Forever Autumn

Despite their name the majority of everlasting flowers are finished by mid-summer. They remain on the bush but their glory has faded. The autumn-flowering Syncarpha canescens, Pienksewejaartjie, however starts flowering in April and continues on into July. It is not as bold and noticeable in the fynbos as its cousins, Syncarpha vestita or Phaenocoma prolifera. Rather it forms short bushes with only a few weak flowering stems topped by single flowerheads. But the individual flowerheads are a beautiful rose pink with dark maroon centres.

Syncarpha canescens (Asteraceae) flowerheads

Syncarpha canescens flowerheads are usually solitary at the end of the stem

Syncarpha canescens (Asteraceae) close-up of flowers

Close-up of actual flowers of Syncarpha canescens with protruding yellow stamens

As with other everlastings, what look like petals of Syncarpha canescens are actually the bracts surrounding the flowerhead. It is these bracts that are the “permanent” feature. The true flowers in the middle open gradually from the outside inwards – small five-rayed tubes with yellow stamens protruding. The species is a sub-shrub, in that it does form woody branches but these are very weak and almost herbaceous. The branches are few, sometimes only two or three on a plant. Only the newest growth has leaves. The leaves are pressed closely to the stem, showing their silvery grey hairy undersides. It is the leaves that give the species its specific name. Canescens means to be becoming greyish-white.

Syncarpha canescens is a widespread species of fynbos. It is found almost throughout the biome, from the Kamiesberg in the north, as far as Humansdorp in the east. Here at Phillipskop it likes the dryish lower rocky slopes. It is never prolific but still common, found scattered amongst the taller ericas and restios with which it grows. While Syncarpha canescens does not make the same impressive display as other members of the genus, its autumn flowering and delicate charm make it still worthwhile to grow. It is however not found in gardens or nurseries presumably due to the challenge of propagation, which is really only feasible via seed.

Syncarpha canescens (Asteraceae) Pienksewejaartjie

Spindly habit of Syncarpha canescens

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