Inspector Indigenous – Vernonia hirsuta
First, silvery balls appear on the stalks emerging from the woody rootstock in early spring, then they burst into bright purple fluffy flowers. A real celebration of sunshine and rain! Vernonia hirsuta can grow quite tall in the grasslands. The silver coloured, quilted, stalkless leaves clasp the hairy stem. The colourful magenta (occasionally pink) flower heads are made up of many little flowers clustered tightly together, as is common for all members of the Daisy family. Once flowering is over, the attractive seed heads are silver, with individual seeds enclosed in hairs which help distribute them in the wind.
Vernonia is common across the summer rainfall regions of South Africa and grows in a variety of habitats – from hot rocky outcrops to semi-shaded forest margins. Bees, butterflies and beetles pollinate the plant which makes it is an ideal, frost hardy plant for your wildlife garden too. Hot milk infusions are used in traditional medicine to cure sore throats and coughs. Dried stems are used as snuff for headaches.
Join one of the Midlands grassland walks this summer to enjoy Vernonia in all its splendour. See events on www.midlandsconservancies.org.za