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Rare red gladiolus recorded at Macassar Dunes Conservation Area

Biodiversity staff at the Macassar East Conservation Area discovered a colony of the vibrant red bulb Gladiolus priorii, also known as the Scarlet Afrikaner. Picture: CITY OF CAPE TOWN

Biodiversity staff at the Macassar East Conservation Area discovered a colony of the vibrant red bulb Gladiolus priorii, also known as the Scarlet Afrikaner. Picture: CITY OF CAPE TOWN

Published Jun 14, 2022

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Cape Town - Biodiversity taff at the Macassar Dunes Conservation Area have discovered a colony of the vibrant red Gladiolus priorii, also known as the Scarlet Afrikaner, which was long assumed to be absent from the False Bay coastline.

“The Scarlet Afrikaner (Gladiolus priorii) was thought to be absent from the False Bay coastline due to the lack of suitable rocky habitats,” the City said.

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Deputy mayor and spatial planning and environment Mayco member Eddie Andrews said the Scarlet Afrikaner had a fairly limited coastal distribution in sandstone and granite rocks, from St Helena Bay to about Gansbaai, which was why this discovery was a pleasant surprise for the team at the conservation area.

Andrews said it appeared to be the first time this species was recorded to be growing in limestone – a sedimentary rock composed mainly of calcium carbonate.

“They usually grow in rocky outcrops where they are offered some protection from predators such as porcupines.

“While the species is common, it was somewhat surprising to find a colony on the coastline of the Cape Flats and it appears to be the first record of the species from Cape Flats Dune Strandveld vegetation,” Andrews said.

Andrews said the plants have always been there, they have just not been recorded until now.

“Most botanical surveys in the Cape focus on the bountiful spring flowering season so early flowering species, such as this gladiolus, can often escape detection,” Andrews said.

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Andrews said the Macassar East Conservation area was a developing conservation area with much potential, which stretched from the mouth of the Eerste River to the Macassar Beach resort and boasted very high-quality Cape Flats Dune Strandveld – a vegetation type considered to be endangered and only found in Cape Town.

Botanist John Manning from Sanbi’s Compton Herbarium at Kirstenbosch said the Scarlet Afrikaner was one of many winter-flowering species of wild gladiolus that occurred in fynbos.

“It is one of the first species to flower in the winter and is readily seen by hikers around Cape Town. It is readily recognised by its slender stem with short, narrow leaves and up to four red, trumpet-shaped flowers,

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“The species prefers rocky situations and the scarlet flowers are pollinated by orange-breasted sunbirds,” Manning said.

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Cape Argus

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