Hermannia hyssopifolia

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Botanical Name
Hermannia hyssopifolia
Malvaceae - The hibiscus and cotton family.
her-MAWN-ee-uh hiss-sop-ih-FOH-lee-uh
Common Name(s)
English: Eight-day Healing Bush
IsiXhosa: inceba
Plant Group
  • Shrub A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
Plant Size
  • Medium
    Tree10m to 16m
    Shrub1m to 2m
    Perennial/ground cover40cm to 60cm
    Bulb40cm to 60cm
    Succulent40cm to 60cm
  • Small to Medium
    Tree8m to 15m
    Shrub75cm to 1m
    Perennial/ground cover20cm to 40cm
    Bulb30cm to 40cm
    Succulent20cm to 40cm
  • Small
    Tree4m to 8m
    Shrub50cm to 75cm
    Perennial/ground cover10cm to 20cm
    Bulb20cm to 30cm
    Succulent10cm to 20cm
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate The plant is moderately adapted to arid conditions and can survive short periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Tender A plant that will not survive any frost or low winter temperatures.
  • Water Moderate These plants will need some extra watering compared to water-wise plants. Plant them together, in at least some shade and in a convenient proximity to the house so that grey water can be utilised during times of drought.
  • Wind Tolerant Plants able to withstand the effect of strong winds.
Specific Information

Hermannia hyssopifolia forms an upright to rounded, much branched shrub with long, slender, purple to reddish stems. The smallish, oblong leaves are a pale grey-green, are slightly hairy and may be toothed at the tips. Once flowering is over, the seeds form inside the rounded calyx which becomes papery when dry, falls off and is blown away by the wind. In the wild, the shrub does not survive a burn but many seedlings will spring up to take the place of the dead plants. The plants are often grazed by stock.

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five tiny petals held in a tight rosette by an urn-shaped, balloon-like calyx, held in loose clusters at the ends of branches

  • Spring Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • creamy-yellow
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.
  • Border A strip of ground, at the edge of a driveway or path in which ornamental plants or shrubs are planted.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • 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.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Suitable for smaller gardens Such plants do not have invasive root systems, remain small or controllable and can often be grown in containers.
  • 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 Western Cape, from the Cape Peninsula, extending into the the Little Karoo and into the Eastern Cape, in stony granite or clay soils, usually on moist or sheltered south-facing slopes but occasionally on flat ground in seeps

Planting Suggestions

Not having been a popular garden subject, there is little literature about growing Hermannia hyssopifolia. In general, choose a reasonably damp or well-watered part of the garden in a semi-shaded position. For best results, a sandy loam mixed with compost would be best, with a good layer of mulch to retain water. (The photos above show my specimen, planted in dry sandy-clay-limestone soil without compost and in full sun.) Prune the shrub lightly after seeding but do not cut back hard or the plant will not recover easily. Propagate from cuttings taken from new growth in late winter or early spring, or from seed sown in autumn. 

Lorraine's Garden Notes

May 2013: Although all references cite this plant as flowering in spring, the specimen in my garden produced its best flowers in autumn, with some flowers all year round.. 

Medicinal Uses

Hermannia hyssopifolia was used by the isiXhosa and later, the early settlers, as a blood purifier, as a remedy for syphilis and to make an ointment for a skin infection. Along with some other aromatic, shrubby plants, its common name, Agtdaegeneesbossie, meaning Eight-day healing bush, supposedly produced a cure within eight days.

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