Cerinthia is a genus of plants in the family Fabaceae, which includes over 500 species worldwide. They are widely distributed from tropical Africa to southern Australia and include many common houseplants such as the daisy, sunflower, dahlias and azaleas. Most species grow best in cool climates with moderate rainfall (less than 200 mm per year) but some thrive well in warmer areas like North America or Europe.
The name “cerinth” comes from the Greek word meaning “sweet”. The Latin name, Cerinthium means “blue flower”, while the Greek name, Klytonion means “shrimpy flower”.
Cerinthia is a member of the mint family. It is native to South East Asia including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Some species have been introduced into other parts of the world where they are now considered invasive pests.
There are several varieties of cerinthia. These include the wild type, cultivated forms and hybrids.
Wild types are those that do not undergo any selective breeding; they come from natural populations that have never been crossed with another variety. Cultivated forms are those produced through selective breeding. Hybrid forms result when two different cultivars produce fertile offspring together, usually resulting in sterile offspring if crossbreeding is done too often or if one of the parents has a disease or pest problem.
The daisy cerinthia, also known as the African daisy or the big-seeded cerinthia, is a hybrid form of the common and major cerinthia. It is a small evergreen shrub with succulent branches.
Its size is about 60 cm in diameter and 1.5 m in height. The flower head has a diameter of 3.5 to 8 cm. The colour of the ray florets is white or light purple. The flower head has an outer ring of ligulate florets and a center spindle of tubular florets. The tubular florets are white, light purple or blue.
The daisy cerinthia is one of the most popular varieties because it can withstand tough conditions at the edge of a garden bed or in cracks in the pavement. It is also known as a “living mulch” since it can block weeds from growing, helping to conserve moisture in the soil.
The flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects. They also act as a good source of nutrition for birds in winter.
The daisy cerinthias are relatively easy to maintain and propagate. They grow best in full sun.
They are drought-tolerant and can survive long periods without water or irrigation. Pruning is not necessary unless for shaping or reducing the size of the plant. They can survive cold weather when they are young plants but are killed by frost when mature. The main pest that affects them is the aphid and has been known to cause epidemics.
These flowers are mostly grown in private gardens for ornamental purposes, but some have found a use in herbal medicine. People crush the fresh flower heads and apply the juice directly to the skin to treat warts.
They can also be used to make a soothing ointment for bruises by mixing the fresh flowers with a small amount of a thick oil like lanolin or petroleum jelly. They are not toxic but may cause skin irritation in some people.
Cerinthia is a small genus of perennial, herbaceous and sometimes Iying shrubs. It consists of about 19 species, mostly native to South Africa with one species in the mountains of tropical Africa, one in Arabia, three in Iran, three in Turkey, one in Syria, three in Iraq, two in Syria, one in Pakistan and one naturalized in Jamaica.
The most widespread species is C. grandiflora, the major or common daisy, which is native to South Africa.
The tubular florets are borne in a spherical flower head surrounded by ray florets in two or three rings. The major species have white or light purple flowers, but some have bright yellow flowers and others pink.
They are mostly insect-pollinated but can reproduce vegetatively and also spread through seed. They are relatively short-lived, especially under cultivation.
The genus was named by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The word “cerinthia” comes from the Greek word kerion meaning “a grain”.
Some species, including the major species, have grains contained in their seedheads. The genus was previously classified in the family Cinerariaceae but has now been classified in the family Aizoaceae.
Sources & references used in this article:
The pictorial guide to seeds of the world: an introduction into the collection, cleaning, and storage of seeds by TA Woodger – 2011 – books.google.com
Ethnobotanical study of the Sannio area, Campania, southern Italy by L Land – 2003 – Workman Publishing
Letters from Malta and Sicily, addressed to a young naturalist by C Guarino, L De Simone, S Santoro – 2008 – scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu
Armageddon Cookbook and Doomsday Kitchen by G Waring – 1843 – books.google.com