Alectra sessiliflora

There appears to be no English common name for this plant, however it is known as Verfblommetjie in Afrikaans. Curious – ‘paint flower’? Perhaps because it stands tall and straight (about 60 cm) in the grassland above other plants and it tipped with clusters of bright yellow flowers? The stems and leaf margins are purplish, and the leaves irregularly toothed. The roots are bright orange, so maybe the name simply describes the vibrant colour on each part of the plant? It is semi-parasitic on grasses as are many members of the snapdragon family. Apparently it is also parasitic on the little yellow daisy Haplocarpha scaposa. About 20 species of Alectra occur in South Africa, with Alectra sessiliflora found all the way from the Cape through to Malawi and Madagascar. It may be that, as not much is flowering at this time of year, the Afrikaans name describes the fact that it is particularly striking in the grasslands where it occurs? Common names of plants can tell us so much about the habits, medicinal uses and pollinators of plants. We simply need to pay attention.

Insp Indig Alectra sessiliflora CGrant ed139 apr14

Alectra sessiliflora. Photo by Christeen Grant