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.
Common Names: Asystasia, creeping foxglove (Eng), rankvingerhoedjie (Afr) and isihobo (Zul).
Features of Asystasia gangetica
Form: A spreading, leafy groundcover
Size: 45 cm by 60 cm.
Thorns: No thorns.
- Evergreen, but may frost back in cold weather.
- The simple leaves are ovoid, (4 by 2 cm), tapering to a pointed tip.
- 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.
- The fruit is a small capsule that ‘explodes’ to disperse the seeds.
Asystasia gangetica, Creeping foxglove, has white, tubular flowers that have an intricate purple pattern on the lower lip.
Asystasia gangetica is a lovely groundcover that gets miniature Mackaya bella-like white flowers.
Cultivating Asystasia gangetica
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.
- Be warned that in the warmer, wetter regions of southern Africa and elsewhere it can be an invasive weed.
Soil Needs: Will grow in most soil types given enough compost.
- A reasonably high maintenance garden plant.
- Requires regular feeding and watering.
- May requires fairly regular pruning to keep it in control.
- Like many soft herbs, Asystasyia gangetica is susceptible to attack from dodder (Cuscuta campestris).
- Fairly cold hardy, but may die back if exposed to frost.
- Needs regular water to maintain a lush appearance.
Light Requirements: Partial shade to full sun.
Space Requirements: Plant 3 per square metre.
Roots: Not invasive.
You need to look closely to see the full beauty of Asystasia gangetia flowers.
Asystasia gangetica is free-flowering through the summer and autumn in Gauteng, in warmer climes it flowers all year.
Common Diadem (top) and African Blue Pansy (below) larvae feed on Asystasia gangetica.
Ecology of Asystasia gangetica
- Insectivorous birds will forage among the plants.
Bees: Honey Bee friendly
Butterflies and other Insects:
- 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-pearls.
- This plant is also a larval host to some moth species.
- No records of medicinal use in South Africa were found.
Poisonous: Not poisonous.
Notes of interest:
- The leaves are prepared and eaten like spinach.
- Very closely related to Mackaya bella.
- Two subspecies are recognized, gangetica and micrantha, the latter is found in southern Africa.
- There is a form known as Asystasia 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.
- Forests and woodlands.
Asystasia gangetica “auria” has attractive yellowish green leaves.
Botha, Charles & Julia “Bring Nature back to Your Garden” 1995 Natal Branch of the Wildlife Society Durban.
Honig, Marijke “Indigenous Plant Palettes” 2014 Quivertree Publications Cape Town
Joffe, Pitta & Oberholzer, Tinus “Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants, ASouth African Guide” 2nd ed. 2012 Briza Publications Pretoria
Pooley, Elsa, “A Field Guide to Wild Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region” Natal Flora Publications Trust Durban
Lithudza, Eliot & Reynolds, Yvonne, “Asystasia gangetica”2004 PlantZA Link http://pza.sanbi.org/asystasia-gangetica
Wikipedia “Asystasia gigantica” Link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asystasia_gangetica
Woodhall, Steve “Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa” 2nd ed 2020 Struik Nature Cape Town
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 and 2021.