Weed of the Month – February 2016


(Centranthus ruber ssp ruber)

valerian1valerian2(Photos: E. Cousins; plant in flower, and flower cluster; Cape Jervis)

This prolifically-flowering, showy perennial is native to southern Europe. However it is now a common environmental weed in SA, invading dry coastal areas, wastelands, roadsides, etc., equally. It is easily spotted with those profuse heads of dull purplish-red flowers in spring! Individual flowers are tiny at 2mm, but occur in large clusters, or inflorescences, as in the photo. The flowers attract insects such as bees and butterflies, and have a fairly strong (not necessarily pleasant) smell.  The 5-8cm long leaves along the tall stems sit opposite each other; these have a short stem (petiole) while those at ground level have none. Often confused with Valeriana officinalis, which has healing properties, this plant has no medicinal value. Leaves and roots can be eaten (no promises made that it’ll be tasty though!!).