Euphrobia clavaroides  (Lions spoor, Melkpol or Fingerpol) Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to the first of many “Weekly Plant of Interest” snippets.

This week we introduce for the first time Euphorbia clavaroides commonly known as Lions Spoor, Melkpol or Fingerpol – a cryptic succulent species that appears from a distance to resemble the smoothed sandstone rocks that is typical for the eastern Free-State area. This plant is only revealed from afar when it is in flower with many small yet spectacular bright yellow flowers. This plant although small, is important in the ecosystem and to humans due to its many uses. These include:

– A source of nourishment for local baboon  populations and other animals

– Dried sap has a historical use as an alternative to chewing gum by children

– Used in the preparation of bird lime

– Use in traditional medicines.

It is found only on steep rocky cliffs and rock faces at altitudes of up to 2750 m A.S.L. and has a widespread distribution, occurring from the Eastern Cape right through to the Limpopo Province.

The plant was observed for the first time last week by the rangers on the sandstone cliffs above the Scilla Walk hiking Trail in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve.  The unusual growth form of the plant is in part due to its location on cliff faces and is a biological protection mechanism used to prevent excessive amounts of evaporation and protection from the wind and other elements.

Author: Damien Coulson