Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-monthly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a less oft’ observed member of the endemic Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) family. Zalusianskya microsiphon (Short-tubed Drumsticks in English, Kortbuis-Zaluzianskya in Afrikaans and malithungthung in Sesotho), is a perennial herb which grows up to 400 mm tall. It grows in the altitude band 1525-2745 m A.S.L., in rocky grassland areas. Z. microsiphon grows from the EC – Mpum. The Latin Microsiphon translates to “small tube”, referring most likely to the very narrow stalked pollen tube of the flowers. This particular solitary specimen was photographed this week on a section of the Porcupine Trail prone to partial shade in the autumn season in which it grows. Interestingly enough, several references have stated that the flowers only open in full sun. The leaves of Z. microsiphon are arranged in a basal rosette, are tufted and may appear blue-green to grass green. Basal leaves measurements are 35-90 mm by 8-20 mm; stem leave measurements are 20-65 mm by 4-8 mm (stem leaves overlap with entire to faintly toothed margins with fine hairs present on the margins and midrib). Up to 3 stems may be visible however a solitary stem is also common for this species. The inflorescence can be dense, with flowers along the length of the stem but with a greater density towards the stem tip. Petals are held aloft a corolla of variable length – depending on where the plant grows. One will always see 2 lobes up, 2 to the sides and one facing down (reminiscent of an old lady in a night-gown with her arms open for a hug). The lobes themselves are deeply notched and white inside and reddish-pink outside. Flowering Late Dec-April.
According to some sources, the evening fragrance implies that the species in question are pollinated by moths, whereas day-pollinated species often have little or no obvious scent. Research is in progress on the ecological relationships between some members of the genus and specially adapted long-tongued pollinators (particularly night flying hawk moths). Day-flying hawk moths also seem to be significant pollinators of many species of Zaluzianskya.
Until recently the plant had not been cultivated; however it has now begun to be recognised for its ornamental value in gardens.
The SANBI conservation status for Z. microsiphon is listed as of Least Concern.
with input from Wim Wybenga