Ursinia cakilefolia DC.
Common names: Glansoogbergmagriet, Glossy-eyed parachute daisy
Bright and cheerful, the annual ursinias are some of the easiest plants to grow for spring colour.
As a mass spring display, the Skilpad Reserve near Kamieskroon in Namaqualand, must be one of the best in the world. Fields of orange Ursinia cakilefolia cover the ground as far as the eye can see, with waves of flowers moving in the wind and blue, rocky hills floating like islands in an orange sea. This ursinia is easily recognised by the glossy black centre of its daisy flowers, which gives it its beautiful Afrikaans name, glansoogbergmagriet, that literally means glossy-eyed-mountain-daisy.
The annual ursinias germinate with the autumn rains, grow during the cool wet winter, flower in spring and set seed before the long dry summer.
The plants are single-stemmed but bushy, branching at the base and reaching a height of about 45 cm. The leaves are bright green and finely divided, almost like carrot leaves. They feel smooth, soft and slightly succulent, and when crushed smell sweet and fresh. The green stems often turn an attractive dark beetroot red colour. At the tip of each stem is a single daisy. While in bud the long slender stems droop downwards and only straighten as the flowers open. An open flower measures about 5 cm across. The petals of the flowers are bright orange or yellow. The glossy black centre so typical of Ursinia cakilefolia is formed by shiny scales that cover the inner florets.The number of flowers per plant varies from 15 to 20, and depending on how warm it is, each open flower lasts for a number of days before turning into white balls as the seeds form. In the evening the petals fold together closing the flowers for the night. The seeds look like miniature white paper flowers, and are light in weight, ready to float away on the breeze as they dry, and give the plant its English common name, parachute daisy.
Distribution and habitat
In the wild Ursinia cakilefolia is found on the sandy flats and slopes in Namaqualand and the western Karoo and down the west coast as far as Redelinghuys in the Western Cape.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
There are 38 species of Ursinia, or parachute daisies as they are commonly known, found in southern Africa and 1 species in NorthAfrica. Not all of them are annuals, many are herbaceous perennials or subshrubs. Typical features of all the ursinias are the single flowers on stems that nod in bud, the several rows of bracts with rounded papery tips that surround the base of the flower head and the seed or fruit that is topped with prominent, white, spreading petal-like scales. Other annual species grown in Kirstenbosch for spring display are Ursinia anthemoides (common parachute daisy or ringmagriet), Ursinia calenduliflora (bergmagriet)and Ursinia speciosa (Namakwa-ursinia).
Bees are the main pollinators, visiting the flowers for their small amounts of nectar.
Picked flowers will open indoors and last cheerfully for a number of days in a vase.
Growing Ursinia cakilefolia
At Kirstenbosch we plant large beds of both orange and yellow Ursinia cakilefolia for the spring display. In autumn (March) the seed is sown in seed beds or trays in the nursery. The soil we use is sandy, well drained and weed free, and is dug over and leveled before sowing. The light seeds are sown as evenly as possible on a windless day, gently watered and then covered with a thin layer of clean sand. The beds are watered regularly to keep the soil moist. Germination is usually very good and occurs within 3 - 7 days. The seed can also be sown directly into the garden beds, but germination is often irregular and competition from faster growing weeds a problem. The seedlings are pricked out from the nursery directly into the garden as soon as they are large enough to comfortably handle.
The ursinias must be planted in full sun and in well-drained, composted soil.For the most effective displays they must be planted close to each other and in flowerbeds that face north as the flower heads turn to follow the sun. The ursinias mix beautifully with other annuals like Arctotis acaulis (gousblom), Dimorphotheca sinuata and D. pluvialis (Namaqualand daisies) and bright blue Heliophila coronopifolia (blue flax). Ursinia cakilefolia should be frost hardy to zone 9 (-7oC / 20oF), but in very cold climates that experience frost, is best sown in early spring under glass,or outdoors after the last frost.
Liesl van der Walt
Plant Type: Bi/Annual, Ground Cover
SA Distribution: Northern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring
Flower colour: Yellow, Orange
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy