Valeriana capensis var. nana is a robust perennial herb, growing from thin rhizomes. It grows branched rosettes of compound, hairy leaves with ovate leaflets near the ground and long, erect flower stems. The basal leaflets have entire margins, rounded tips and tapering bases, the terminal one being larger. A node with variable, narrow, composite leaves can be seen below the inflorescence.
This variation is found in montane grassland of the north-east of the Eastern Cape and the west of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as in Lesotho. It is not threatened early in the twenty first century. The plant belongs to the Valerianaceae family; although it is sometimes placed among the Rubiaceae.
V. capensis, in the guise of different variations, is thought to be the only species of this genus found naturally in southern Africa, growing across a wide distribution. There are about 500 species of Valeriana worldwide, mainly distributed in the northern hemisphere, but also in Brazil.
V. officinalis, a European plant that is known as a source of heart medicine, resembles this plant, apart from its small terminal leaflets. The roots of V. capensis have been used widely in in traditional medicine in South Africa (Van Wyk and Gericke, 2000; iSpot; JSTOR; www.redlist.sanbi.org).