Chlorophytum saundersiae (Weeping Anthericum)
Plant image

Chlorophytum saundersiae is a popular garden plant and is used extensively by landscape gardeners. It has a pleasing grass-like appearance making it a good filler in flower beds. It is hardy and gregarious.

Name & classification

Botanical name:
Chlorophytum saundersiae

Common names:
Weeping Anthericum (English); Watergras (Afrikaans)

Synonyms:
Anthericum saundersiae

Plant family:
Anthericaceae
- The family Anthericaceae comprises 8 genera of which 2 occur in Africa, namely Anthericum and Chlorophytum (Nordal, Kativu & Poulsen, 1997) . The genus Chlorophytum, is an Old World tropical to subtropical genus with approximately 150 species, and its centre of diversity is in tropical Africa.

Plant categories:
Non-herbaceous Perennials; Groundcovers


Name derivation & history:
The name Chlorophytum is from the Greek 'chloros' meaning green and ‘phyton' meaning plant.

The name saundersiae honours Katherine Saunders (1824–1901), an energetic botanical artist and collector who lived and painted in KZN from 1854 (Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite 2012).

It can be difficult to distinguish between the genus Chlorophytum and the genus Trachyandra which belongs to the closely related family Asphodelaceae. The genera can be distinguished by their pedicels (flower stalks): in the genus Chlorophytum they are articulated (with a joint) more or less in the middle but in Trachyandra they are without a joint.

Pictures

Features

Leaf habit:
Evergreen

Height:
400mm

Plant shape:
Chlorophytum saundersiae is a gregarious (growing in groups or colonies), fast-growing and spreading perennial herb which forms thick stands or clumps.

The plant grows up to 400 mm high and has a bushy grass-like appearance.

It is a perennial and will not die back during the winter. It looks like a grass but is more closely related to the Asparagus or Aloe families.

Leaf description:
Leaves forming a basal rosette and are light green, linear (strap-shaped) and gradually tapering, 300 to 400 mm long and 10 mm wide.

Flower description:
The inflorescence has numerous small, white, star-shaped flowers. The flowers have folded-back tepals (members of a floral envelope not clearly differentiated into calyx and corolla) and prominent elongated yellow anthers.

The inflorescence is a congested raceme (with flowers on stalks arranged along an unbranched axis, the terminal flower being the youngest) and is carried on long drooping or ‘weeping' stalks.

Flower colour:
White

Flowering months:
October to March

Fruit description:
The fruit is a small, green to brown, globose capsule containing numerous black, angular seeds.

Other distinctive features:
It has long thin roots without tubers (tubers are found in other Chlorophytum species such as Chlorophytum comosum or ‘hen-and-chickens'.

Habitat

Natural distribution:
Chlorophytum saundersiae occurs naturally in KZN, Swaziland and parts of the Eastern Cape (i.e. it is endemic to South Africa).

Habitat:
Chlorophytum saundersiae is found in coastal forest, usually in low grassland near river mouths which become inundated at times. It is frost tolerant but occurs naturally in subtropical areas where frost is not common.

Water requirements:
Waterwise (little water required)

Frost tolerance:
Hardy

Light conditions:
Sun; semi-shade; shade

Other Characteristics

Drought resistant
Wind resistant
Has non-aggressive roots
Resistant to water-logging
Disease resistant
Pest resistant
Suitable for growing in containers
Low maintenance

Edibility & Toxicity

We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is edible
We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is toxic, however we urge caution as this information may be incorrect.

Ecology

Interaction with physical surroundings:
The white flowers of Chlorophytum saundersiae attract butterflies, bees and other small insects.
Attracts insects

Other information

Uses & Cultural aspects:
Chlorophytum saundersiae is not medicinal and not poisonous. Pet owners may find that some cats like to eat the leaves for digestion.

Chlorophytum saundersiae is widely used in horticulture as a landscaping plant. Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite (2012) from Witkoppen Nursery notes:

1) This plant is a popular and useful groundcover for shady or sunny areas .
2) Planted in mass it will create a soft, meadow feel.
3) Well suited as a border plant or to add atmosphere to a water feature or pond .
4) Well suited to containers and planters, where their weeping habit is effective.
5) A very good companion plant for Crocosmia, as they remain green after the Crocosmia leaves have died back in winter.

Cultivation:
Chlorophytum saundersiae is hardy and can be grown in sun or partial shade. It can be grown in any soil type but seems to prefer sandy soil with lots of compost.

Another positive aspect of this plant is that it is low-maintenance. If it starts to become untidy or unruly it can be cut back in winter and will resprout in summer, forming lots of new green leaves. It is pest-resistant and does not require use of pesticides. Another positive aspect of this plant is that it is frost-resistant.

Once planted, Chlorophytum saundersiae is fast-growing and also produces copious numbers of seeds which sprout easily, especially if they fall to the ground around the plant.

Chlorophytum saundersiae is particularly useful for growing in summer-rainfall regions as a replacement for restios or sedges, when growing conditions are not always optimal, especially when practising water-wise gardening. However, it also grows well in water-logged conditions.

References:
Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite, 2012. www.witkoppenwildflower.co.za
SANBI

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