The lowveld tree vernonia, as Gymnanthemum coloratum is commonly known, is a small scrambling tree or shrub reaching heights from 3 m to 6 m (SA Tree List No. 723.4).
The leaves are alternate, dark green and sparsely hairy above, paler and thinly woolly below. The margins may be entire or serrated and wavy. The veins are prominent on both surfaces. The strongly scented, pink or lilac flowers fade to white. They grow in terminal heads, seen from mid-autumn to early spring. The fruit is a small nutlet attached to a parachute-like pappus.
This is a well-known medicinal tree. The pretty flowers have also ensured its position as a garden plant. Young plants are frost sensitive.
The trees are found in nature in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo in South Africa. It is quite widespread to the north in Africa, also in West Africa.
Previously known as Vernonia colorata, the species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century (Pooley, 1993; www.redlist.sanbi.org).