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Gerbera jamesonii Adlam 1888
pronounced: JER-ber-uh jay-mess-OWN-ee-eye
(Asteraceae — the daisy family)
common name: Gerbera
In 1737, the Dutch botanist Jan Frederic Gronovius named the genus after Dr Traugott Gerber (1710–1743), a medical doctor who was also a medical botanist. Dr Gerber became private physician to the Russian Czarina Anna Ivanovna, and was commissioned to create a medical garden in Moscow, and to educate medical students in herbology. He made several expeditions within Russia to search out medicinal plants and herbs; but just what his connection was with Gronovius, or why Gerbera was named in his honour, is not known.
Jamesonii is for the Scottish-born merchant Robert Jameson (1832–1908). He settled in South Africa, and founded a company to manufacture condiments and preserves. He became interested in arboriculture, and as a City Councillor was responsible for much of the tree-planting and several of the parks in Durban. When gold was discovered he set up a mining company, and on return from one of his trips to the goldfield brought back some gerberas, which grew in profusion around the goldfields. He sent specimens of them to Kew Gardens, and the species was later named after him.
The gerbera has in recent years come back into fashion again, and is one of the staple flowers used in the making of bouquets in florist shops. New varieties now produce flowers in vibrant new colours, and with wider petals, in double and semi-double forms. They are available in white, red, cream, orange, pink, purple and yellow. There are also many hybrids that are usually grown in greenhouses for the florist trade, and add further colours to the range available.
Gerberas are grown from seed, or from dividing up the clumps. The plant grows up to about 60 cm tall, with flowers from about 10 to 25 cm in diameter. There are usually at least 10 leaves in a plant, medium green, and spread out in a circle parallel to the ground. When planted out in the garden (and they like very well-drained soil), the plants will usually last for three or four years before their growth becomes stunted, after when they should be replaced. Gerberas are often attacked by fungus and stem rot, and old leaves and spent flower stalks should be removed regularly to help prevent infections.
Gerberas as cut flowers are available in florists’ shops year round. When picking gerberas from the garden, it is advised not to cut the stem (this helps fungus to spread), but to waggle it at its base until it pulls away cleanly. When arranging the flowers, however, cutting off the hairy white part at the bottom of the stem helps them to last longer in water.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2007, 2008
Page last updated 7th December 2016