Asystasia gangetica is an attractive groundcover with dark green leaves and masses of miniature Mackaya bella-like white flowers. It grows well in the partial shade of tree canopies as well as in full sun. It is a must for butterfly friendly gardens as it is the larval host to a number of garden butterfly species.
Family: ACANTHACEAE (Mackaya family)
- Asystasia – means inconsistency and refers to the corolla that is more or less regular, unusual for Acanthaceae members.
- gangetica – after the Ganges River in India.
- Asystasia, creeping foxglove (Eng), rankvingerhoedjie (Afr) and isihobo (Zul).
Size: 45 cm by 60 cm.
- White tubular flowers, 1.5 cm wide.
- Borne 1 to 3 at a time on a short upright inflorescence.
Colour: White with purplish speckles on the lower lip.
Flowering Months: Sep – Apr, all year in warm climates.
- Evergreen, may frost back in cold weather.
- The simple leaves are ovoid, (4 by 2 cm), tapering to a pointed tip.
- The fruit is a small capsule that ‘explodes’ to disperse the seeds.
In the Garden:
- This plant is a useful groundcover for shady areas under trees.
- Equally suited to mass planting in sunny areas provided the area receives regular irrigation.
- Well suited to containers and planters, where their trailing habit can be put to good effect.
- May be used with Dietes grandiflora and Clivia miniata for a contrasting texture.
Planting spacing: 3 per square metre.
- Will grow in all soil types given enough compost.
- A reasonably high maintenance garden plant.
- Requires regular feeding and watering.
- Requires fairly regular pruning to keep it in control.
- Like many soft herbs, A. gangetica is susceptible to attack from dodder (Cuscuta campestris).
- Needs regular water to maintain a lush appearance.
Light Requirements: Partial shade to full sun.
Roots: Not invasive.
Birds: Insectivorous birds will forage among the plants.
- Bees and other insects feed from the flowers.
- Asystasia gangetica is larval host to Common Diadem, Yellow Pansy and Blue Pansy, all regular garden butterflies in Gauteng.
- Elsewhere it is larval host to Brown Pansy, Soldier Pansy, Common and Cloudy Mother-of-pearl.
Medicinal: No medicinal use found.
Poisonous: Not Poisonous.
- The leaves are prepared and eaten as spinach.
- Very closely related to Mackaya bella, which was once called Asystasia bella.
- Two subspecies are recognized, gangetica and micrantha, the latter is found in southern Africa.
- There is a form known as A. gangetica ‘aurea’ that has attractive yellowish-green leaves.
- Found in the EC, KZN, Swa, M, L, Bot, Nam and Moz.
- Outside southern Africa its range extends to tropical Asia.
Natural Habitat: Forests and woodlands.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.