My first restio
Restios are rush-like flowering plants native to the southern hemisphere, especially Australia and South Africa where they often dominate their native environment. In South Africa, they are found in the fynbos, the scrubland of the Western Cape characterized by its Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall. The fynbos is part of the Cape Floral Region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If I ever come into money, that part of the world is high on my bucket list travel destinations.
Some restios superficially resemble bamboos, others reeds and yet others horsetails (Equisetum hyemale). Since restios have no leaves, photosynthesis takes place in the green stems. The stems sometimes have papery sheaths, very much like the culm sheaths on bamboos.
|Thamnochortus insignis—close-up of stems|
Restios are easy to care for. Give them a place in full sun, well-drained soil on the acidic side and good air circulation, and they are happy. Once established, most of them are quite drought-tolerant. Restios are typically able to withstand temperatures down to 20°F or even lower.
While restios haven’t entered the horticultural mainstream yet, at least not in California, I do see Cape rush (Elegia tectorum, sometimes still listed by its older name Chondropetalum tectorum) fairly regularly at larger nurseries.
|Thamnochortus insignis—new shoot|
My first restio, however, is Thamnochortus insignis, commonly called “thatching reed” or “dekriet”. I came across it on Thursday at the Landscape Cacti & Succulents Nursery at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. The first thing I noticed were the brown brush-like flower bracts bobbing on top of thin stems. The stems reminded me of a horsetail (Equisetum hyemale) and are highly decorative, especially viewed up close. (Play this short video from Roger’s Gardens; you’ll see Thamnochortus insignis near the beginning.)
The plant I bought is in a 2-gallon container and currently 4½ ft. tall. It has the potential to grow to 6-8 ft. but since it’s so open and airy, it doesn’t have a heavy, intrusive presence. Our specimen will stay in a container and live somewhere near the front door where its beautiful structure can be admired all year.
|Thamnochortus insignis—juvenile growth. Mature plants only have long green stems with seasonal flowers. As with all restios, male and female flowers are on separate plants.|
The next restio I will be looking for is the broom reed (Elegia capensis). From its culms and culm sheaths to its feathery growth, it reminds me a lot of bamboo—in particular Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata ‘Aztecorum’) or one of the Chusquea species.
I love it when I discover new plants. It always makes me wonder how many other plants are out there that I don’t know about yet.
Here are some short but interesting articles about restios: