Annuals (2–) 8–13 (–30) cm tall, caespitose, scabrid. Leaves basal, c. 1.5–8 cm long, filiform to flat, usually 0.8–2.0 mm wide; base often purplish with margins dilated, membranous; apex acute. Stem ±grooved, scabrid with ±evenly scattered to dense low papillae. Lower bract usually membranous, rarely partially herbaceous, usually to 1 (–4) cm long, shorter than inflorescence; capitulum bracts membranous, to c. 3 mm long. Inflorescence of 1 sessile and (0–) 1–6 (–10) hemispheric to ±globose usually (1–) 3–8 (–15)-flowered heads; peduncles to 3.5 (–4.5) cm long, scabrid. Tepals ±equal to unequal, outer ±lanceolate; inner tepals usually longer, ovate-lanceolate, subacute to mucronate, c. 3.5–4.5 mm long; margins ±membranous; median part pale greenish to straw-brown, scabrid, with most of the area between margins and centre usually blackish purple to dark castaneous-brown. Stamens 6; anthers 1.2–1.7 mm long; filaments 0.4–0.6 mm long; style 1.0–2.3 mm long; stigmas (1.5–) 2.5–4.5 mm long, red, exserted. Capsule oblong-ovoid, subacute to subacuminate, c. 2.3–2.8 mm long including mucro 0.2–0.4 mm long, shorter than perianth, usually pale brown. Seeds ±ovoid, apicate, c. 0.3–0.4 × 0.2 mm, pale brown to brown, distinctly reticulate.
Endemic to SW Cape, South Africa. 27: CPP.
27. CAPE PROVINCE: Cape Town, Table Mtn, C.F.Ecklon 901 (K, S); Bredasdorp, Appelskraal, J.P.Stokoe 9395 (BOL, NBG); Cape Flats, R.S.Adamson 219 (K); Cape Flats, Crawford, R.S.Adamson 332 (BOL); Cape Peninsula, Olifantabosch, G.Lewis 1762 (NBG); Kenilworth race course, E.Esterhuysen 34116 (BOL); Stellenbosch, Gordons Bay, 22 Oct 1948, Parker 4366 (BOL); Paarl, E.Esterhuysen 6123 (BOL); Maitland Station, M.R.Levyns s.n. (BOL); Kommetje, M.R.Levyns [as R.S.Adamson 227] (BOL).
Wet sands, flat sandy or clayey shores of temporary pools, seepage areas, usually near sea level.
Extremely variable in size, from juvenile forms with single-flowered heads to tall plants. It also varies in the inner/outer tepal length ratio; in many cases inner tepals elongate with age but sometimes young plants also have unequal tepals. In general, characters previously used to distinguish numerous taxa in the material of J. cephalotes are the most variable ones (size, number of flowers and capitula etc.).