Helichrysum petiolare is one of the best known and the most
commonly used members of this genus which consists of about 245
species and is found throughout South Africa. Other members which
are sometimes found in gardens include Helichrysum
splendidum, Helichrysum argrophyllum,
Helichrysum umbraculigerum, Helichrysum
populifolium and Helichrysum
nudifolium which is mainly used medicinally.
A soft, vigorous shrub, which grows 0.5m - 1m x 1m. The dense, aromatic
foliage consists of roundish leaves which are covered with silver-grey
hairs. Tiny creamy-white flowers make up abundant flowerheads on
long stalks which add to the decorative effect of this plant in
midsummer (December and January).
Helichrysum petiolare occurs in the drier inland parts, sheltered
slopes and forest margins of the Western Cape (Cederburg and Jonkershoek
Mountains), Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal.
The name Helichrysum is derived from the Greek (h)elios
for sun and chrysos for gold, although not all species have
golden flowers; petiolare refers to long leaf stalks.
Uses and cultural aspects
Ailments such as coughs, colds and infections are treated with this
popular medicinal plant. The leaves are used by Rastafarians to
make an infusion to treat asthma, chest problems and high blood
pressure. The smoke of the burning leaves is inhaled as a pain reliever.
The leaves are also widely used on wounds to prevent infection.
The Khoikhoi used the leaves and flowers as bedding; campers still
do the same today. Burning a mixture of Helichrysum and Artemisia
afra leaves, makes a pleasant insect repellent. It is very
effective at keeping flies and mosquitoes away.
Growing Helichrysum petiolare
This plant can be propagated from cuttings or from seed sown in
autumn (March). It should be planted in full sun in well-drained
soil. This decorative plant spreads rapidly and should be cut back
The cultivar Helichrysum petiolare 'Limelight' has luminescent
yellow-green foliage in place of the usual grey. It does well in
semi-shade and looks good inter-planted with dark coloured foliage
plants to create interesting contrasts. It is short lived and need
replacing every 2 years.
- Dyson, A. 1994. Getting to know Kirstenbosch National Botanical
Garden: Indigenous Healing Plants of the Herb and Fragrance Garden.
National Botanical Institute. Cape Town.
- Eliovson, S. 1984. Wild Flowers of Southern Africa: How to
grow and identify them. 7th Edition.
- Goldblatt, P and Manning, J. 2000. Cape Plants, A conspectus
of the Cape Flora of South Africa, Strelitzia 9. NBI and
MBG Press, Pretoria and St Louis.
Harold Porter Botanical Garden