Wildeals

Wildeals

After a lengthy period of closure after the fire of 2017, the recovery of the vegetation is remarkable.  Some of the dune vegetation is still a bit sparse but other areas are lush and well covered.  Noteworthy are the huge stands  of Artemisia affra (Wildeals, Wormwood) mixed with the odd Eriocephalus racemosa (Wilde Roosmaryn, Wild Rosemary), pictured above. These species both belong to the family Asteraceae (Aster family).

Wildeals
Goukamma Forest Lodge
Wildeals
The languid Goukamma River

Artemisia afra is one of the oldest and best known medicinal plants, and is still used effectively today in South Africa by people of all cultures. The list of uses covers a wide range of ailments from coughs, colds, fever, loss of appetite, colic, headache, earache, intestinal worms to malaria.  Artemisia is used in many different ways and one of the most common practices is to insert fresh leaves into the nostrils to clear blocked nasal passages (Van Wyk et al. 1997). Another maybe not so common use is to place leaves in socks for sweaty feet (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962). The roots, stems and leaves are used in many different ways and taken as enemas, poultices, infusions, body washes, lotions, smoked, snuffed or drunk as a tea. A. afra has a very bitter taste and is usually sweetened with sugar or honey when drunk. Wilde-als brandy is a very popular medicine still made and sold today. Margaret Roberts (1990) lists many other interesting uses in her book, Indigenous healing plants, which includes the use of A. afra in natural insecticidal sprays and as a moth repellent. She also mentions that wildeals with its painkilling and relaxing properties could be of real value to today’s stressful society.

Artemisia afra grows in thick, bushy, slightly untidy clumps, usually with tall stems up to 2 m high, but sometimes as low as 0.6 m. The stems are thick and woody at the base, becoming thinner and softer towards the top. Many smaller side branches shoot from the main stems. The stems are ribbed with strong swollen lines that run all the way up. The soft leaves are finely divided, almost fern-like. The upper surface of the leaves is dark green whereas the undersides and the stems are covered with small white hairs, which give the shrub the characteristic overall grey colour.  Very typical of A. afra is the strong, sticky sweet smell that it exudes when touched or cut.

Wildeals
Artimisia afra
Wildeals
Close up of leaves

Growing Wildeals:  Best grown in  full sun and  prune heavily pruning in winter to encourage new lush growth in spring. Fast-growing, established shrubs are very tough and will slowly spread to form thicker clumps. New plants can be propagated by division or from cuttings that root easily in spring and summer.  Seed can be sown in spring or summer.