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Fynbos | What is in flower?

Published on July 22nd 2021
protea in flower
Winter is the time for some rare beauties to rear their heads. Many pass on the opportunity to see them due to the cold and dreary weather that heads up from the Southern Ocean. Nonetheless, to the treasure hunters among us, this is a golden time.
Here is a list of five lesser-known fynbos species to look out for.

Mountain Dahlia

Kicking off the list is Liparia splendens. This elusive shrub "normally" comes into bloom in early Spring, yet it seems the ones in Silvermine Nature Reserve did not get the memo. This year they have put on an early display. They frequent the rocky areas from Caledon to the Cape Peninsula and, thanks to the wonderful people at Silverhill Seeds, are now available to the general public.
Liparia spendlens subsp.splendens


Liparia splendens ssp. splendens

Tips on Growth:
  • Soil: Well-draining quartzite acid soil, preferably between rocks
  • Placement: Best in a rockery or potted
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Watering: Winter rainfall with a modicum of water during summer. (DO not let sit in soggy soil)
  • Germination: Viable seeds will sink in water and require slight scarification (use sandpaper on the outside of seeds).
  • Problems: A fungicide is used to stop seeds dampening off.
  • Use sterile seedling mix and keep seeds moist for germination in 6 weeks.
The mountain dahlia is currently classified as vulnerable in its natural habitat. Growing them from seed is difficult and should be approached with care, but once introduced you would have contributed to the survival of a species.
ferraria crispa

Spider lilies (Ferraria)

Ferraria species are unusual multi-coloured bulbs that push out blooms at the start of August. Some have even popped out early this year. The blooms are similar in shape but range from light blue to purple and brown. They are gaining momentum in the international market and hence have become available to the general public from select growers.
Seed suppliers:
Seeds take roughly 1.5 months to germinate, but once bulbs reach maturity, they tend to multiply quickly in cultivation.
Arnelia new cultivar 'Carmen'.

Spiderheads (Serruria)

You would think that the folks loved naming flowers after spiders, but the passing resemblance does not detract from the exotic-looking blooms of Serruria species. Gracing large areas of the Western Cape, this group of floriferous plants puts on a staggering display in July and August.
Seed suppliers:
Although blushing brides may be a favourite among florists, Arnelia now offers an equally appealing Carmen cultivar. It is a cross between Serruria roses and a blushing bride. Well worth a look if you have a moment.
For more on Serruria growth and care see below:


Lachenalia are the tiny hyacinths of the fynbos biome. The vibrant coloured flowers are fragrant and bee-friendly, with blooms appearing anywhere from Autumn through winter into early summer, depending on the species. Some species are classified as vulnerable due to habitat destruction, such as Lachenalia reflexa or the yellow soldier.
Lachenalia reflexa suppliers:
The bulbs flourish in the Cape Sandy soil but go dormant (dies back to the ground) during certain months of the year. If you are keen on naturalising your garden or returning its natural splendour and you find yourself between Darling and the Cape Peninsula, I would encourage you to sow some seeds.
protea parasite

Snail flowers

Hyobanche sanguinea is a bit of an oddball and a good way to round out the top 5. The snail flower or vampire cup is a vibrant Protea holoparasite that erupts from the roots of its host. They can also form on Hermannia, Metalasia and Aspalathus roots. These furry wonders appear from August onwards and tend to draw the eye.
Make sure to keep your eyes peeled as you venture out over the coming weeks. And for those that find themselves outside the Cape, why not bring home a bit of SA heritage? The proprietors make it so you can grow anywhere in SA with just a bit of tender love and care.

For more on the wonders of fynbos, hop over to the virtual fynbos tours below.

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