|Weeds in our Area (Part One Hundred and Forty Nine)
By Bob and Ena McIntyre – Garden Route Region.
UPDATED LIST: Limonium sinuatum – Papierblom, Statice, Sea lavender Family: Plumbaginaceae
Spotting Limonium sinuatum in the updated list triggered happy memories of a mother who enthused about all plants and loved growing them. As a child the Sea lavender certainly caught my attention because of its intriguing leaf-shape and of course the very appropriate Afrikaans common name “Papierblom” for the flowers. During the 1980’s it was promoted as a strong, easy to grow species with a very attractive range of colours. Together with another in the species L. bonduellii, L.sinuatum were recommended as ideal for massed plantings in the mixed summer border while also being excellent cut flowers. The plants were popular landscaping subjects. There are between 120-150 species in the genus, many of them local endemic species with a very restricted distribution range in their countries of origin. North America evidently has only three species. The greatest diversity of over 100 species stretches from the Canary Islands east through the Mediterranean region to central Asia.
Description: Limonium sinuatum originates from the Mediterranean region. It is an herbaceous perennial herb growing from a woody rhizome. The simple leaves are oblong in shape, entire to lobed and ranging from 1-30 cm in length and 0.5-10 cm in width. Even the leafstalks are winged. Most of the leaves are produced in a dense basal rosette, with the flowering stems bearing only small brown scale-leaves. The flowers are borne on stiff, hairy branched panicles or corymbs (clusters). These can be up to half a metre tall. The individual flowers are very small (4-10 mm long) with a five-lobed calyx and corolla (flower tube). Colours are pink, violet to purple in most species and white or yellow in a few others.
A number of species (mainly from the Canary Islands) are woody shrubs up to 2 metres tall. The flower has blue-lavender sepals and pale yellow to white petals. The plants are grown both for their flowers, and for the appearance of the calyx, which remains on the plant after the true flowers have fallen, and are known as "everlasting flowers".
Many species flourish in saline soils, and are therefore common near coasts and in salt marshes, and also on saline, gypsum and alkaline soils in continental interiors. Many of the species reproduce without fertilisation. The gardening guides of the 1980’s lauded the Sea lavender’s ability to grow quickly from seed with germination taking only about 10 days. For this reason, although the plants are perennials they were often used as annuals. Clearly these favourable attributes and attractive appearance combined with its tolerance of coastal climates and poor soil conditions certainly all contributed in no small measure to the Limonium sinuatum finally finding its way into the updated list of invasive species.
The very attractive Limonium perezii (Giant Statice – Illustrated alongside) from the Canary Islands is naturalised in California. With large heads of purple-blue flowers with yellow corollas it was promoted during the 1980’s as the most popular winter-flowering of the group and an excellent cut-flower.
Invasive Status: Declared invader – Updated list: Limonium sinuatum is a proposed Category 1b – in the Western and Northern Cape. Control: No registered herbicides are available at this time.
References: ALIEN WEEDS AND INVASIVE PLANTS: Lesley Henderson Copyright @ 2001 Agricultural Research Council. www.wikipedia.org. The A-Z of Gardening in South Africa W. G. Sheat.