Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus
Dianthus basuticus Burtt Davy subsp. basuticus
Common names: Lesotho carnation, Lesotho pink, Drakensberg carnation (Eng.); Lesothose wilde-angelier (Afr.); hlokoa-la-tsela (Sesotho)
Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus is an exquisite, almost tufted, evergreen to deciduous perennial. It is extremely hardy and bears a clump of beautiful, scented, white to pink carnation-like flowers with fringed petals. It has beautiful bluish-grey foliage when the plants are not in bloom.
Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus is a small perennial herb that grows about 150 to 250 mm high, forming small mats. The stem arises from a woody rootstock. The leaves are simple, linear-lanceolate and the margin is entire. It has beautiful white to pink flowers that usually appear in summer, from November to March.
According to the Red List of South African plants website, the conservation status of Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus is Least Concern (LC). This plant is harvested for its medicinal value in the wild, but at present it is not considered to be under threat as it is still widely spread. The demand, as compared to the number of wild plants, is still less.
Distribution and habitat
Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus is endemic to southern Africa. Its major habitat is grassland and it is spread widely across the eastern highveld of South Africa and Lesotho. It does predominantly well on mountains, on rocky and grassy slopes, preferring dry, open habitats at a high altitude. Provincially it is distributed across Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Mpumalanga.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Dianthus is derived from the Greek words dios, which means ‘divine, godly or godlike’ and anthos, meaning ‘flowers’, likely referring to the scent. It is the second largest genus under Caryophyllaceae, with approximately 300 species. The species name basuticus means ‘from Basutoland’, which is now known as Lesotho. Hlokoana-la-tsela, the Sesotho common name, means ‘foot path grass’, referring to this being a plant which usually grows close to foot paths.
It attracts insects to the garden.
Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus is regarded as one of the most important medicinal and magical plants in the Basotho culture. The roots are commonly used in a decoction for purification of blood, management of diabetes and in increasing the fertility of bulls. It has also been used for the treatment of chest pains, mumps, infections and as a love charm. The roots are also used by young ladies, who wash themselves with it to enhance their beauty.
Growing Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus
Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus prefers growing in a sunny position in a well-drained soil. The soil can be enriched with well-decomposed manure or compost. New plants can be propagated by seeds and cuttings. For a high germination percentage, maintain an optimum temperature of 20-25°C. It is a beautiful specimen in a mixed border, rockery garden, or planted as ground cover and it requires low maintenance.
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- Von Staden, L. 2016. Dianthus basuticus Burtt Davy subsp. basuticus. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2022/08/14.
Lufuno Nenungwi & Matetoane Bontle
Free State National Botanical Garden
Acknowledgements: The authors thank Deon du Plessis for allowing the use of his images to illustrate their article.
Plant Type: Perennial
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Early Summer, Late Summer
Flower colour: White, Pink
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Average