Cape thatching reed - The Elegia Tectorum

is part of the thatching family, called Restionaceae. Its name has changed; it was previously known as Chondropetalum tectorum, until it was discovered that it is not, in fact, part of this particular species.

Did you know? Cape thatching reed is also excellent in cut flower arrangements.

Elegia Tectorum is also known as Cape thatching reed in English and dakriet in Afrikaans.

Description

The soft tufts of the Elegia tectorum create a pretty landscape that moves and sways sleepily in the breeze. These reedy plants can grow to between 20 centimetres and three metres in height, and can spread to about three metres in width, making for a fabulous cover for vast expanses of the landscape. The flowers are tiny and delicate, less than three millimetres long. They grow in male and female varieties.

Flowering time

The flowering period for the Elegia tectorum is in autumn, from March to April. It lasts for approximately four weeks.

Use in the garden

The most common use for Elegia tectorum is as thatching for roofs and other covers and for the production of brooms and baskets. It is also beautiful in a formal arrangement, alone or when paired with other pretty South African varieties.

Natural distribution

The Elegia tectorum is naturally found in the Western Cape of South Africa, in which it is often found growing alongside the beautiful fynbos for which this region is known all over the world. Growing all the way from Clanwilliam to Port Elizabeth, it is also common in the Eastern Cape.

Elegia tends to be abundant in marshes and other wet, almost waterlogged areas. Naturally, then, it also forms part of the vegetation of areas that are rich in fauna and flora.

Growing Elegia Tectorum in your garden

This is a lovely plant for the garden, particularly if you have a pond and moist soil, or a large property that includes part of a river. It should only be harvested as a reed when new growth is beginning, but be careful not to damage the new culms that are emerging.

To maintain the plant and keep it in tip-top condition, little more is needed but that you remove the dead outer layer of culms, when necessary. It adapts well to different soil types and needs regular watering in the first two months after planting. Thereafter, they prefer water but do well in a variety of conditions.

Propagation

As with the rest of the Restio family, the Elegia tectorum is best grown from seeds, which should be handled with care as they are extremely small. Interestingly, being treated with smoke makes a hugely positive impact on the germination rate of the Elegia tectorum.

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