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Plant Profile: African Sheepbush (Pentzia incana aka ​​​​​Chrysanthemum incanum)

Native to South Africa and Namibia, this aromatic subshrub is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes sunflower, yarrow, and lettuce. The plants form dense bushy mounds with horizontal, fibrous stems that form roots at ground level and then grow erect. Growing 12-24″ tall, the plants have grayish, pinnately compound leaves that are egg or wedge-shaped, covered with matted hairs, and resemble pine needles. The terminal yellow flowerheads are ball-like, 1/2″ across, and consist of disc flowers enclosed in graduated phyllaries. They appear from spring into summer and give way to 5-angled achenes with cup-shaped, dry, crowns of scales. The shrubs are highly valued as fodder for sheep in arid and semi arid areas and are given credit for the unique taste of Karoo lamb. They were introduced into southwestern US during the Dust Bowl to stabilize the soil. The genus name, Pentzia, honors Swedish plant collector Hendrik Christian Pentz (1738–1803). The specific epithet, incana, is the Latin word meaning hoary or white and refers to the appearance of the foliage.

Type: Subshrub

Outstanding Feature: Fodder plant for sheep

Form: Rounded

Growth Rate: Slow to moderate

Bloom: Yellow flowerheads .5″ across from spring into summer

Size: 12-24″ H

Light: Full sun

Soil: Sandy, dry, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 11-12

Care: Low maintenance

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed, stem cuttings

Outstanding Selections: None available

Photo Credit: Wikipedia