Plants of the park: Part 2

Plants of the park: Part 2

The Cape Peninsula (around 470 sq km) has 2 285 flowering plant species. Table Mountain National Park alone has 1470 of these. Mountain fynbos dominates the park. It’s characterised by four main groups: protea shrubs with large leaves (proteoids), fine-leaved shrubs (ericoids), wiry, reed-like plants (restioids) and bulbous herbs (geophytes).  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.

Green tree pincushion (Leucospermum conocarpodendron)
When in flower, the large rounded bushes are covered with bright yellow pincushion flowers among the deep green leaves, and the Cape Sugarbirds feast on the nectar. Large specimens of green tree pincushions may be somewhat fire-resistant because of their thick bark, but because fires in some areas have occurred too frequently there are not as many plants in natural areas as there were previously. Although more shrub-like than tree-like, this species — because the plant has a single trunk and grows up to 5 m tall and 6 m across — has been given tree status.

Sickle-leaf conebush (Leucadendron xanthoconus)
This is a versatile fynbos shrub, with a silvery shine to its foliage. Leucadendron xanthoconus is a single-stemmed, dense, perennial shrub which can reach up to 2 m tall; it grows fairly quickly. The leaves are slightly sickle-shaped and are covered in silvery hairs when immature. The male and female inflorescences occur on separate plants. The bracts around the inflorescence are yellow. Flowering occurs in August. Fruits are seen as cones which house the winged seeds. Seeds are retained on the bush to be released after fire.

Common sunshine conebush (Leucadendron salignum)
Leucadendron salignum is the most widespread species of the family Proteaceae, occurring in a large part of South Africa.  It’s a multi-stemmed shrub with a persistent rootstock, which enables it to resprout after fire. In its natural conditions it grows to a height of 0.75 to 2 m. The variability of growing conditions, from mild winter temperatures to snow and frost near mountain tops, as well as the variability of leaves and bracts, from greenish-yellow to vivid orange-red, have made this species an excellent candidate for breeding.

Cowl pagoda (Mimetes fimbriifolius)
This species is endemic to the Cape Peninsula, and good populations continue to survive on the southern Peninsula especially at Silvermine and at Cape Point. Mimetes fimbriifolius develops into a stout, densely branched, wide-spreading tree up to 4 m tall and 5 m in diameter. It produces a thick, corky trunk between 25 and 60 cm in diameter which branches about half a metre above soil level. The branches are stout, stocky and repeatedly divide to produce interlocking branchlets to form a dense, rounded crown. The general appearance of this species is of rounded forms dotted or grouped, looking like vegetative tortoise shells in the fynbos landscape. Its leaves are numerous, upwardly overlapping, and so closely packed together at the ends of the branches that they obscure the branch structure of specimens in their prime. 

Information source:
Illustrations from Mary Matham Kidd, Cape Peninsula : South African Wild Flower Guide 3

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