A matter of confusing identity

Chaenostoma cordata

Chaenostoma cordatum  (kee-NO-stoh-muh   kor-DAY-tum)

This plant underwent many name changes in the past.   Thunberg initially named it Manulea cordata in 1800 but it was re-named Chaenostoma cordatum in 1836 by Bentham. He become aware of Sutera by 1846 and used both as separate genera. In 1891, Kuntze changed the name to Sutera as he thought the two genera were the same. Hilliard in 1994 used Sutera but had two sections, Sutera and Chaenostoma, within this genus. Sutera was kept until 2005 when Swedish botanists, Per Kornhall and Birgatta Bremer, decided through DNA-sequencing that there is enough evidence for these genera to be separated. They reverted to the previous name, Chaenostoma for the group of the species including C. cordatum. It is sometimes referred to as Bacopa but it is not certain where the use of this name originated.  All very confusing, but  there you have it – Chaenostoma, Sutera or Bacopa, is a lovely little plant to grace your garden. When visiting your garden centre ask for either Sutera or Bacopa as that is the  listing  in the Nursery trade. These plants are bred  to produce a more compact growth and bigger flowers,  they are marketed all over the world and used widely in hanging baskets and as fillers in container gardens.


Marketed as Bacopa ‘Scopia -double’

The original form is a pretty trailing and spreading short lived perennial  which  is  the ideal groundcover for that garden spot with varying micro climates.  The  neat, fast-growing plants do  well in full sun and shade.  Small dark green heart shaped leaves and small round five-petaled white flowers with a yellow centre are borne on the branch tips flower year-round, but at its prime in spring. During the heat of summer it will probably require additional moisture to continue flowering. It is sensitive to frost and not particularly drought tolerant. It is relatively pest-free, but white flies can occasionally be encountered.

It is  found from George in the southern Western Cape to East London in the Eastern Cape, with the possible exception of the Algoa area. It appears not only along coastal stretches but also inland in areas such as forested kloofs from the Outeniqua Mountains around George to Grahamstown

This species is easily propagated. Sow seed in spring in a well draining potting mix with added   coarse river sand. Cuttings must be placed in a mist-unit, where rooting will occur in 2-3 weeks.  An easy plant to grow that provides many months of colour while also creating a good groundcover effect. It is pollinated by bees.

Chaenostoma:   from the Greek chaino (to gape) and stoma (mouth), referring to the corolla,  cordatum refers to the more or less heart-shaped leaves.