Indigofera brachystachya, previously known as I. angustifolia and in Afrikaans commonly as the beesbossie (little cattle bush) and nentabossie (little nenta bush), is a dense, silvery shrub that grows to 1,5 m in height, often much shorter. The branched stems of I. brachystachya are densely covered in grey hairs.
The plant shares the nentabossie name with a very different small succulent called Adromischus caryophyllaceus. The name nenta is more widely used, sometimes in combination with other descriptors for Cotyledon and Tylecodon species, as well as for a kind of livestock poisoning.
All the above-mentioned plants are in the Crassulaceae family and cause stock poisoning, the particular syndrome known as loco disease or in Afrikaans krimpsiekte (shrinking disease). I. brachystachya in the Fabaceae family contains the same or similar toxins, causing the same problems on the farm. There are more plants associated with the problem in the Lessertia and Drimia genera.
The common name of beesbossie is thus duly explained: Prevent your cows (and bull) from feeding on I. brachystachya!
The word nenta is probably of Khoi origin, its meaning lost in the evolution of languages before writing and dictionaries entered this southern land with the colonists. The earliest known use of nenta is from the eighteenth-century plant name, Khoekhoe nenta, whichever species that may have denoted.
Khoekhoe is another form of the word Khoi or Khoikhoi denoting this early tribe of Cape inhabitants that kept livestock. They must have used nenta as a name for one or more of the plants causing them stock losses.
The species, a Western Cape endemic, is distributed from the Cape Peninsula on lower fynbos slopes along the south coast to the southern Cape around Swellendam. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century (Manning, 2007; Bean and Johns; 2005; Mustart, et al, 1997; Bond and Goldblatt, 1984; iSpot; Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal; www.redlist.sanbi.org).
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