Dymondia is perfect between pavers

Dymondia margaretae. Picture courtesy Wild Flower NurseryDymondia margaretae. Picture courtesy Wild Flower NurseryDymondia is a drought hardy yet charming, well-behaved groundcover, with attractive foliage, and yellow bee-friendly flowers throughout summer. Click the link to read more about this endangered plant, and how to grow and propagate it with ease.

Dymondia margaretae is endemic to the Southern Overberg which lies east of Cape Town beyond the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, and its range is basically from Agulhas to Potberg. The boundaries of the Overberg are the Hottentots-Holland Mountains in the West, the Riviersonderend Mountains, part of the Cape Fold Belt in the North, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in the South, and the Breede River in the East.

Click here to see Google images of the Overberg

Dymondia margaretae is endemic to this region of South Africa, meaning it does not occur in the wild anywhere else, and it is also monotypic, being the only species in this genus. It occurs at altitudes of 160 to 200m, and is found on well-drained, sandy, coastal flats, and seasonally wet pans in slightly alkaline soils.

This lovely slow-growing evergreen perennial forms low-growing mats, only 2 to 7cm in height, carpeting the ground with narrow, greyish-green leaves with fuzzy white undersides that give the plants a silvery appearance. If they are kept on the dry side, the tiny, narrow leaves curl slightly, exposing their white undersides, giving this groundcover its beautiful silvery look, and common names like: Tapytmadeliefie, Dymondia, Silver Carpet, or Carpet Daisy.

Throughout summer, this environmentally friendly plant produces masses of cheerful, tiny yellow daisy-like blooms that are beloved by bees. Each plant will spread about 40 to 50cm, and the growth is so dense that it will choke out almost all weeds, making dymondia a wonderful filler plant between pavers and stepping-stones situated in full sun to light shade.

Dymondia is visited by many insects including bees, beetles and butterflies, but it is not yet known which one, or if all of these, are pollinators. Seed is dispersed by the wind, aided by the hairy rings of the pappus. A pappus is a modified calyx made up of a ring of fine hairs, scales, or teeth that persist after fertilisation and aid the wind dispersal of the fruit, often by forming a parachute-like structure.

Click here to see beautiful Google images of Dymondia margaritae

This lovely ground cover is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, and is not invasive, but ironically, in its native range in South Africa it is endangered and faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild. Its geographic range is estimated to be less than 5000 km², and populations are severely fragmented.  The Overberg is primarily known as the wheat basket of South Africa, but free range sheep and cattle are also farmed extensively in this region. There are also small pockets of premium vineyards and olive groves. This, together with other human encroachments has certainly contributed to its current rarity. 

Only rarely are both the genus and species of a plant named after the same person, but this was the case with Dymondea margaritae which is named after of a noted South African horticulturalist, Margaret Elizabeth Dryden-Dymond (1909-1952). She was a member of the horticultural staff at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, and on an expedition in 1933 to the Bredasdorp District, she spotted this plant and brought back plant material to Kirstenbosch to document and study.

Only one patch of the plant was seen by her growing beside a road, and although it was repeatedly searched for in later years it was never found again, and no further records of the plant were made until 1949 when Mr H. David brought in fragments from a collecting trip at the foot of the Potberg. Later in October 1950 the plant was found growing in the Bontebok National Park, covering a dry shallow pan. The most recent herbarium collection was in 2005 by N.A. Helme.

According to San Marcos Growers in Southern California, Dymondia was introduced to them in 1985 by John Bleck, who was the manager of UC-Santa Barbara Biology Greenhouses at the time. Since then it has rightfully become a common plant in the California landscape where it is often referred to as a “Mini Gazania”, and is showcased in coastal gardens.

Isn’t it sad that one of our very own plants is so rare in its native habitat, yet it flourishes elsewhere, while not being at all invasive? Perhaps one day this little gem can be replanted in the wild from donations of rooted cuttings from gardeners in South Africa, wouldn’t that be wonderful!

In the Garden:

Dymondia is highly recommended for regions where drought is a serious concern for gardeners, and is absolutely invaluable in coastal gardens, helping to limit wind soil erosion in bare patches, and to stabilise and retain soil on slopes.  It also grows very well inland, but in areas of high rainfall, unless the soil has excellent drainage, it should be grown on a generous slope or raised rockery to improve drainage.

Across many regions of South Africa homeowners are looking for attractive, drought resistant and low-maintenance groundcovers and lawn substitutes. As a lawn substitute, dymondia is perfect for areas of the garden that receive only light foot traffic, and in areas which receive more foot traffic you can protect a dymondia lawn by using paving stones or railway sleepers to create walking paths through these spaces. Gravel pathways can also be used in high traffic areas, and if edged with dymondia and other water-wise plants, can look quite stunning. Using pavers and gravel in this way in the garden is very sustainable and eco-friendly. However, if you have children and pets that enjoy running and playing on the lawn, you will need a sturdier lawn alternative.

Dymondia is a valuable all-round landscape plant, and with its attractive appearance and hardiness it can be used as a groundcover in rockeries amongst succulents, sea thrift (Armeria maritima), red hot pokers, yarrow, cycads, agave, cone bushes (Leucodendron), and many other water-wise plants. Even simply cascading down a stone wall or over a hanging basket or pot, this little plant will attract attention, making it perfect for sunny courtyards and balconies.

Dymondia margaretae. Picture courtesy James Gaither see his flickr pageDymondia margaretae. Picture courtesy James Gaither see his flickr pageCultivation/Propagation:

This little all-rounder is most obliging, tolerating heat and thriving in full sun or light shade, but be careful when watering plants growing in shade, as the plants will die back in large unsightly patches if overwatered. Initially, growth is slow and regular watering is required for the first 6 months, or until it is established.  Once established, dymondia has deep, succulent roots which make it drought tolerant, but to keep it looking good in the garden, try to water deeply about once a week during dry spells.

It adapts to most well-drained garden soils. In the wild it grows in poor, rocky soil, and tolerates salty sea breezes, making it a must-have for coastal gardens. In these regions, adding generous quantities of compost to the planting beds will produce better growth, and adding a good layer of mulch over the roots after planting will help to conserve moisture.

Along the coast, and in hot inland gardens, growth slows to a crawl in the heat of high summer, springing back to life when the days become cooler.

In hot and arid inland gardens dymondia will take some dry shade, and if the soil is enriched and the plants can be watered, it should do well.

Although dymondia tolerates low winter temperatures, it will only tolerate light to moderate frost, and if the temperature drops below -2°C, it can be fatal. However, if the roots are warmly mulched in winter and  the plants  die back, they should sprout again in spring.

For a groundcover plant it about 30 to 40cm apart. An organic slow-release fertiliser can be used to keep plants growing vigorously, and mature plantings should be divided every few years to retain vigour.

Dymondia can be grown from seed, division or cuttings. The easiest method of propagation is division, followed by tip cuttings.

Runners from mature stands can be dug up and removed with their roots to be replanted. Replanting is best done on the same day, as the runners' chance of surviving is lessened the longer they are without soil. Plant into sandy, well-drained soil and add a generous amount of well-rotted compost. Plant approximately 20cm apart for quick cover. Ensure that you water your new plants well until they are settled.

Vegetative propagation is best done in late winter or early spring as the plant prepares for its new growth season. Tip cuttings can be made from shoots off the rhizomes and, with the aid of a rooting hormone, should root within 3 to 4 weeks. Place the cuttings into well-drained sandy soil and keep moist but not wet.

Seeds are sown in spring or early summer.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Dymondia, if grown correctly is not affected by serious pests or diseases.

About the only thing that this plant does not tolerate well is a heavy or otherwise non-draining soil. People that have problems are often overwatering it or have it planted in soils that do not drain adequately.

Warning:

We did not find Dymondia margaretae listed as toxic anywhere, but it is always advises to supervise small children in the garden and to discourage pets from chewing on plants.