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Products > Chondropetalum elephantinum
Chondropetalum elephantinum - Large Cape Rush

[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Grass-like
Family: Restionaceae (Restios)
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Brown
Bloomtime: Summer/Fall
Synonyms: [C. tectorum, Hort., Elegia elephantina]
Height: 3-5 feet
Width: 4-6 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25 F
Chondropetalum elephantinum (Large Cape Rush) - This South African plant forms dense tufted clumps from which arise 4 foot tall dark green unbranched stems. The dark brown sheaths at the joints drop off in summer leaving a dark band at each node. Late in the season the stems arch gracefully from the weight of clusters of small brown flowers at the tips. Male and female plants have remarkably similar flowers but the female flowers are held tighter and are clustered toward the tip of the stems. Plant in full to part sun. It is drought tolerant, but appreciates supplemental water in spring. It is hardy to about 20-25 degrees F and tolerates a wide soil pH range. In its natural habitat Chondropetalum elephantinum grows close to the coast from Clanwilliam to Grahamstown, often preferring marshy habitat. It can be successfully planted in seaside gardens, used in relatively dry landscapes or used as a plant in the shallows of a water garden. We have recently been told by our seed supplier that the plant widely grown in the US as Chondropetalum tectorum has been reclassified as Chondropetalum elephantinum. The true Chondropetalum tectorum is a smaller plant (about 3 feet tall) from the southern Cape and Chondropetalum elephantinum is a more robust form up to 6 feet tall from the West Coast. The taxonomic work up on this was done by Dr. Hans Peter Linder who is a professor at the University of Zurich Institute for Systematical Botany and co-author of the "Restios of the Fynbos". Likely many of the plants in the nursery trade still sold as "Chondropetalum tectorum" are from seed collected from the larger form. In another taxonomic twist Dr. Linder, based on DNA evidence, has most recently included Chondropetalum in the genus Elegia, so this plant would now become Elegia elephantina. We retain the name Chondropetalum elephantinum for this plant until such time as this becomes more widely accepted. The name Chondropetalum comes from the Greek words 'chondros' meaning "wheat" or a "big, grain of wheat" and 'petalum' meaning a "flower petal". The origin of the name Elegia is that it is the Latin word ' elegia' which means a "song of lamentation" perhaps in reference to the rustling sound of the culms in the wind. The specific epithet means elephant perhaps because of this plants large stature.  Information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library, from online sources, as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery's garden and in other gardens where we have observed it. We also will incorporate comments received from others and welcome getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips would aid others in growing Chondropetalum elephantinum.