Granny’s Bonnet orchids usually grow in damp, sandy 
Durban - Granny’s Bonnet orchids once adorned the hills from near the coast to the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Then came the freeways, factories, housing estates and other concrete objects that politicians promise and people call progress.

But it wasn’t good news for the orchid named in honour of a gogo’s headgear.

“They were once widespread, but development has led to this flower being isolated and getting smaller pockets in Umgeni Valley and at Shongweni,” said eThekwini Municipality horticulturist Lance Rasmussen.

The natural habitat of Granny’s Bonnet is damp, usually sandy grasslands. They sometimes grow within grass tussocks.

“Howick and Shongweni are quite far apart, which shows the range they used to extend. It shows that with development, populations have become localised. The chance of pollination is a lot less, too.”

The Granny’s Bonnet orchid, known to science as Disperis woodii, needs an oil-collecting bee to pollinate it.

Granny’s Bonnet orchids usually grow in damp, sandy 

Since the discovery of the Shongweni population on a verge, that patch of land is now protected by law against brush cutting and alien plant invasion.

“Grass cutters do no favours by indiscriminate trimming, preventing growth and maturation of the flowers and hence seed production and causing their eventual demise,” he said.

Ramussen said that as cut grass decomposed, it changed the pH of the soil, in many cases creating intolerable soil conditions for indigenous plants.

“Road reserves like that are little nature reserves in their own right,” said Rasmussen.

“For years our roads have been subjected to increasingly heavy-handed management practices that damage, remove indigenous vegetation and promote the success of alien species.”

The Independent on Saturday