted densely in large groups they offer a great reward for very little effort. Adapted to the coast and summer drought they do well in disturbed, sandy and windy areas. The dry summers they survive as seed and germinate freely in autumn with the start of the winter rains.
At Kirstenbosch they are bushy annuals about 60 cm high.
To grow in a garden the seed must be sown in autumn in areas with a winter-rainfall. In summer-rainfall areas the plants will need watering in winter, or the seed could be sown in early spring once the danger of frost has passed. Sow in seed trays or directly in the open ground. A sunny position in well-drained soil is ideal. The seed germinates within a week or two and are easy to transplant about 2 months later, or as soon as the seedlings are big enough to handle.
For a striking show Senecio elegans can be planted in a mix with the orange or yellow annual Ursinia cakilefolia or Oncosiphon grandiflorum, which grow to the same height. Senecio elegans is sometimes confused with Senecio glastifolius, a tall perennial species with rougher leaves, which also makes an attractive garden plant.
Liesl van der WaltKirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Bi/Annual
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
PH: Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Flower colour: Purple, White, Pink, Mauve/Lilac
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy