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Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest” where we will be looking at a dwarf-shrub species that is most prominent from summer – mid-winter.

Erica alopecurus or Foxtail Erica (also known as Chalbeke-e-nyenyane in sisotho), is a small and compact shrub that grows up to 300 mm. It is often observed in damp grassy stream banks and on marshy grasslands or near grassy montane seep-lines. E. alopecurus grows from 1370 – 3000 m A.S.L. and is distributed widely from the Eastern Cape to Mpumalanga.

The leaves grow in 3’s with an erect and incurving midrib visible beneath. The inflorescences are dense cylindrical spikes while the flowers are tiny, tubular and pink fading to brown out of season. The Latin word Alopex refers to the inflorescence that some say resembles that of a fox’s tail. The uses of E. alopecurus include:

– Burned for fuel by rural communities

– Garden ornamental

– Makes a good subject for photographers wishing to add a unique composition to their photographs.

This particular shrub offers a unique and visually stunning hiking experience along the CVC hiking trails during its flowering period. The rangers suggest that residents indulge themselves and their photographic talents with E. alopecurus once it begins its late summer bloom.

Author: Damien Coulson