Origin of name:

mutabilis = changeable

Diagnostic characters:

Large heads in compact branched inflorescences
Bright yellow (brownish) bracts
Leaves woolly to glabrous


Perennial herb up to c. 1 m tall, stems one or several from the stock, simple below, branching above into the compound inflorescence, glandular-setose, often thinly and loosely white-woolly as well, leafy. Leaves mostly 25�75 x 4�12 mm, sometimes larger (up to 90 x 24 mm) on the lower part of the stem, and often smaller on the inflorescence branches and further reduced near the heads, oblong or the upper ones oblong-lanceolate, apex acute, base broad, more or less cordate-clasping, both surfaces glandular-pubescent, often thinly to thickly greyish-white woolly as well either on both surfaces, or the lower surface, or the lower leaves woolly on one or both surfaces, the upper leaves merely glandular. Heads heterogamous, depressed-globose, c. (10�) 12�14 mm long, (18�) 20�28 mm across the radiating bracts, solitary at the tips of the long (mostly 45�155 mm) leafy branches of a spreading corymbose panicle. Involucral bracts in c. 9 series, graded, imbricate, inner much exceeding the flowers, bright yellow, outer light brown outside. Receptacle shortly honeycombed. Flowers c. 850�1200, 100�130 female, 760�1 100 homogamous. Achenes 1 mm long, barrel-shaped, glabrous. Pappus bristles many, equaling the corolla, tips barbellate, shaft scabrid, bases with patient cilia, cohering or not.

Flowers mainly between March and May.


Favours rocky sites in woodland, or in grassland near forest patches, or rarely marshy places near rocks. Recorded mainly from Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Swaziland, from the environs of Tzaneen in the north to Barberton, Waterval Boven and the Swaziland Lowveld in the south, with one record from Premier Mine east of Pretoria.

Savanna and Grassland Biomes.


Allied to H. tongense from which it is distinguished by its habit, at least some leaves generally greyish-white woolly on one or both surfaces, and brown outer involucral bracts. The leaf indumentum is very variable: frequently the lower leaves are woolly on one or both surfaces but the upper leaves, on the flowering twigs, are merely green and glandular; sometimes all the leaves are woolly below, glandular above; sometimes all the leaves lack wool; occasionally all the leaves are persistently woolly on both surfaces. At Witklip near Nelspruit, plants with woolly leaves, others with green leaves, still others with lower leaves woolly, upper green, grow together; elsewhere, all the plants in a colony may be wholly green, or wholly woolly, or woolly below, green above.

See also H. aureolum.




Helichrysum mutabile Hilliard in Flora of southern Africa 33,7 (2): 302 (1983).



Mpumalanga, 2530 CB, Waterval Boven, old road near tunnel, 4 iii 1981, Hilliard & Burtt 14189 (NU, holo.; E; K; M; MO; PRE; S, iso.).






Buitendag 503 (K; NBG; PRE); Compton 26844 (K; NBG; PRE); Van der Merwe 1254 (K; PRE); Van der Schijff 2655 (K; PRE).