Felicia elongata (Thunb.) O. Hoffm.

Family: Asteraceae (Daisy family / Compositae)
Common Name:
Tricolour felicia, Driekleurblommetjie

Felicia elongata

Felicia elongata is a striking perennial daisy, with large white or mauve flowers. What makes this Felicia so different from the other felicias, is the distinctive reddish ring on the petals around the yellow centre of the flower. This daisy is quite special to see in the wild, growing naturally only on the limestone hills along the west coast of South Africa, which is known for its beautiful and unique flora, especially in spring when fields of flowers give spectacular displays. Annuals such as the brilliant white Cape daisy, Dimorphotheca pluvialis and tall, wavy spikes of blue flax, Heliophila coronopifolia, cover the ground in richly coloured carpets. When one looks more closely, there are hundreds of other different species of annuals, bulbs, succulents, orchids and perennials such as Felicia elongata to be found.

Flowers at Langebaan

Flowering in August and September the white Felicia elongata is found from the Postberg reserve on the south-eastern side of the Langebaan lagoon towards Saldanha and Paternoster.Mauve formSo far plants with mauve flowers have only been found near Club Mykonos on the north-eastern side of the lagoon. Sadly because of the beauty of the lagoon, large areas are being developed for housing and recreation.A limestone hill thick with the mauve Felicia elongata has recently been subdivided into small plots, not leaving much space for the survival of the mauve Felicia elongata in its natural habitat.

The growth pattern of Felicia elongata follows the seasons along the west coast. During the wet winter and spring, Felicia elongata forms thick clumps with bright green foliage. Where exposed they are compact and low but when protected under larger shrubs like Pelargonium fulgidum (rooi malva) and Pelargonium gibbosum (dikbeen malva) they are looser and taller as they stretch towards the light. The long, thin leaves are mostly at the bottom of the stems. The leaves and stems are covered in little white hairs, a feature that helps one to recognize the plants when they are not in flower.

The beautiful flowers are formed at the tip of long, thin stems during spring, from late August to September, sometimes until October, depending on the rain. Each plant can easily have from 5 to 15 flowering stems standing about 30 cm tall. Each flower measures about 5 cm across when fully open. The petals unfold to show open faces eager for insects, such as bees, to visit and exchange small amounts of nectar for pollen. Within a month the flowers turn into fluffy seed heads. The flat, oval shaped seeds are dark brown with long bristly hairs attached to the rounded tip.

During the long dry summers, rain is scarce with occasional mist the only relief from the heat and the dry, sandy soils. Spotting Felicia elongata in the summer is difficult as they hide under larger bushes and survive as dry sticks, which only shoot again with the onset of the cooler weather and rain in the autumn. Many plants survive the dry summer safely as seeds.

Growing Felicia elongata

Felicia elongata has been in and out of cultivation for many years. Fortunately it is not that difficult to propagate and is quite easy as a garden plant. They are perennials, but are best grown as annuals for spring display. Although found only on limestone in the wild, they adapt very well to any good garden soil that drains well. They grow best in full sun but will tolerate light shade for part of the day. In very cold areas they need a warm protected spot for they are tender to frost and are not tolerant of prolonged low temperatures.

Felicia elongata can be propagated from seed or cuttings, but seedlings are usually more vigorous. Sow the seed in autumn, or late summer to give the seedlings more time to develop into larger more bushy and therefore more floriferous plants by the spring. Prick the seedlings into small pots and grow on until well established before planting out. Cuttings taken in autumn from new shoots root quite easily.

In the genus Felicia (astertjie) there are 83 species found from southern and tropical Africa to Arabia, with 78 species in southern Africa alone.

Liesl van der Walt
Kirstenbosch NBG
August 2001

To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.

This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website www.plantzafrica.com.