This plant was unknown to us until recently, but suddenly Carolyn has seen it in all sorts of places. It is an erect to prostrate plant, up to 2.5m high, with a deep root. Maybe this root is why it has excellent drought tolerance, allowing it to retain its leaves through dry periods. The stems are woody at the base, with soft hairs. The leaves are in groups of three. Each is roughly oval, but with a toothed edge, almost hairless on top but with a soft down underneath. The small purple-blue peashaped flowers grow in groups of 3 along a flower spike, which sits above the leaves. The seed pods are small and hairy, and contain only 1 seed. We had excellent germination of local seed and will be planting them at the Cape this month. They grow mostly over springsummer. They are host plants for the spectacular chequered swallowtail butterfly. Lets hope we can attract some to the Cape!!!
It is the heavily lobed leaves of this plantain that
have given rise to its common name: you can easily see in the left hand photo,
the resemblance to a stag’s antlers. Those leaves are mostly hairy, and spread
out from a rosette at the base; underground is a strong taproot. The plant
itself is an annual, or short lived perennial, growing in the cooler months and
dying off over summer. The spring and summer flowers are tiny, forming a dense
cylindrical spike up to 12cm long, on a stout, hairy stalk. The plant can be a
good indicator of salinity: at low salinity, the plant is a dull grey-green,
while the higher the salinity, the redder the leaves. Originally from western
Europe, western Asia and the Mediterranean, this plant grows both in more
settled and in disturbed areas, in soil types ranging from sandy to loam or
clay. Young, tender leaves have been used in salads, and the plant has some
grazing potential for livestock.