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Common Name: Night-Scented Pelargonium
Pelargonium triste is a Evergreen Perennial up to 0.50 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
S. Africa - northern and western Cape.
Sandy or gravelly soils on hills or flats in the western Cape[
Requires a light well-drained neutral to alkaline soil in a sunny position[
]. Easily grown in a sandy soil, the plant needs to be kept dry in the summer but moist in the winter and spring[
Plants are not very hardy in Britain, tolerating temperatures down to about 0°c[
]. They generally require greenhouse protection but might succeed outdoors when grown in a very sheltered warm spot in the mildest parts of the country[
]. They can also be grown in containers that are placed outdoors in the summer and then brought into the greenhouse or conservatory for the winter[
]. The plants need to be kept fairly dry in the winter[
Plants produce a large, subterranean tuber with tuberous roots. The tubers have a rather cracked, woody bark[
]. The plants grow in areas with seasonal rain and become dormant in the dry season, resprouting from the base when the rains return[
The flowers, especially at night, have a deliciously sweet fragrance[
]. The bruised leaves emit a resinous scent[
Very tolerant of pruning, they can be cut right down to the base in the autumn when bringing them back indoors, or in the spring to encourage lots of fresh growth[
]. This species has tuberous roots that can be cooked like potatoes[
] - we assume this means that a starch can be extracted from it[
All parts of the plant are astringent[
Pelargonium triste has tannin-rich tubers[
]. Infusions from the tubers are used for treating dysentery and diarrhoea.
The tannin-rich tubers can be used as a dye, producing a rich, reddish brown colour[
An essential oil is obtained from the plant.
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse. Stored seed should be sown in early spring in a greenhouse. The seed germinates best with a minimum temperature of 13°c, germination usually taking place within 2 weeks though it sometimes takes some months[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. If trying them outdoors, plant them out in early summer and consider giving them extra protection during the winter.
Cuttings succeed at almost any time in the growing season but early summer is the best time in order for the new plant to become established before winter.
Division. The plant spreads by means of its tuberous roots[
] - young suckers can be potted up at any time of the year and grown on in pots in a greenhouse until established.