Commelina africana is a spreading herb that grows both trailing and erect stems reaching 50 cm in length. The small, woody, perennial rootstock has long, thick roots.
The hairy or hairless leaves are stalkless, alternate and sheathing the stem. The leaf shape is narrowly or broadly linear, tapering to an acutely pointed tip. Leaf margins are entire and may be partly wavy, curving or folding in.
The canary yellow flowers are borne in stalked, boat-shaped spathes. Two of the three petals are well developed, stalked and coloured, the third, lower one is small and lacking in colour. Only the lower three of the six stamens are fertile. Flower diameter is between 1 cm and 1,5 cm. Flowers are mainly open in the morning.
Flowering happens from spring to autumn, sometimes all year round. Pollination is done by insects, mainly ants. Most Commelina species have blue flowers.
The plant is common on rocky outcrops of grassland along the south coast and eastern parts of South Africa, as well as in tropical Africa. Several varieties have been described, some with flat hairless leaves, others with hairy, folded ones, while flower size and spathe shapes also differ (Van Wyk and Malan, 1997; Manning, 2009; www.plantzafrica.com).