Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The South African Beetle Daisy

Gorteria diffusa is a most interesting annual from the winter rainfall region of South Africa. I got my seeds from Silverhill Seeds, the premier source for South African native plant seeds. I've been to South Africa three times, and basically one could describe the whole country as a natural garden. The number of ornamental species is incredible, particularly in the areas near Cape Town.

The seeds of Gorteria are fused into the dried flower base, so one plants the entire structure. This is unusual for members of the Aster family, most of which shed seeds individually once they are ripe. Even more peculiar is the flower, a bright orange daisy, about an inch or inch and a half across, with one to three green "beetle" marks. The markings probably facilitate pollination by attracting monkey beetles to the flowers (perhaps they are thinking they found a mate) which then pollinate the flower. Like many South African daisies, the flowers open in sunshine and close in darkness.

I planted the seedlings I started indoors into sandy soil in a spot that gets several hours of sun, and they grew and flowered for longer than I thought they would (many of these desert type annuals have very short lifespans), from early June through July. The plants spread out to form a branching mat across the soil. The plants expired in early August, but not before yielding numerous seed heads. The one problem I noted was that the plants are susceptible to powdery mildew during rainy weather, but an application of fungicide quickly cured it.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It's been about 3 years since I planted Gorteria, and I miss them in my garden. I'm glad I came across your blog, and it reminds me to order some seeds once again from Silverhill....