Pachycarpus macrochilus (Large-lipped Pachycarpus in English & leshokhoa in Sesotho) is a perennial geophytic herb whose stems grow to 140-330mm tall. In order to observe this species one will need to get on a proper set of hiking boots and head up to the rocky higher mountainous areas of the grassveld (1600-2200m A.S.L.) occurring from the Eastern Cape through to Mpum.
Break the stem of this guy and your fingers will be covered by sticky milky latex (as with most members of this family). The Latin macrochilus is derived from macro meaning large, and chilus, in reference to the lip-like structure of the flower corona.
On first inspection one will notice the stems of this little herb are sparsely and coarsely hairy. The leaves measure 30-150mm long by 17-43mm wide. The leave margins (on stalks of 5-15mm) are slightly undulating and also have sparsely distributed coarse hair. The flowers – occurring in clusters of2-6 -are what make this plant really interesting as they are cup shaped. When young the closed flowers are borne aloft, but hang when mature and open. The flowers measure 16-28mm and are green-yellow-clay red. The lobe tips are open and somewhat re-curved and measure 13-25-9-17mm. Flowering occurs from October-Jan. Uses:
This species has been known to be browsed by goats in summer despite the plants milky latex.
Although not a “beautiful” plant per se, P. macrochilus is certainly an interesting and unusual plant to observe, and thus makes for a remarkable specimen for photography.
Article and photography by Damien Coulson
Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Click here for other articles on plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve