Wild Everlasting Helichrysum argyrosphaerum
Order: Asterales. Family: AsteraceaeHelichrysum
is a large group of plants that includes annuals, herbaceous perennials and shrubs. Plants of the genus are widely distributed. Of the approximately 600 species found worldwide, 255 occur in southern Africa.
All photos are from Kgalagadi TPH. argyrosphaerum
Origin of name: (argyros = silvery and sphere = a sphere)
with a silver sphere; referring to the white rings of involucral bracts. Worldwide Distribution
Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Northern Province, Freestate, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape, South Africa.Habitat
Grows in hot, dry, sandy places, and readily becomes a weed. Grassland, Savanna, Nama Karoo and Succulent Karoo Biomes.Description
Diagnostic characters: Solitary heads. Pink papery bracts.
Herb, possibly annual, taproot woody, branches up to 300 mm long, many, radiating, prostrate or decumbent, sub-simple to profusely branched, thinly woolly, leafy throughout. Leaves up to 25 x 7 mm, scarcely smaller upwards, spathulate to oblanceolate, subacute, mucronate, narrowed to a flat petiole-like base, both surfaces thinly grey-woolly. Heads heterogamous, subglobose, c. 7–10 x 7–10 mm, solitary at the tips of the branchlets, surrounded by leaves. Involucral bracts in c. 9 series, graded, imbricate, inner about equaling flowers, pellucid, shining, silvery becoming increasingly pink-tinged inwards, fading again at maturity, tips mostly obtuse, radiating. Receptacle very shortly honeycombed. Flowers 166–290, 19–36 female, 142–258 homogamous, yellow, tipped pink. Achenes 0,75 mm long, elliptic, with myxogenic duplex hairs. Pappus bristles many, equaling corolla, scabrid, bases cohering lightly by patent cilia.
Flowers between June and December.Use by Animals
There are several records of its being regarded as excellent forage for both wild and domestic animals, but blindness and encephalopathy in sheep and cattle result from ingestion of large quantities (Onderstepoort J. Vet. Sci. 42,4: 135–148, 1975).
Birds such as Cape Sparrow and Sociable Weaver Birds, as well as Ground Squirrels, incorporate it into their nest building where it is thought to provide protection against microbes and ectoparasites.
"The interior of each Sociable weaver bird chamber is lined with soft material such as grass seedheads, everlasting (Helichrysum) leaves and feathers." (From: http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/bir ... socius.htm
is known as containing antimicrobial flavonoids (chalcone), sesquiterpenoids and acetylated phloroglucinols (eg. caspitin) (van Wyk et al. 1997). Probably they are used…to control disease-bearing microorganisms and some ectoparasites (mites. lice, fleas).
Links: http://keys.lucidcentral.org/keys/v3/he ... haerum.htm
Article on the use of aromatic plants by birds: http://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/africa_birds/ABB04(1