The Kogelberg Biosphere is well known for its plant diversity,
with ericas being plentiful. One of the most well known and loveliest
ericas is Erica perspicua. All along the Clarence Drive,
once you've entered the Betty's Bay area, you'll see fields of E.
perspicua growing in its natural habitat.
This is an erect shrub which grows to a height of about 1 m or more.
It has willowy branches and tufts of usually hairy leaves. The soft
hairy tubular flowers are 16-25 mm long and grow singly on short,
side branches. The anthers are muticous (anthers without appendages).
The flowers vary in colour from white through pink and white, red
and white, dark red or purple and white to uniform red. It flowers
from February to June.
It is found in marshes and vleis at low altitudes and is very common
from Betty's Bay through to Hermanus on the Cape coast.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name Erica comes from the Greek word ereike
meaning to break and perspicua (Latin) means transparent,
referring to the translucent nature of the flower. This erica acquired
its common name from its resemblance to the plumes on the crest
of the Prince of Wales' coat of arms. The Afrikaans common name
also alludes to feathers/ plumes. The name 'heath' comes from an
old English word for waste and refers to wild, uncultivated land
and to the plants (heaths/ericas) found there.
Erica is one of the largest genera in South Africa. There
are about 605 indigenous species, mostly concentrated in the southwestern
Cape with the greatest number centred around Caledon. Ericas are
very popular both here and in Britain.
Birds, bees and other insects pollinate the flowers.
Growing Erica perspicua
perspicua occurs in moist, wet areas amongst plants such as
Osmitopsis asteriscoides, Wachendorfia thyrsiflora, Mimetes hirtus,
Todea barbara and Chondropetalum tectorum. Many of these
are difficult to cultivate, but the Prince of Wales heath grows
easily in normal garden conditions, provided the soil is acid and
it receives sufficient water. It is unlikely to survive frosty winters.
In inclement climates, try cultivating it in a large pot which can
It is best grown from seed, which has been smoke treated. Give
a gentle, but good watering. Seedlings may be fed with an organic,
seaweed-based fertilizer to strengthen the root system. This plant
can also be propagated from cuttings taken from the side shoots,
either heel or tip cuttings.
- Burman, L. & Bean, A. 1985. Hottentots Holland to Hermanus.
Wild Flower Guide Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
- Eliovson, S. 1984. Wild flowers of southern Africa, edn
7. MacMillan. New York.
- Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa,
vol. 3. Balkema, Cape Town.
- Schumann, D., Kirsten, G. & Oliver, E.G.H. 1992. Ericas
of South Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
Harold Porter NBG