Wild Rosemary Overview
The fine, grey-green, aromatic foliage, the snow-white flowers and the fluffy cotton wool seeds ensure that this multi-branched low growing shrub has year-long appeal. Wild rosemary is indigenous to South Africa and able to withstand the most adverse conditions of weather, soil and habitat. This evergreen shrub has numerous leaf-adaptations to save water and prevent water loss, making it an excellent shrub for the waterwise garden. It also has a well-developed taproot that extends deep into the soil, and lateral roots to collect water closer to the surface. Eriocephalus africanus can be planted in full sun and needs well-draining soil to thrive. It can be lightly pruned to encourage branching and bushy growth. Wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus) has small delicate white flowers that later form soft, woolly fruit reminiscent of snow, hence the vernacular Afrikaans name 'kapokbossie'. The leaves are highly aromatic but much softer than that of rosemary and can be used in cooking (especially a favourite in a karoo lamb dish). Wild rosemary is well-known for its medicinal properties and is traditionally used to treat coughs and colds and to promotoe diuresis. Today, it is a valuable aromatic essential oil used in perfumes.
How to harvest Wild Rosemary
The young tops, leaves, flowers, seed and stems/sprigs are harvested for various culinary and medicinal use. For the preservation of natural plant growth, the plants should only be cut every third year, i.e. with a 2-year break between harvests.
How to propagate Wild Rosemary
The seed may be sown in autumn or spring and germinate slowly and erratically within 10 days. Spacing in situ is 2 m.
Wild rosemary roots easily from tip or heel cuttings taken in spring or autumn. Plant in full sun and give ample water.
Special features of Wild Rosemary
Fluffy seeds harvested by birds for the lining of their nests.
Attracts useful insects
Attracts bees and butterflies.
High drought tolerance once well established.
By pruning it into shape it makes a neat border hedge.
Small, new plants should be kept in their pots in a sheltered location for several months to allow the slow growing plants to form healthy root systems.
Other uses of Wild Rosemary
Traditionally used as a medicine for many ailments like coughs and colds, flatulence and colic, as a diuretic and a diaphoretic.
Wild rosemary can be used for cooking, in sachets and pot-pourris, as well as making tea.