Weekly Plant of Interest Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. Well it’s been some time since we’ve included a woody plant in our line-up of must-see-plants, thus this week’s plant hales from the Proteacea (Protea) family. Protea roupelliae (Silver Protea in English, Silversuikerbos in Afrikaans and seqalaba in Sesotho), is a small tree that grows to between 3 & 7 m tall. This plant is found on grass slopes in close proximity to rocky outcrops, usually at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.L. P. roupelliae is endemic to S.A. One also gets the feel that they are in a totally different part of the country when walking among the Protea’s. The photos below were not in fact taken in the Clarens Nature Reserve but on private farmland within 10 km (or 5 minutes’ drive) of Clarens. The leaves of P. roupelliae are a bluish green measuring 60-160 mm X 15-45 mm and held in terminal rosette stems. Young leaves are covered in silvery hairs, while older leaves are hairless. The bark is thick and black, with narrow furrows observed on older bark. Flower-heads are 80-120 mm in diameter with brown outer bracts. Inner bracts are spoon shaped, deep pink and edged with silvery hairs. As the flower-heads age they grade to pale pink-red then brown-purple/black. Flowering Feb-Apr. Uses:
The nectar is probed from the flower-heads by sunbirds, in particular the spectacular malachite sunbird and Gurney’s sugarbird. Also used for fuel during cooking.
A favourite nesting spot for the above-mentioned nectar-sucking birds as well as a few small mammals. Proteas’ are a Fynbos species of plant which rely on fire for their seeds to germinate. A fire interval of 10 -15 years is generally favourable for the growth of this species, any shorter and seed banks will not be able to accumulate sufficiently for the maintenance of the spp., any longer and the plants become senescent and no further seed are produced. The presence of this spp. in grassland could therefore act as an indicator of veld which is in a relatively healthy state.
This plant can be grown from seed – and for those who enjoy birding and photography – a few of these in your garden will bring birds of stunning plumage to your doorstep. P. roupelliae is relatively frost tolerant and hardy. It seems to proliferate in wind-prone areas on shallow, slightly acidic soils.
The bark has been used in traditional medicines.
This species has been recorded as of least concern by SANBI.