Gnidia triplinervis


Thymelaeaceae (fibre-bark/gonna family)

Heads of flowers

An attractive yellow shrub that flowers throughout the year. This is one of the most underrated grassland forbs, drawing attention from a distance with its striking yellow flowers.

A much branched shrub with slender stems bearing small but prominent leaf scars, growing up to 200cm.The narrow alternate leaves are hairless with the midrib prominent on the underside. Bright yellow tubular flowers are borne in terminal clusters Although this shrub flowers from August to May (late winter to autumn) in its natural grassland habitat, it flowers throughout the year in the Natal National Botanical Garden in Pietermaritzburg.

Terminal flower clusters

Conservation Status
G. triplinervis is listed as "Lower Risk (Least concern)" by Scott-Shaw (1999).

Distribution and Habitat
This species is found in coastal grasslands in Pondoland in the eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal

Derivation of name and historical aspects
The generic name was first used by Linnaeus. Gnidia is after the Classical Greek port city of Knidos (Cnidus - today the Turkish port city of Cumali).The specific name, triplinervis refers to the three nerves visible on the underside of the leaves.

This genus of 140 species occurs mainly in tropical and southern Africa, with about 100 species in South Africa.

Small insects and bees visit the flowers, and bee specialist, entomologist Greg Davies of Natal Museum, believes that small flies may play a role in its pollination.

Insects visiting flowers

Uses and cultural aspects
Use of G. triplinervis for medicinal purposes has not been recorded, but some other Gnidia species are used medicinally, such as Gnidia splendens which is used to treat lumbago, sore throats and snakebite. It even used as a broom. Members of the family Thymelaeaceae have tough bark which strips easily and is used for lashing bundles of wood. The bark is also stripped and strands twisted together for binding twine for thatching.

It is an excellent garden plant because of its persistent small yellow flowers, attractive ball-shape, hardiness and general frost resistance. In our garden in Pietermaritzburg we planted these small shrubs on the edge of the path that takes you to the restaurant.

Growing in the Natal  National Botanical Garden

Growing Gnidia triplinervis

We have been growing this plant successfully in this garden for the past three years. G. triplinervis is one of the few Gnidias that grows easily from cuttings. In Natal National Botanical Garden in Pietermaritzburg, we have been experimenting with different methods of growing these little shrubs. Finally we achieved a good growing percentage of 75 - 85 percent by taking fresh, disease-free cuttings, without using root hormone. The cuttings are inserted in small blocks of oasis and placed in a well-drained tray. Oasis has the ability to hold water well. Sometimes we use the standard method of growing plants from cuttings by placing them in coarse to medium pine bark, again without using rooting hormone.

The cuttings are placed in a mist house with a bottom heat of ± 25ºC. The plants root within seven weeks. Once rooted they are potted with coarse pine bark which is mixed with a slow release fertilizer, and kept in a section of the mist house without bottom heating for a further one and a half weeks (about ten days), then taken out and placed under shade netting for up to six weeks before being placed in full sun or planted out in a garden.

We have not yet grown this plant from seed, because seeds of G. triplinervis are difficult to collect and propagation by cuttings is very successful.

References and further reading:

  • Cary, M. 1949. The Geographic background of Greek and Roman History. Oxford UP.
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A Field Guide to Wild Flowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region. Natal Flora Publication Trust.
  • Scott-Shaw, C.R. 1999. Rare and Threatened Plants of KwaZulu-Natal and neighbouring regions. KwaZulu-Natal Conservation Service.

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Senzo Khanyile
KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden
January 2006


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