Noted today in the section of Palo Alto’s Gamble Gardens devoted to plants from arid areas — the Mediterranean, Chile, South Africa, Australia — with climates like our local climate: a very attractive ground cover, with thin, leathery, silver and green leaves. Not in bloom, but still pleasant to look at. Identified as Dymondia margaretae, and if that’s not a taxonomic name derived from a personal name, I’ll hang up my onomastic hat.
The plant, and then the person. And a background story that’s part misfortune, part good fortune.
Dymondia is a genus of flowering plants in the daisy family [the composites]. There is only one known species, Dymondia margaretae [commonly called silver carpet], endemic to the Cape Province region of South Africa.
… The deep roots act as water wells providing water to the plant as needed. The dymondia carpet normally appears green/silver in color
… Makes a flat, very drought tolerant ground cover and good lawn replacement in dry [and sufficiently warm] zones. Takes heavy foot traffic and [is] often called living cement. Works well as a filler between flagstone, pavers, or stepping stones and other confined areas.
And it bears cheery small yellow daisy-like flowers in the summer. It’s not frost-tolerant, nor does it do well in wet locations or in shade. Finally, (pocket) gophers fancy its roots passionately (on the other hand, deer don’t care for the plant).
Now the background story, from PlantsZAfrica site, which reports that in the wild in its native territory, the plant is endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction. However, it’s been a fantastic success as a cultivated plant in other places. From that site:
Dymondia margaretae, both genus and species, is named in memory of Miss Margaret E. Dryden-Dymond, the first collector, who obtained plant material from the Bredasdorp District on a Kirstenbosch expedition in 1933. She was a member of the horticultural staff at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Only one patch of the plant was seen beside a road and although repeatedly searched for in later years, it was never again found. No further records were made until 1949 when Mr H. David brought in fragments from a collecting trip at the foot of the Potberg. Later in October 1950, the plant was found growing in the Bontebok National Park, covering a dry shallow pan. The most recent herbarium collection was in 2005 by N.A. Helme.
Shy and ill-fortuned at home, it’s flourished elsewhere, while not being at all invasive.