Erica cerinthoides L. var. cerinthoides (Red Hairy/Fire Heath in English, Rooihaartjie in Afrikaans and semomonyane in Sesotho) is more commonly associated with the Fynbos biome of the SW Cape where it occurs alongside other species of the Proteaceae and Restoniaceae; however the distribution of this particular species extends as far as Mpumalanga at altitudes of up to 2300 m A.S.L., and is the most widely distributed Erica in the country. This highly distinctive species of Erica grows to around 500mm but may occasionally form an elongated shrub of up to 900-1200mm as shown above.Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’ll be looking at a member of the Ericaceae (Erica) family.
The specimen photographed was observed on the Maluti View hiking trail on an island of soil in close proximity to a cliff of Clarens Formation Sandstone, from which it derives a modicum of shelter from the elements as well as moisture. Fynbos species such as E. cerinthoides, are usually adapted to grow on nutrient deficient and relatively shallow soils which is why this species is seen to occur so far from the Cape . Several Erica’s are also adapted to propagate following a fire which is another possible explanation of why this species would occur in the grassveld biome.
The leaves of this species are needlike and are very small (<5-15mm) in whorled clusters of 4-6 at nodes along the length of the stem. The bright orange-red flowers are the most striking feature of the plant and are visible at a good distance in the grassveld. These are large (25-35mm), tubular – characteristic of flowers of the Ericeaea family – and velvetly hairy (hence the common name), occuring in apical clusters. Flowering depends to a degree on locality but generally occurs all-year-round.
Sucked by children and herdsmen in Lesotho as a form of natural candy.
Erica’s are pollinated by sugarbirds and sunbirds, which thrive on the energy provided by the sweet nectar.
Cerinthoides L. var. cerinthoides is listed as of Least Concern by SANBI.
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Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve