Monopsis unidentata

(Dryand. Ex Aiton)E.Wimm

Common name:
Wild violet

Monopsis unidentata growing with  a diascia

This lovely, dainty plant caught our attention and was collected growing wild with buffalo grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) around Nature's Valley.With its little mauve flowers creeping on long green stems through the grass, it looked as if the buffalo grass was flowering.

M.unidentata growing in a potIn nature, Monopsis unidentata is found growing in damp, sandy flats and rocky slopes from Riversonderend in the southern Cape and further along the east coast to KwaZulu-Natal. It is a fast growing perennial that loves sunny, wet spots. It has many long, thin stems that root where they touch the ground, forming mats about 20cm high and 50cm wide. The stems and leaves are bright green and soft. The small, serrated leaves are grouped near the base of the stems with the little violet-like flowers at the tips. The delightful little flowers, appearing in early summer (October - January), are deep purple with 5 narrow petals; 3 pointing upwards and 2 pointing downwards. Bees visit these flowers and may be the pollinators.

Monopsis unidentata flowers throughout the summer, creating a beautiful display when planted in pots, along the front edge of borders or around ponds. To enjoy a mass of flowers, space the plants about 30cm apart. They are also very attractive twining through other plants.

Even though Monopsis unidentata prefers damp areas, it will grow just as well in ordinary light garden soil if it is kept moist throughout the year. It is unaffected by cold weather, but dies down for a short time in winter and shoots again in the spring.

Growing Monopsis unidentata

Monopsis unidentata is easily propagated from cuttings taken throughout the year. Because the plants root as they spread, it is easy to divide the mother plant or to remove and replant rooted stems.

M. luteaThere are 13 species in the genus Monopsis, found in central and southern Africa. The only other species grown at Kirstenbosch is Monopsis lutea or yellow lobelia, which also flowers in summer. Another flat growing perennial, it creeps along, also preferring damp places, but the flowers are bright yellow and the stems are far fewer, longer and thicker than those of Monopsis unidentata. In nature it is found growing in damp areas, from the Grootwinterhoek mountains in the Western Cape to Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape.

Liesl van der Walt
November 2000

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