Origin of name:
vernum = of the spring referring to the are the one of the first to flower in spring
Mat-forming perennial herb with crowded leaf rosettes arising from a thick woody branching underground stem, flowering stems terminal, solitary, up to 250 mm long, height depending upon age and growing conditions, loosely woolly, closely leafy. Basal leaves up to c. 50 x 15 mm, elliptic-obovate, rarely lanceolate-oblong, apex obtuse to subacute, apiculate, base broad, clasping, loosely cobwebby at first, soon glabrous but margins persistently woolly, thick, leathery, commonly only the midvein visible; cauline leaves mostly oblong, up to 25 x 3 mm, decreasing in size upwards, uppermost tipped with a pink scarious bract. Heads heterogamous, campanulate, 25�30 mm long, double that across the radiating bracts, solitary. Involucral bracts in c. 10 series, graded, loosely imbricate, much exceeding the flowers, acute, rich glossy rose-pink to almost crimson. Receptacle shortly honeycombed. Flowers 172�304, 8�24 female, 164�280 homogamous. Achenes 1.75 mm long, barrel-shaped, with myxogenic duplex hairs. Pappus bristles many, equaling corolla, scabrid, tips barbellate, bases cohering strongly by patent cilia.
One of the first plants to flower in spring, between September and November.
Forms compact mats in stony turf on mountain slopes. On the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg and its foothills and outliers from Oliviershoek Pass to Sehlabathebe in Lesotho, also the Suurberg at Weza, between 1 675 and 2 560 m.
Much confused with H. ecklonis whose tufted rosettes contrast in the field with the tight mats of H. vernum, but in the herbarium this difference disappears. However, the leathery leaves of H. vernum, glabrous above and with side veins scarcely discernible, will generally serve to distinguish it from glabrous-leaved specimens of H. ecklonis, where the side veins are clearly visible in the membranous blade.
H. vernum probably hybridizes with H. argentissimum.
Helichrysum vernum Hilliard in Notes R. bot. Gdn Edinb. 32: 363 (1973), Compositae in Natal 236 (1977).
KwaZulu-Natal, Mpendhle distr., Storm Heights, c. 2 100 m, Wright 229 (NU, holo.; E; PRE, iso.).
Vouchers:Edwards 340 (NU); Hilliard 4003 (E; K; NU); Trauseld 445(NU);Wright 310 (E; MO; NU).