Plants of the park: Part 3

Plants of the park: Part 3

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.

Rooistompie (Mimetes cucullatus)
Mimetes cucullatus is a multi-stemmed, densely-leaved shrub, 0.5 to 2 m tall with an upright, bushy growth habit. The leaves are oblong-elliptic, 25-55 mm long and are neatly and symmetrically arranged along the branches. New growth is bright red. The unusual flowerheads of Mimetes distinguish this genus from the other members of the protea family. All members of the protea family have small flowers grouped in conspicuous flowerheads. In Mimetes the flowers are grouped into small dense cylindrical inflorescences of 3-16 florets produced in the axil of a leaf, and up to 15 of these cylindrical inflorescences can occur on one flowering stem.

Tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida)
This is an evergreen tree or large shrub, often multi-stemmed, with a spreading crown and attractive glossy bright green foliage on arching and drooping branches. In the more exposed situations it is generally a stocky or shrubby tree that reaches a height of 2-5 m but in well watered, protected situations it can reach up to 12 m, and in forests, it can grow up to 20 m in height. The flowers are tubular, orange to brick-red, or yellow, very rich in nectar and are produced in clusters in the axils of leaves and on short shoots on the old wood, even on the main trunk.  When in full flower in autumn to summer (May to December/January) it can be very showy, although the flowers are somewhat hidden amongst the leaves and inside the canopy.

White Milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme)

White Milkwood is a small to medium evergreen tree, which grows to a height of 10-15 m. The tree has a sturdy trunk that is normally 600mm in diameter, and a large, dense, rounded crown. The bark is normally grey-brown to black. Young branches are always covered with fine hairs. The leaves are leathery and spirally arranged, dark green above and dull beneath. Fine hairs are also found on young leaves. The tree has small greenish white flowers with a strong, unpleasant smell. It flowers during summer and autumn (November to April). Fruits are purplish black, small, round and fleshy and like the leaves, contain milky latex, and are present from late summer to spring (February to September).

Rooiels (Cunonia capensis)
These scented flowers appear from February to May and are carried in dense, creamy spikes which have a bottlebrush-like appearance, and attract insects. The fruits are small, brown, two-horned capsules which release very fine, sticky seed. Seed is dispersed in two ways; firstly by visiting birds which fly off with the seed clinging to their feathers, legs and bills, and then by the wind which blows the fine seed away. One of the most striking characteristics of the tree is the pair of stipules which enclose the growth tip. They are large and pressed together forming a spoon-like shape, hence the name “Butterspoon” Tree. The leaves are dark green and glossy with contrasting reddish leaf-stalks.

Sea Guarri (Euclea racemosa)
This is a low growing shrub or small tree of up to 6 meters in height. It occurs in coastal dune scrub and low coastal forest. Their small, creamy-white flowers (Dec to March) are popular with honey bees and they are followed by tiny, spherical fruits (Feb to May). The seeds often fail to germinate as they are parasitized by a type of fly larva. They are hardy, attractive plants that can be used a screening for boundary walls as well as making good hedges.

Keurboom (Virgilia oroboides)
Keurbooms are small to medium-sized trees, with a bushy, rounded to broadly conical growth habit with branches growing close to the ground.They are very fast-growing when young, attaining up to 1.3 m. in a year, and reaching their full height in only a few years. They are also relatively short-lived, their average lifespan being 12 to 20 years. The bark is silver-grey and smooth in young trees; as the tree gets older the bark turns grey and rough. The trunk can grow up to 600 mm in diameter. The keurboom has beautiful, sweetly scented, pea-shaped flowers in dense terminal sprays about 100 mm long.

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

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