Origin of name:
asper / -a / -um = rough
comosus / -a / -um = with tuft of hair
Woody rootstockLeaves dotted with glandsSmall compact headsWhite bracts
Hard, stiff, divaricately branched, tangled, bushy shrublet mostly 15�400 mm tall, sometimes straggling, outer spreading branches then sending up numerous erect shoots, branches thinly grey-woolly, often glabrescent, rarely glandular-hispid, leafy. Leaves 2�6 x 0,5 mm (old primary leaves up to 20 x 1 mm), linear, acute to subacute, or obtuse, often apiculate, sessile, margins strongly revolute, both surfaces thinly white woolly-felted, often glabrescent, sometimes glandular-hispid as well. Heads homogamous, c. 4 x 2 mm, cylindric, solitary or 2�4, very rarely more, together at the branch tips, closely surrounded by leaves. Involucral bracts in 5�6 series, outermost short, webbed with wool to surrounding leaves, inner subequal, equaling flowers, erect, tips semipellucid, subacute, often erose, light golden-brown, often reddish below, not radiating, soon caducous. Receptacle raised, slightly tuberculate. Flowers 7�13. Achenes not seen, ovaries with myxogenic duplex hairs. Pappus bristles many, equaling corolla, scabrid, bases with patent cilia not cohering.
Similar in habit to var. glabrum but a coarser-looking plant, with generally larger leaves 7�20 x 1 (�1,5) mm, which may be glabrous, but are often woolly below and sometimes thinly appressed-woolly above in Natal specimens, and are always woolly in Cape specimens. The involucral bracts always have conspicuous opaque white tips.
Flowering September to March.
Var. comosum is common on coastal sand dunes from about Plettenberg Bay to Port Elizabeth; then there is an apparent distributional gap to the KwaZulu-Natal coast, where var. comosum has been recorded as far north as the Mozambique border. There are no records of any form of H. asperum along the Transkei coast, apart from Kei Mouth and Gogwana Mouth (var. glabrum).
In KwaZulu-Natal, var. comosum has been recorded inland up to c. 900 m above sea level, always on sandy soils, but it is not as common inland as along the beaches.
Savanna, Grassland and Thicket Biomes.
Similar in habit to var. glabrum but a coarser-looking plant, with generally larger leaves 7�20 x 1 (�1.5) mm, which may be glabrous, but are often woolly below and sometimes thinly appressed-woolly above in KwaZulu-Natal specimens, and are always woolly in Cape specimens. The involucral bracts always have conspicuous opaque white tips.
Some specimens of H. lineare from inland KwaZulu-Natal may resemble var. comosum rather closely, but are distinguished by their prostrate habit. The grey-woolly Cape specimens can be confused with H. niveum, but that species has fewer flowers in the head (mostly 5�6, opposed to 8�12) and shorter, narrower, more crowded leaves.
Five varieties are recognized. Not all specimens can be assigned to a variety. Putative hybrids have been reported.
la Heads mostly solitary or 2�4 at the branch tips, rarely more:
2a Tips of involucral bracts light golden-brown, often tinged red, semi-pellucid
(a) var. asperum
2b Tips of involucral bracts opaque white
(b) var. albidulum
1b Heads several at the branch tips:
3a Leaves 2�5 (�10) x 0,5 mm, glabrous
(d) var. glabrum
3b Leaves either variously woolly at least when young, or if glabrous, then leaves mostly 7�10 x 1�1,5 mm:
4a Leaves mostly 7�20 x 1�1,5 mm, woolly or glabrous; tips of involucral bracts white
(e) var. comosum
4b Leaves mostly 3�6 x 0,5�1 mm:
5a Leaves loosely woolly; involucral bracts semipellucid, buff-coloured, sometimes with a reddish tinge
(c) var. appressifolium
5b Leaves enveloped in tightly woven 'tissue-paper' indumentum (though this breaks down to wool with age); tips of involucral bracts opaque white, often reddish above the stereome
(b) var. albidulum
Helichrysum asperum (Thunb.) Hilliard & Burtt var. comosum (Sch. Bip.) Hilliard & Burtt in Notes R. Bot. Gdn Edinb. 34: 79 (1975); Hilliard, Compositae in Natal 208 (1977).
KwaZulu-Natal, Port Natal, Krauss (BM; G; K; TCD, isotypes).
H. comosum Sch. Bip., in Flora, Regensburg 27: 678 (1844).
H. asperum (Thunb.) Hilliard & Burtt p.p.; Hilliard, Compositae in Natal 208 (1977).
H. ericifolium Less. var. lineare sensu Harv. in F.C. 3: 217 (1865); non H. lineare DC.
Dahlstrand 20 (PRE); Fourcade 1799 (PRE); Hilliard & Burtt 3374 (E; NH; NU); Rudatis 1565 (PRE); Strey 5187 (PRE).