This monocotyledonous species is a member of the Eriocaulaceae, which is a family related to the perhaps more familiar grasses and sedges (all belong to the Order Poales). Sometimes called the pipewort family, this group of plants is distinguishable from many other monocots by having inflorescences arranged in heads. Species in the Eriocaulaceae are mostly restricted to the tropics of both the Old World and New World, but some species do occur in temperate regions. The family is comprised of about 1200 species in 11 genera.
Like all members of Mesanthemum, Mesanthemum africanum is native to Africa. One of 15 species in its genus, it has a restricted range; most plants occur in the Chimanimani Mountains, either in Mozamibique’s Chimanimani National Reserve or Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani National. Although restricted in range, Mesanthemum africanum is locally abundant and occurs at elevations from 300 to 2135m (984-7005 ft.). It grows in wet grasslands, boggy areas, and along stream banks. Minor disturbance from small-scale gold mining has facilitated some population growth by increasing ideal habitat around streams. Like many other early successional species, it is quick to access and flourish on disturbed wet ground. An assessment of threats and possible conservation actions has been conducted by the IUCN, but the population is stable and regarded as Least Concern (LC).
Topped by a hemispherical capitula, the stems of this perennial herb reach 30-60cm in height (1-2 ft.). The leaves are broadly linear and about half as long as the stem. With the help of Gledhill’s The Names of Plants (PDF), I was able to translate the generic name as meaning “middle-flowered”. This book defines thousands of botanical names, prefixes, and suffixes. It has helped me gain insight into understanding many botanical names!