Gazania krebsiana, previously known as Gazania pavonia, must be one of Namaqualand ‘s most well known and striking perennial plants. This flamboyant, variable and versatile plant is the trademark of the unique country landscapes in Namaqualand (the wild flower region in South Africa’s western extremities) and the pride of the flower route in South Africa.
Gazania krebsiana is an extremely showy plant when in flower largely due to its warm and bright flower colour, flower size and its extended flowering period. The plants are perennial and herbaceous and reach about 150 mm high. They are therefor aptly referred to as tufted groundcovers and many individuals together may give a rather mat-like appearance, a sight that is all too beautiful when in bloom. Individually they form rounded tufts on the ground of about 200 mm across with very distinctive foliage.
Flowerheads measure 50-60(-90) mm in diameter. The upper side of the ray florets (the florets at the margin of a flowerhead in the Asteraceae) is mainly a magnificent dark red or orange, with dark brown markings on the lower quarter. In some literature the flower colour is referred to as terracotta, hence the common name, terracotta gazania. The dark brown markings may contain black or white spots, adding more eloquence to the flowers. Gazania krebsiana flowers from August till January reaching a peak in October and November.
Each flowerhead contains about 25 fruits, ± 5 x 1mm. Each fruit is equipped with silky hairs that enable it to be easily dispersed by the wind. The seeds start maturing from October and ants may be seen carrying them away into their underground tunnels.
Due to its adaptability and the abundance of seeds it produces, Gazania krebsiana is well established in all habitats across its distribution range. Seeds are able to travel across large distances and can remain viable for a number of years. The plants are relatively short-lived, up to about three years depending on various conditions. Currently there is no concern of these plants becoming rare or endangered. However, it must be mentioned that many major populations in certain parts of Namaqualand have become heavily reduced, largely due to overgrazing from domestic livestock.
Distribution and Habitat
Gazania krebsiana has a very wide distribution range, mainly within the winter rainfall region of South Africa. It is virtually found in all provinces of South Africa from Namaqualand in the west to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in the east. Northward it extends into the drier interior of the Great Karoo, the Free State and then into some parts of the summer rainfall regions of Gauteng and the Lowveld. Plants and adaptable and flourish in a host of habitats but are mostly found along roadsides, on flats or lower slopes, exposed hills and rocky outcrops and stony ridges. The latter two habitats are especially ideal in the Namaqualand region of the country. To a lesser extent they may well be found in grassy situations, in montane vegetation and in coastal dune vegetation which is commonly referred to as Strandveld (seaside plants) in the west to south, and thicket in the east. Associated vegetation types include Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo, Fynbos, Dry Valley Bushveld and Grasslands. Plants seem to tolerate a number of soil types but have a noticeable preference for clay and sandy soil.