The leaves of Eriocephalus africanus normally give the shrub its silvery grey appearance. The grey-green, finely hairy and needle-like leaves grow in tufts along the stems. The leaves exude a pungent smell when crushed. This cultivated plant growing mainly in shade looks much greener than habitat specimens who cope with variable to low rainfall in full sun.
Eriocephalus africanus subsp. africanus has slightly succulent leaves and is a coastal plant of Namaqualand, the Western and Eastern Cape provinces. Inland grows the other kind, Eriocephalus africanus subsp. paniculatus. It has a more erect growth habit and thinner leaves that lack succulence. This subspecies is adapted to the arid south-western regions of the country (www.plantzafrica.com; www.toptropicals.com).
This plant was photographed at the Botanical Garden of the University of Stellenbosch. It is the coastal plant with succulent leaves.