Capeweed (Arctotheca calendula)

Capeweed

Common names: Capeweed, Cape Dandelion

Taxonomic name: Arctotheca calendula

Family: Asteraceae

Uses: Compost booster

Area of origin: South Africa

Warnings:

Capeweed (Arctotheca calendula) is a very common weeds around Gawler. It’s around for a lot of the year (hence ‘calendula‘ in it’s taxonomic name. The ‘Cape’ in its common name recalls that Capeweed has its origins in South Africa. It’s so common in Spring, when it covers many road verges and parks that some people confuse it with Dandelion, for which it should never be used as a substitute.

Is it just a weed? Well, because it has a page dedicated to it, you might guess that it’s not – and you’d be right!

Now, Capeweed needs to be used with caution. It is toxic if used in large amounts, but in a disaster or a famine, you can eat the VERY YOUNG LEAVES ONLY. Leaves up to 2 cm can be cooked and eaten in small amounts. That’s why it’s written about here and not in Edible Weeds. I’m including it as an example of a ‘famine food’, foods that only get eaten in an absolute disaster.

Remember, VERY YOUNG LEAVES ONLY.

Capeweed is an accumulator of minerals, so good that it becomes toxic to us, but it can be a valuable addition to compost and worm farms, giving them a real kick. This year, I’m going to try adding it to my compost teas.

Please be careful when identifying plants. I’ve been shown Capeweed as Dandelions and averted a near disaster for the beginning herbalist who showed me.

The petals are fewer and further apart than Dandelion and have 3 distinct colour bands from pale yellow at the outside, an inner darker yellow band and black centre.

The leaves are pretty characteristic. They’re duller than Dandelion, (which is shiny) kind of hairy and whiter on the underside. Check out these two pics…they should steer you right!

Capeweed leaves are dull green and hairy.
Capeweed leaves are dull green and hairy.

The leaves are lighter underneath and hairy.
The leaves are lighter underneath and hairy.