Salisbury gave this erica the specific name 'jasminiflora' (jasmine-like
flowers) which more than adequately describes its beautiful porcelain-pink
flowers. Erica jasminiflora was cultivated in Britain as
long ago as 1796 from seed gathered at Caledon by Francis Mason.
This means that this erica is 'in danger of extinction and its survival
is unlikely if the causal factors continue operating.' Its numbers
have been reduced to a critical level and its habitats have been
so drastically reduced that it is deemed to be in immediate danger
Erica jasminiflora forms an erect spindly shrub growing up
to 600 mm high. It produces thin, sparsely arranged, twiggy branches
at the tips of which are produced three or four beautiful jasmine-like
The flowers are narrowly tubular, about 32 mm long, displaying
a slight swelling at the throat before ending in broad, star-shaped
sticky flowers vary in colour from white to pale rose with deeper
red veins along the tube. The leaves are very small and closely
arranged around thin, wiry stems. This species is spectacular in
flower, but is inconspicuous in its habitat when not flowering.
Erica jasminiflora was once common on the Swartberg near
Caledon and the hills around the town. It grows in dry fynbos and
renosterveld at an altitude of approximately 200 m in the hard,
gravely, reddish soils overlying clay that has been derived from
shale. It is exposed to very harsh, hot and windy summer conditions
with temperatures regularly exceeding 30º C. The habitat of
this plant has been severely reduced due to agricultural practices
such as wheat farming, construction of a road and fires. This species
only remains in a very small area near Shaw's Mountain and probably
amounts to less than 100 plants.
jasminiflora is a small, slow-growing, woody species that reproduces
well after fire.
This species flowers from November to March. Its sticky flowers
is are a deterrent to bees and other insects that seek to rob it
of nectar by biting holes in the side of the corolla and thereby
not pollinating the flower. Flies of the Nemestrinidae and Tabanidae
families may act as pollinators as they are able to probe for nectar
with their long proboscises using the non-sticky flower lobes as
landing platforms, or by hovering during the process.
Growing Erica jasminiflora
Seed of this species is hard to come by and recorded to be difficult
to germinate. This may be because these records were made before
smoke treatment of certain fynbos families improved germination
rates dramatically. Seed is not collected from the wild population
as this will be detrimental to the survival of the natural population.
Erica jasminiflora roots easily from tip or heel cuttings,
which are taken in autumn or spring. The cuttings are treated with
a rooting hormone used to root semi-hardwood cuttings and placed
in a rooting medium consisting of equal parts of 6 mm milled pine
bark and polystyrene balls. Multi-compartment trays are preferable
as they provide better drainage. The cuttings are placed on heated
propagation beds providing bottom heat averaging 25º C. Rooting
is relatively slow, taking about six to eight weeks to initiate.
The cuttings are removed to a hardening off bench when the roots
have developed enough to sustain the new plant. They may be carefully
planted out a few weeks later into a potting medium made for fynbos
plants. A suitable potting medium consists of equal parts acid river
sand, composted pine bark or pine needles and 20% loam by volume.
No manure or chemical fertilizer should be added.
Erica jasminiflora grows well in pots and is reasonably
hardy. The only problem experienced at Kirstenbosch is tip dieback,
which is restricted to very limited parts of the plant and does
not result in death of the whole plant. These dead sections should
be cut away whenever they occur. Regular pruning is recommended
to produce a more branched pot subject. Plants survive in garden
situations if they are planted in sunny and well-drained areas such
as rockeries. Mulching with wood chips or compost is recommended
to keep the surface cool.
Plant of this species will be available for sale at the Kirstenbosch
Garden Fair 8-9 March 2003.
In situ conservation
The last remaining population on Shaw's Pass has been monitored
for a number of years. This monitoring has shown a dramatic decline
in the population since the 1970's. In 1977, 150 plants were counted.
The population dropped to 50 plants in 1981, 15 in 1982, 11 in 1983,
1 in 1984 and the sole survivor was reported dead in 1985. Part
of the population was destroyed by the construction of a road. A
fire started to create grazing for sheep, spread and destroyed more
plants. The area was fenced off in the 1970's and attempts to resurrect
the population through appropriate burn management and reseeding
failed. The species was thought to be extinct until 1980 when seedlings
appeared after an accidental fire. These plants flowered and produced
seed. Another fire swept through the area, but more seedlings appeared
and about 100 plants have been counted in this natural population
which amounts to less than one hectare. The land on which the plant
occurs belongs to the Caledon Divisional Council and was leased
to Cape Nature Conservation for a number of years. In 1992 Nature
Conservation did not renew the lease and it became known that the
new leaseholder was planning to develop part of the site.
When these plans became known, the South African Botanical Society
and the Caledon Wildflower Society lobbied the Caledon Divisional
Council and Cape Nature Conservation about the conservation importance
of the site. In addition to Erica jasminiflora, an endangered
species of Proteaeaceae, Leucadendron cryptocephalum also
occurs in the area. The proposal was that Cape Nature Conservation
would purchase the site and manage it as a nature reserve. Protracted
negotiations with the local authorities in Caledon have thus far
not resulted in progress in this direction. In the meantime the
site burnt again in 2002. The efforts of local conservation bodies
such as the Caledon Wildflower Society need to be supported by the
local authorities and by conservation bodies if this species is
to be secured in its habitat.
Ex situ conservation
Plants are grown at Kirstenbosch in their pot collection of rare
ericas and some are planted in the garden for display. A nursery
in Caledon that specializes in growing fynbos also grows plants
successfully. Nursery grown plants might ultimately be the only
means of survival for this species.
- GOLDBLATT, P.& MANNING, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus
of the Cape flora of South Africa. National Botanical Institute,
Cape Town and Missouri Botanical Garden.
- EMANOIL, M. (ed.). 1994. Encyclopaedia of endangered species:
1136. IUCN, The World Conservation Union, Detroit.
- HILTON-TAYLOR, C. 1996. Threatened Ericaceae in southern Africa.
Yearbook of the Heather Society. pages 7 - 16.
- HILTON-TAYLOR, C. 1996. Red Data List of southern African plants.
Strelitzia 4. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- SCHUMANN, D., KIRSTEN, G. & OLIVER, E.G.H. 1992. Ericas
of South Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
- OLIVER,E.G.H. pers. comm.
- HANEKOM, ADRIAAN (Caledon Fynbos Nursery) pers. comm.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden