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Ericas of the Southern Cape

JuN 9, 2020  |  Written and photographed by Jenny Potgieter.

Ericas of the Southern Cape

 

This week on the BotSoc Blog we are taking a closer look at the extraordinary world of Ericas, the most species diverse plant genus in the Cape Floristic Region. Jenny Potgieter from the Outramps Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) group has chosen a selection of three Southern Cape long tubed Erica species to introduce you to for the BotSoc Blog, illustrated by her beautiful photographs from the field. She also tells us about her involvement in the Outramps CREW and how she first became interested in Ericas.

 

I moved to George 24 years ago and joined the Outramps hiking group, knowing very little about the plants, soon after. This group was started and run by Di Turner from whom I took over at the beginning of the year. The group was involved in the Protea Atlas project for 10 years and when this came to an end I started taking an interest in the Ericas as they had always fascinated me.

We then joined CREW and within the group we each took on a family and mine of course was Ericas of the Southern Cape. This became my passion and with the aid of my microscope and help from Connie Smuts who drew up an Erica key and Ted Oliver, I managed to learn to identify most of our local Ericas. We use iNaturalist extensively, which has proved to be a very useful tool.

 

Above: Erica unicolor subsp. georgensis

 

One of our favourites as it is red listed as Rare and occurs only in the Outeniqua mountains above George, where it grows prolifically. It can easily be confused with E discolor but this one has leaves and flowers in bunches of 4(4 nate) and E. discolor is 3 nate .It is striking when in full flower. The name is a bit confusing as it is bicoloured.

 

Above: Erica densifolia

 

This delightful finely hairy, sticky, pink, long-tubed Erica is a sight to behold in March and April. It occurs in large patches in protected area like Tierkop above the  Saasveld Campus. It has leaves in dense tufts, hence its name. The white one is an unusual variant.

 

Above: Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei

 

This is a salmon pink, long-tubed Erica with conspicuous red veins on the corolla. The yellow-green version is rarely seen these days due to urban expansion. There are long gland tipped hairs present all over the plant except for the corolla. This subsp. occurs near the coast and is red listed as Vulnerable.

 

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