Senecio speciosissimus

J.C.Manning & Goldblatt

Family: Asteraceae
Common names: hongerblom (Afr)


Senecio speciosissimus boasts attractive flowerheads of pink to mauve flowers from July to December, although it seems to flower more abundantly during August to October. Use S. speciosissimus to convey the message that summer is near and add that special touch to your spring garden!

Senecio speciosissimus is a fast growing plant with lance-shaped leaves. The leaves are noticeably very compact, especially on the upper part of the plant. The leaves are quite leathery and the margins appear to curl upwards and are slightly toothed. The flowers are pink to mauve with a deep yellow centre. S. speciosissimus can reach a height of almost 2 m.This plant is often incorrectly referred to as Senecio coleophyllus, which is much lower in height: about 0.5–1.0 m tall. The leaves appear to be deeply toothed, smaller, with fewer flower heads and flower stalks that are much longer than in S. speciosissimus.

Plant in flower

According to Manning & Goldbatt (2005), plants seem to be relatively short-lived and the species is apparently a member of early successsional plant communities that do not persist into more mature fynbos older than 10 years.

Conservation status
This species is classified as rare, but it is currently not threatened: forestry plantations did pose a great threat to the habitat and subsequently the survival of this plant in the wild, but this major threat seems to have subsided and the species now enjoys a stable environment. The plants are known for growing together in groups that are usually widely scattered.

Distribution and habitat
Senecio speciosissimus is found in the southwestern coastal mountains. The plant loves to settle itself along streams or in moist soil among other fynbos plants. The plant grows well at altitudes between 600–1 500 m. The habitat seems to start at Bainskloof and continues straight down towards Kogelberg.The plants grow very comfortably in smaller groupings. Senecio coleophyllus grows in the Riviersonderend Mountains.

Derivation of name and historical aspects
From the Latin senex , ‘old man', which alludes to the whitish grey, hairy pappus. The pappus is a modified calyx, and may be composed of bristles, awns, scales or may be absent.

Manning J (2007) reports that many species contain toxic alkaloids responsible for stock losses but the leaves of some are used externally to promote healing, and the vernacular name, hongerblom, derives from the purported use of certain species as a tea to promote the appetite.

Senecio L., with some 1 250 species worldwide, is by far the largest genus in the tribe Senecioneae.The genus is best represented in South America (± 500 species) and Africa (± 350 species). In southern Africa some 300 species have been recorded.

The plant reseeds itself and germination of the seed is normally activated by veld fires. Seeds are dispersed by wind. Insects are responsible for the pollination of this plant.

Uses and cultural aspects
The height of the plant and the thick growth habit makes it an ideal hedge plant. The plant can withstand a lot of beating from the wind and it can be successfully used to shelter lower-growing plants.

Young plants in the nursery

Growing Senecio speciosissimus

Planting in garden beds
S.speciosissimus will grow well in moist areas in your garden where other plants may struggle to settle in. The plant is quite happy to grow among other fynbos plants with similar growth requirements. Organic plant feeding will boost flowering.

Cuttings that were made during February to April where found to root very successfully. The use of rooting hormone powder normally boosts the rooting process. The ideal cutting mix for rooting the plants is to use fine sifted pine bark and coir mixed with equal parts of perlite, which give a well drained but firm mix. Greenhouse conditions are ideal for rooting; signs of roots will appear after 3 weeks. You can make up a potting mix of 50% river sand and 50% compost. Young plants may be fed with a liquid fertilizer to encourage growth. ( E. Hull 2013 pers.comm.)

Regular thinning out of the plant will encourage new growth. Aphids can be successfully controlled by spraying an organic pesticide.

References and further reading

  • Bremer, K. 1994. Asteraceae: cladistics and classification . Timber Press, Portland.
  • Burman, L. & Bean, A. 1985. Hottentots Hollands to Hermanus .Wild Flower Guide 5. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
  • Harris, J.G. & Harris, M.W.1994. Plant Identification Terminology. An Illustrated Glossary . Spring Lake Publishing. Payson UT 84651.
  • Herman, PP.J., Retief, E., Koekemoer, M. & Welman, W.G. 2000. Asteraceae. In O.A Leistner, Seed plants of southern Africa: families and genera. Strelitzia 10: 101–107. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria
  • Jackson. W.P.U. 1990. Origins and meanings of names of South African plant genera . UCT Eco Lab. Rondebosch.
  • Manning, J. 2007. Field guide to Fynbos . Struik Publishers. Cape Town.
  • Manning, J. 2007. Field guide to Fynbos . Struik Publishers. Cape Town.
  • Manning, J.C. & Goldblatt, P. 2005. Two new species of Asteraceae from Northern and Western cape, South Africa, and a new synonym. Bothalia 35(1):55-61.
  • Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
  • Smith, C.A. 1966. Common names of South African plants . Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No. 35.
  • Trinder-Smith, T.H. 2003. Guide to the plant genera of the southwestern Cape. Paarl Print, Paarl.


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Benjamin Festus

Harold Porter National Botanical Garden

November 2013

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