In this part of the series we take a look at some ericas found in the park. The Cape Peninsula has 2 285 flowering plant species; Table Mountain National Park alone has 1470 of these. Mountain fynbos dominates the park. We’ll introduce you to some plant species you can find within Table Mountain National Park, which includes the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point.
Fire Heath (Erica cerinthoides)
Erica cerinthoides is an extremely variable species over its distribution range. It varies particularly in growth habit, hairiness of leaves and flowers, and in size, shape and colour of its flowers. It’s one of a few ericas that resprout from a woody rootstock after fire. The result is the production of clusters of lovely inflated, tubular, red flowers at the ends of short branches, which form neat, colourful shrublets in a bleak burnt landscape. Fire thus keeps this plant in good healthy condition and will stimulate flowering at any time of the year. After a number of years they will grow taller, become straggly and produce fewer flowers.
Green Heath (Erica Sessiliflora)
Erica sessiliflora has intriguing, pale yellowish green, tube-shaped flowers in showy heads. It’s an erect, woody, densely branched, strong-growing shrub, 1-2 m high. The branches are covered in upward-pointing, needle-like leaves. The flowers are pale yellowish green, tubular, 16-30 mm long and curving downward, and are arranged in dense spikes towards the tips of main branches. This spectacular plant is hard to miss when in flower, which takes place all year round (January to December) with a peak during autumn to spring (April to September), although flowering time may vary from locality to locality.
Erica mammosa is one of the few Erica species that has a spectacular range of flower colours, from white to pink, purple, orange and red. It’s a slow-growing and long-lived, robust, erect, well-branched shrub, 0.5-1.0 m tall, growing to a height of 1.8 m if left undisturbed. It has small, linear leaves, 6-10 mm long, arranged in whorls of 4 to 6. The flowers are inflated-tubular with a closed mouth and are 15-20 mm long. They form dense spike-like inflorescences, up to 200 mm long, towards the tips of the main branches. The flowers are borne singly or in pairs in the axil of a leaf. Flower colour varies from locality to locality and from bush to bush, ranging from orange-red, purple, dark red, greenish cream, and white, to various shades of pink.
Hangertjies (Erica plukenetii)
Erica plukenetii is an erect, sturdy shrub that grows up to 900 mm, but some forms may reach a height of up to 2 m. It has very distinctive, long, thin, needle-like leaves that curve upwards, giving the plants the appearance of small pine trees. It produces dense clusters of hanging tubular flowers, the colour varies from white, pink, red, green to yellow. The corolla is a partially inflated tube, varying from 7 to 18 mm long with anthers that protrude far from the tube. These far-exserted stamens are a particular feature of this species. It flowers at different times of the year depending on the locality. On the Cape Peninsula it flowers mainly during late summer-winter-spring (March to September).
Information source: pza.sanbi.org
Illustrations from Mary Matham Kidd, Cape Peninsula : South African Wild Flower Guide 3