Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Common Names

Balloon milkweed, Balloon wild cotton, Hairy balls, Bindweed (english)
Balmelkbossie, Balbossie, Wilde Kapok (afrikaans)
umBababa, umBemiso, umangwazane, umQumnqwewe, uPhuphuma, uSingalwesalukazi, umSingalwesalukazi (zulu)

Taxonomy

Family APOCYNACEAE
Genus Gomphocarpus
Species physocarpus
SA Plant Number
Basionym Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Description

Gomphocarpus physocarpus (was Asclepias physocarpa) is a very hardy, evergreen, upright soft shrub with pale yellowish green branches and light green, lance-shaped leaves. From November to April it bears pendulous clusters of white flowers with a pinky-purple centre (corona). These highly specialized flowers are pollinated by vespid wasps. The distinctive inflated fruits are yellowish-green tinged with purple, and covered in hair-like structures. All parts of the plant weep poisonos white latex when damaged or cut.

It is the host plant of the African Monarch Butterfly (Danaus chrysippus orientis) and the toxic alkaloids that the caterpillars ingest are carried through to the pupae and the butterfly to make them highly distasteful to predators. The fruit are decorative in a vase – make sure not to get any of the sap / latex on the skin and wash hands thoroughly after handling.

Beautiful in a grassland garden or as a tall feature at the back of a flower bed.

Plant in full sun or very light semi-shade, in well drained soil.

Size: up to 2m

Wildlife

Butterfly Host Plant:

Host plant of the African Monarch Butterfly (Danaus chrysippus orientis). The toxic alkaloids that the caterpillars ingest are carried through to the pupae and the butterfly to make them highly distasteful to predators.

Uses

Distribution

Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, Western Cape, Eastern Cape

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