Schizoglossum atropurpureum subsp. atropurpureum

Clarens Village Nature Reserve Schizoglossum atropurpureum Clarens Village Nature Reserve Schizoglossum atropurpureum

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-monthly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a less-oft observed specimen  of the Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed) family.

Schizoglossum atropurpureum subsp. atropurpureum (Red-Milkwort in English, Melkwortel in Afrikaans and sehoete-moru in Sesotho) –what a mouthful, is a moderately sized erect geophytic herb of 600 – 1300 mm. It occurs in grasslands where there is a low fire incidence, but more often closer to streams where scrub and boulders are found. This herbaceous plant has been recorded at altitudes of 2040 m A.S.L. from the E. Cape through to Mpum.

This specimen was photographed along the Mallen Walk, but be quick if you want to take a happy-snap of the little bugger – the flowers are only in bloom for around a month and a half – 2 months. The stems of the genus spring-up annually from a small carrot-like tuber, which if pierced may exude a milky latex.

The flowers of S. atropurpuream subsp. atropurpureum, are borne aloft a single (occasionally 2) unbranched stems. The leaves are cross-opposite with slightly undulating margins and measure 30-50 x 8-20 mm. The inflorescence stems may sometimes be branched with 8-15 flowers per stem. The lobes are a deep maroon but may even appear almost black. There are 5 tepals per flower which are reminiscent of Christmas bells but are slightly wider than they are long (6×4 mm).  Looking closely one may notice an oblique apical notch, and taking a whiff of the flower may yield a caramel-like scent.  Flowering Jan-Mar. Uses:

Food

The root may be eaten raw and is reportedly sweet-tasting.

Traditional Uses

The roots may be bundled together and smoked to preserve them. They can then be used as a form of charm to protect against lightening.

Conservation Status

This species has been recorded as of Least Concern by SANBI.
Damien Coulson head ranger Clarens Village Nature ReserveArticle, photography and research by Damien Coulson

with input from Wim Wybenga