Aptosimum procumbens

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Botanical Name
Aptosimum procumbens
Scrophulariaceae - The snapdragon family.
ap-TOE-sih-mum pro-KUM-benz
Common Name(s)
English: Karoo Violet; Wild Violet; Carpet Flower; Karoo Carpet Flower; Veld Violet; Violet-of-the-karoo
Afrikaans: Brandblare; Brandbossie; Kankerbos; Karooviooltjie; Seeroogbossie
Plant Group
  • Ground Cover A plant with a low-growing, spreading habit, grown specifically to cover the ground.
  • Veld Flower Small veld flowers of interest, rather than for their usefulness in the garden. Some of these plants have garden potential, particularly for less formal garden situations.
Plant Size
  • Very Small
    Tree3m to 4m
    Shrub25cm to 50cm
    Perennial/ground coverUp to 10cm
    Bulb10cm to 20cm
    SucculentUp to 5cm
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
Specific Information

Aptosimum procumbens is a low growing perennial plant which spreads to form a mat of up to 1 m in diameter.  The leaves are  usually densely crowded on long or short shoots and vary in shape from roundish to narrow. The fruit is a capsule with an opening at the top from which seeds escape. The plant can withstand long periods of drought. When in full bloom it is covered with dark blue or violet, trumpet-shaped flowers that can appear at any time of the year but mostly from spring to summer, after rain. Karoo violets show potential as garden plants especially in the dry parts of the country, where carpets of purple brighten the arid landscape. Unfortunately this little plant appears to have escaped the notice of horticulturists and is not commercially available.

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trumpet-shaped with a white throat and dark purple markings at the base of the lobes

  • All Year Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • Spring to Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • purple
Growth Rate
  • Moderate to Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Edging A low growing plant that provides softness or definition to the edges of a bed or walkway.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Ground Cover Low-lying plants that spread fast, require minimal maintenance, and cover large expanses or bare areas between bulbs or shrubs. They provide protection from erosion and drought and improve the visual appearance of the garden.
  • Retaining Walls Shallow rooted plants for cascading over dry stone walls or planting in hollow spots in retaining blocks.
  • Rock Garden An area constructed of larger rocks, arranged naturally, to emphasise the use of stones as a main element. Generally plants used do not need a lot of care.
  • Stabilize Banks Plant is used to prevent soil erosion because their roots will form a mat that stabilizes the soil and keeps it from washing away in heavy rains.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

in the arid areas the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape and the North West Province, including Namaqualand, Bushmanland, the Great Escarpment, the Northern, Upper, Great and Little Karoo, as well as in Namibia and Botswana, on flood plains, flats, ridges, disturbed ground and mountain plains

Planting Suggestions

It is reportedly difficult to propagate Aptosimum procumbens from seed which is possibly a reason for its lack of application in the nursery trade. If you can gain access to them, cuttings taken only from the soft, young tips of shoots are a better option. Use material from healthy and vigorously growing plants. Cuttings should be about 10 cm long and be planted in a coarse, sandy soil which must be kept moist and warm. Poorly drained soil will cause the cuttings to rot.

Lorraine's Garden Notes

The second and fourth photo are the property of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve near Grahamstown.

Medicinal Uses

The plants are said to be of medicinal value to treat 'krimpsiekte' in sheep, an illness that affects the joints, muscles and stomach, often resulting in starvation and death.

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I have a large piece of land in Oudtshoorn, more than half of which is wild veld. Aptosimum procumbens grows wild and prolifically on this untouched land, which is composed mostly of heavy red clay and dense loam. If it grows wild in such soil is it really necessary to propagate it in the light, well-drained mixture you suggest?

Hi Charnell

My apologies for taking so long to reply to you comment.

I hear what you are saying but I have never had any luck trying to root tender young cuttings in clay or heavy soil. Soft tip cuttings need to be kept just moist with plenty of air in the soil and around the stems. Clayey and heavy soils do not serve the purpose as the dense particles clamp tightly onto the delicate stems, keeping them constantly wet, with the result that the cuttings rot within a couple of days.

Once the cuttings in the light soil are well rooted, they are steadily hardened off until they are strong enough to be planted in a harsher environment.

Sadly, I have never been able to obtain seeds or cuttings of this delightful little plant.

Kind regards

To find the 1cm cuttings spoken of in the article you will have to be very diligent. Very rarely will you find such cuttings and only in spring when the first rain and signs of heat have prompted some growth. I have never really considered taking cuttings before reading this article, being quite content to wander up the slope behind our house to admire the wonderful variety of succulents and other veld flowers that grow there. I have however noted a spurt of growth around September and October. New growth tends to harden off extremely quickly by the looks of it and unless you have unlimited free access to a growing plant near you, you are going to find it near impossible to get cuttings.

Hi Charnell

Many thanks for your detailed information. It looks as though it would be very difficult to get hold of this little plant. I have found that many of the little veld plants just don't perform when grown in a garden situation and I suspect this is one of them. The specific needs of climate, habitat and soil would be difficult to provide. I'll just have to enjoy my pictures and memories.

Kind regards

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