This is a delightful, slender shrub from the Cape flora whose pale
flowers scent the evening air. It is a member of the thyme family
which is recognized by bark which tears into long strips. The flowers
have a well-developed calyx with 4 or 5 lobes, often resembling
petals. The petals are absent or reduced to scale-like or fleshy
lobes at the mouth of the calyx.
Struthiola myrsinites occurs widely in sandy soil, often
near watercourses. It grows from the Gifberg to Eastern Cape.
Struthiola myrsinites is an open, willowy shrub which grows
to a height of 2 m. The branches are tetragonal. It grows in both
full sun and light shade and can be found in bloom at any time of
the year. The white, or rarely pale pink flowers have a long, very
narrow tube, topped with 8 finger-like petals. They are sweetly
scented during the evening and attract moths as pollinators. It
is this characteristic which gives rise to its common name which
translates as 'little-lady-gad-about-at night.' A small sprig of
flowers will perfume an entire room in the evening. The leaves are
opposite, narrowly elliptic and acute.
The name Struthiola is derived from the Greek word for a
small bird or sparrow and may refer to the tiny seed resembling
a sparrow's beak. The specific name myrsinites refers to
its similarity to the genus Myrsine, which name in turn refers
to the Greek name for the common myrtle.
There are about 42 species of Struthiola altogether and
they are found in tropical and southern Africa with about 20 of
these occurring in the Cape Flora.
Growing Struthiola myrsinites
Seed is difficult to collect as it is so tiny. However, the plant
strikes easily from tip cuttings taken from non-flowering branches.
These are dipped in a rooting hormone and placed in a well-drained,
sandy medium which is kept damp. Rooted cuttings are potted into
larger bags before being planted in the garden. They may be planted
in preferably semi-shaded or sunny areas. This is an ideal plant
for a garden which is mostly enjoyed at night.
- BURMAN, L. & BEAN, A. 1985. Hottentots Holland to Hermanus.
South African Wild Flower Guide 5. Botanical Society of South
Africa, Cape Town.
- GOLDBLATT, P. & MANNING, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus
of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National
Botanical Institute and Missouri Botanical Garden.
- BOND, P. & GOLDBLATT, P. 1984. Plants of the Cape Flora.
A descriptive catalogue. Suppl. vol. No.13. Trustees of the
National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
- KESTING, D. 2001. Wild flowers of the Cape Peninsula: Botanical
names : Origin and Meaning. Flora Documentation Project, Friends of
the Silvermine Natura Area.
Harold Porter National Botanical Garden