Inspector Indigenous – Acalypha penduncularis

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Acalypha penduncularis – Common name: Brooms and Brushes, Zulu name: usununundu

The delightful common name of this perennial plant refers to the very different flowers on the male and female plant. The male flowers are red and white, clustered on a slender spike while the female flowers are a spidery puff of red elongated stigmas. It is easy to spot in recently burnt veld and very common in Midlands grasslands, causing confusion to amateur botanists no doubt, with the two different flowers.

There are 28 species of Acalypha in Southern Africa, while 430 occur in warm regions worldwide. The bright green nettle-like leaves are toothed, slightly hairy and clustered close to the ground on multiple stems. The fist-sized rhizome is woody and branched. In traditional medicine in Zimbabwe, an infusion of the leaves is used to fatten babies, while in Zulu culture infusions of bruised roots are used as emetic expectorants for coughs and colds.

You can see Acalypha flowering on Beacon Hill, at Gartmore, Bill Barnes Nature Reserve, Fort Nottingham and at Mbona. Why not join one of the regular walks this Spring? For details: www.midlandsconservancies.org.za