Staberoha cernua (L.f.) T.Durand & Schinz
Common names: droopy tasselreed
An attractive, small, tufted restio, with brown-tan seed heads that is ideal for fynbos gardens.
Staberoha cernua is a compact, reed-like, evergreen perennial, which spreads up to 0.2 m and reaches 0.5 m high. The sheaths are persistent (remain attached to the culms). The culms are unbranched, with a very short rhizome. The flowers are very tiny and are always hidden by the brown-tan bracts. The female inflorescences are linear, whereas the male inflorescences are paniculate. The spikelets are longer than the spathes in both male and female inflorescences.
Staberoha cernua flowers in spring to late summer (January, February or March or August, September, October, November or December) and releases the seeds in early summer (November). The fruits are smooth nutlets, covered by golden-tan wings.
Staberoha cernua is most similar to S. aemula and it can be differentiated by its membranous or hyaline, often lacerated wings on the female tepals (Linder 2011).
Staberoha cernua is assessed as Least Concern (LC) by the Red List of South African plants.
Distribution and habitat
Staberoha cernua is distributed in the Western Cape Province, where it occurs in the Little Karoo, on the Outeniqua and Langeberg Mountains along the West Coast, on the Cape Peninsula and in the Swartberg Mountains, and there are a few populations north of Ceres and east of Swellendam. Staberoha cernua grows in Fynbos at 5–2 100 m altitude, in well-drained soil derived from Peninsula Formation Sandstone, and in pebbly rocky areas.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Staberoha was named by Carl Sigismund Kunth (1788–1850), Professor of Botany at the University of Berlin, to honour Johann Heinrich Julius Staberoh, who was a German pharmacist and medical assessor and lived in 1785–1857. He was a co-worker at the Pharmacopoea Borussica and a member of the German Pharmaceutical Society and published many articles during his time. The species name cernua is from the Greek word cernuus, which means ‘slightly drooping’. It was named for its drooping male spikelets, and that is also where the common name is derived.
Restionaceae has 400 species in about 40 genera and most of the species occur in winter rainfall regions on poor sandy soils in South Africa and Australia, with a few outliers in the north of Africa, Madagascar, Indo-China and Chile. Staberoha has approximately 9 species.
Just as other restios are, Staberoha cernua is wind pollinated. The seeds are covered with wings that function to disperse the seeds, also by using the wind.
Because of the presence of rhizomes, this species resprouts after a fire. This means that this species can regenerate by both seeds and resprouting.
Female and male flowers of restios are borne on separate plants (dioecious). For reproduction, the male and female plants in the natural habitat often grow in groups. This means that the pollen from male plant must fly off by wind and find the female flower, drop and settle on the feathery styles for fertilization to occur. The male plants produce masses of pollen for effective pollination. Male spikelets face downwards to release the pollen grains, and the female spikelets are always facing upwards to receive and catch the pollen.
The leaves of restios are reduced and form leaf-like structures, called sheaths. Restios have cylindrical stems, called culms, which are the only green part of the plants. They perform the photosynthesis function. For their first and second year, seedlings look different to the mature plants.
A very useful, small tufted restio, ideal for a small fynbos garden, that has yet to be commercialized. The plants look spectacular planted as a border 15 cm away from the edge to prevent culms being damaged.
Growing Staberoha cernua
Staberoha cernua is propagated by seed sown in the early winter season when the temperature drops to 5–10ºC at night and 15–20ºC during the day. The seed responds very well if they are ripe and mature. The seed needs to be treated by smoke derived from burning dry and wet fynbos plant material in order to break seed dormancy and stimulate germination. Treatment can be done in a smoking tent or one can use the Instant Smoke Plus Seed Primer packets. Soak the seeds or dust them with fungicide and water the sowed seeds with fungicide once a week to prevent fungal infection.
Prepare well-drained and aerated fynbos medium and lay on the seeds. Because the seeds are fine, cover them with a finely sieved fynbos mixture. The seed takes about 4 weeks to germinate. Feed the seedlings with organic fertilizer during the growing season to prevent yellowish and unhealthy plants. Monitor the seedlings to make sure they do not get dry or too wet. You may have to place the seedlings under shade net during hot season.
The seedlings are ready to plant in the open ground after a period of 2 years and develop their mature foliage in the third year. During the third year, plants begin flowering. Restios can be planted at any time of the year, as long as the plants are well watered. However, the best planting season is at the beginning of rainy season, and this applies for both winter and summer rainfall areas. Plants prefer full sun in a well-drained, acidic soil, with plenty of air movement. Mulching the bed reduces water evaporation, keep the roots cool and prevents weed growth.
- Brown, N.A.C. & Duncan, G.D. 2006. Grow fynbos plants. Kirstenbosch Gardening Series. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town.
- Brown, N., Jamieson, H. & Botha, P. 1998. Grow restios. Kirstenbosch Gardening Series. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
- CasaBio. Staberoha cernua. https://casabio.org/taxa/staberoha-cernua. Accessed 12 June 2020.
- Dorrat-Haaksma, E. & Linder, H.P. 2012. Restios of the fynbos. Struik Nature, Cape Town.
- iNnaturalist. Observation of Staberoha cernua by Felix Riegel. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/39925288. Accessed 12 June 2020.
- Linder, H.P. 2011. The African Restionaceae: an IntKey identification and description system. Version 6. Contributions from the Bolus Herbarium 19.
- Powrie, F. 1998. Grow South African Plants. A gardener's companion to indigenous plants. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Acknowledgements: the author thanks Felix Riegel for photos of Staberoha cernua in habitat.
Plant Type: Restio
SA Distribution: Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer, Late Summer
Flower colour: Brown
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Average