Senecio littoreus Thunb.
Common names: coast senecio (Eng.), geelhongerblom (Afr.)
Senecio littoreus is a small, but tough, erect annual, well suited to extreme coastal conditions.
Senecio littoreus is an erect, hairless annual up to 400 mm high. The leaves are egg-shaped to lance-shaped, and those lower down appear deeply lobed, eared at the base with the toothed, margins rolled under.
The flower heads are radiate, i.e. are typical ‘daisies’, with bright yellow disc- and ray-florets. Several are produced per plant, in lax, terminal corymbs, in spring (from August to November). The flowers are followed by rounded whitish grey seed heads, which disintegrate into many tiny seeds, each with a pappus of many fine bristles.
According to the website http://redlist.sanbi.org checked on 19 October 2015 the conservation status of this plant is Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
This species is found in coastal sands on sandy coastal flats, from Koekenaap in Namaqualand, to the Cape Peninsula and to Napier in the Overberg.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Senecio is derived from the Latin senex meaning ‘old man’, alluding to the whitish grey-hairy pappus, which is often typical to this genus. The name littoreus means ‘of the seashore’, which is in reference to the habitat of this species.
Senecio is a cosmopolitan genus consisting of more than 1 200 species. In southern Africa the genus is represented by more than 200 species.
Bees and beetles are seen regularly visiting the flowers. It is therefore quite likely for them to be involved in pollination. The small seeds are light and have a bristly pappus and are dispersed by wind.
No medicinal or cultural uses are on record, although its common name geelhongerblom, meaning ‘yellow hunger-tea’ indicates that it may have been used in former times as a tea to treat dyspepsia, to promote hunger.
Senecio littoreus displays immense promise as a garden ornamental.
Growing Senecio littoreus
Sow seeds in late summer to autumn (March-April), in a well-draining, growing medium. Cover the seeds lightly with a layer of sand or fine bark, and water thoroughly. Keep the medium moist and do not allow to dry out completely. Seeds will germinate in one to two weeks. Seedlings will be ready for transplanting into the garden at four to six weeks.
Plant Senecio littoreus in groups or clumps to bring spring colour to the mixed border, mass plant as a bedding plant, plant in pockets in a rockery, or grow in containers or window boxes. It is also suitable for coastal gardens. Plant it in sandy areas or on a sloped area, which should allow for good drainage.
Senecio littoreus will also perform well planted among companion plants. Combine them with other annuals such as: Felicia tenella, F. heterophylla and F dubia, Arctotis hirsuta and A. fastuosa, Dimorphotheca pluvialis and D. sinuata, Nemesia strumosa, Senecio arenarius and S. elegans, and/or herbaceous perennials and woody shrubs including: Arctotis acaulis, Arctotheca calendula, Cotyledon orbiculata, Lampranthus aureus, species of Carpobrotus, Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp monilifera and Pelargonium fulgidum, P. capitatum, P. cucullatum and P. betulinum.
- Goldblatt, P & Manning, J. 1996. West Coast. South African Wild Flower Guide 7. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape Plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria & Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri.
- Smith, C.A. 1966. Common names of South African plants. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No. 35. Government Printer, Pretoria.
- Stearn, W. 2002. Stearn's dictionary of plant names for gardeners. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Bi/Annual
SA Distribution: Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
Flower colour: Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy