Camphor-scented pelargonium


Camphor-scented pelargonium

Pelargonium betulinum

Scientific name

The flowers are large and attractive, making this plant very conspicuous when it is in flower. The inflorescence is umbel-like, usually consisting of three to four flowers, occasionally of up to six. Flower colour is variable, pink and purplish flowers being most commonly seen in the wild, and there is also a white form. All flowers have dark purplish streaks on the petals, particularly on the two upper petals. Pelargonium betulinum flowers during spring and summer, with a peak from August to October, and a few flowers appearing all summer until February.

Pelargonium betulinum is confined to the coastal areas of the winter-rainfall region of South Africa, from Yzerfontein on the west coast to Knysna on the east coast of the Western Cape, where it grows on sandy dunes and flat areas. It is often found growing in association with Pelargonium cucullatum and hybrids of these two species are not uncommon.

The seed is adapted to wind-dispersal, is light in weight and has a feathered tail which is coiled into a spiral. After landing on the ground in suitably soft soil, the tail causes the seed to be twisted around so that it drills into the soil in a corkscrew fashion, thus securing itself, ready to germinate with the onset of the rainy weather in autumn.

elargonium betulinum requires full sun or semi-shade, and a neutral, well-drained sandy soil with ample compost (leaf mould), a recommended mix being 1 part loam : 2 parts sand : 2 parts compost, plus some granular fertiliser. The plants can be fed during the growing season with moderate amounts of granular fertilizer or a seaweed-based fertilizer. This species is wind- and drought-tolerant and need only be watered when the soil is dry. Healthier stronger plants will be produced if they are watered deeply less frequently, rather than being given light waterings every day. It can be considered hardy to a winter minimum of approximately -5oC / 23oF (USDA zone 9) but is not suitable for permanent outdoor cultivation in regions that experience prolonged periods below freezing. Bushes can be pruned after flowering and the removal of up to one third of the growth will rejuvenate the plant and improve flowering the following season.

The leaves of Pelargonium betulinum contain essential oils and are used medicinally for coughs and other chest troubles, where fresh leaves are placed in boiled water and the vapour from the steamed leaves is inhaled. The leaves are also known to be used in wound healing ointments. Since it also has the common name maagpynbossie, it would appear that it is also used in some regions to relieve stomach pain.

Also known by | birch-leaved pelargonium | Dune Pelargonium | kanferblaar | suurbos

Click here to read how to propagate from cuttings: https://www.wikihow.com/Propagate-Geraniums-from-Cuttings

Propagation instructions

By seed

Seed should be sown at a depth of 2-3 mm in late summer to autumn (February to March) in a well-drained sandy loam. Germination should occur in 1-3 weeks with percentage germination of ±75%. Remember that plants grown from seed will show some degree of variation and, if a particular form or variant is required, it must be propagated vegetatively.

By cutting

Propagation is by cuttings or seed. This species is readily propagated from softwood and tip cuttings taken from healthy young growth in autumn (March to May). The cuttings should be left to dry in a cool spot for a few hours. The basal ends should be dipped in a rooting hormone, and inserted into a prepared hole made by a dibber or a nail to avoid damaging the ends. The cuttings should be rooted in a cold frame, in a well-drained medium, such as coarse river sand. The first watering should contain a fungicide or agricultural disinfectant — for example a.i. benomyl (Benlate)/copper oxychloride/captab (Kaptan)/didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (Sporekill)) — after which the cuttings should be watered regularly but not excessively. Rooting should occur in 4 to 8 weeks and a weaning period of 1 week is recommended. The newly rooted cuttings can be fed with a seaweed-based fertilizer and potted up after they have been weaned.

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.
We currently have no seeds of this species in our seedbanks. Do you have any seeds or do you know where we can get some? Get in touch!
Nursery Quantity
Beryl's nursery 20
Rosie's nursery 20
Total 40

This table below shows how many plants we are trying to obtain for this species.

Site Area Quantity
Site #7 Delft 3
Site #11 Delft 5
Site #62 Newlands 10
Site #62 Newlands 7
Total 25

Can you help grow this species?

We are in need of this species! Can you help? Maybe you have this species at home, or perhaps you can collect seeds or cuttings (if applicable) from friends or from a public space. If so, why don't you help establish this species in areas where it is much needed!

I can help!

Important characteristics

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

It provides medicinal value

It is a pioneer species suitable for establishing the soil in bare areas

Pelargonium betulinum is indigenous to: Cape Flats Sand Fynbos

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