Sunday, 7 December 2008

Aponogeton distachyus

Aponogeton distachyus L. f.
Waterblommetjies, Water Hawthorn

This is one of those rare plants that is so distinctive that botanists have found no reason to dispute the original botanic name. Stability since 1781. That's as old as Monserrate!

From Flowering Plants of Africa
Illustration by Cyntha Letty

Introduced into cultivation in Europe in the seventeenth century. It has become naturalised in Southern France. At Monserrate it is thoroughly established in the pool at the base of the cascade. When this pool was excavated of accumulated sand (in 1997) there was no sign of Aponogetum distachyus, however the tubers that grow in the bottom mud can lie dormant in unfavourable conditions, such as drought. Within a year the newly cleared water surface was covered by the oval shaped leaves of the pondweed. Seed germinates freely on the water surface.
From their first discovery these watery flowers have been celebrated for their fragrance. Linnaeus fils described them thus: Flores odore fragrantissimo - they are reputed to smell of hawthorn if you can get your nose near them!

In South Africa in modern times these plants have enjoyed a culinary boom grown commercially for the soup pot. Waterblommetjie Bredie (stew). The flowers are cooked with onions, mutton and a few leaves of Oxalis pes-caprae.

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