Cape scabiosa - The Scabiosa Africana

Scabiosa africana, from the Dipsacaceae family, is a magnificent plant bearing gorgeous light-purple flowers. It is also known as the Cape scabious in English and the koringblom in Afrikaans.

Did you know? Scabiosa africana does not have any known medicinal uses, but is an ideal ornamental flower that adds colour and volume to the garden.

Despite its elegant, almost delicate appearance, this is a relatively hardy plant that can withstand exposure to a fair amount of wind and sunshine, which makes it ideal for the coastline and mountain slopes of South Africa.

Description

The perennial Scabiosa africana is characterised by its large compound flowers and its velvet-like leaves. These leaves grow in rosettes and are soft with ruffled edges. This is a large plant, making for an excellent addition to the garden. The flowers are gorgeous, with each “one” actually being made up of a cluster of smaller mauve and white flowers. The larger structure that is seen as the main flower reaches an impressive diameter of about 50 millimetres.

The thick stems sprout straight from the ground (as opposed to sprouting from one main stem) and bear big rosettes of soft, light-green leaves. The stem protrudes about a further metre from the area at which the leaves are located, to showcase their colourful blooms.

Flowering time

The beautiful blooms of the Scabiosa africana usually erupt in the early spring (September) and last until the early summer months (that is, until around January).

Use in the garden

Scabiosa africana attracts butterflies, bees, beetles, and so on, as well as the insectivorous birds that feed on these. This, in turn, adds to the biodiversity of the garden and its natural ecosystem. They also make for excellent cut flower arrangements and bouquets and are gaining increasing popularity as such.

Natural distribution

Scabiosa africana grows well in areas that are rich in fynbos. It can be found in the scenic Western Cape, often perched on the sheltered parts of the sandstone mountains surrounding the majestic Cape Peninsula.

Growing Scabiosa in your garden

This hardy plant is adaptable, and is fairly resistant to drought and frost (although neither is advantageous to the plant’s overall wellbeing). They do well in full sun or semi-shaded spots and thrive in soils that are well mixed with a good quality compost, where possible.

They should be well pruned after flowering, cutting the woody stalks off right at the base, to ensure that they are healthy and strong for the following season.

Propagation

Scabiosa africana can be grown by seed, which should be planted in late autumn or early spring. These can be found in the fruit, and will take only about three weeks to germinate. Once the seedlings have had a chance to establish themselves, they can be replanted into a pot or the garden.

They can also be propagated by cuttings, which should be taken from the bottom of the plant. These should first have most of the large leaves removed and respond well to a rooting hormone.

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