Lampranthus bicolor
(L.) N.E.Br.

Family : Mesembryanthemaceae
Common names
: Bicoloured lampranthus (Eng.); bont vygie (Afr.)

Bright yellow Lampranthus bicolor flowers

This is a beautiful species; when in bud, it displays the orange-red on the reverse of the petals, and as it opens it reveals their bright yellow upper surface.

Description

Orange-red on the back of L. bicolor petal Close-up of L. bicolor flower
Orange-red on the back of L. bicolor petal
Close-up of L. bicolor flower

Lampranthus bicolor is an erect, stiffly branched shrub. It grows up to about 300 mm tall. The leaves are more or less cylindrical to three-sided, 12–35 mm long, and have reddish tips. The flowers are up to 35 mm in diameter, borne singly or in clusters of 2 or 3 at the tips of the branches. The petals are bright yellow on the upper surface and orange-red underneath.. Flowers are followed by 5-locular, fleshy fruit which become woody when dry. Seeds are pear-shaped. Flowering time is from October–January.

Leaves of Lampranthus bicolor Two-tone effect of Lampranthus bicolor flowers Far left: Leaves of Lampranthus bicolor
Left: Two-tone effect of Lampranthus bicolor flowers

Conservation status Lampranthus bicolor is classified as Vulnerable, meaning that it is in high risk of becoming extinct. The populations are declining as a result of development (urban and coastal), invasive alien plants and crop cultivation.

Distribution and habitat
Lampranthus bicolor occurs from the Cape Peninsula to Bredasdorp. It grows on sandy flats and slopes.

Lampranthus bicolor in habitat Lampranthus bicolor in habitat

Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name is derived from the Greek words lampros (bright) and anthos (flower), referring to the large showy flowers. The specific name bicolor –‘bicoloured', refers to the two-tone effect of the petals, which are yellow above and red underneath. The genus consists of 227 species. Other related species are found along the coast of Namibia, Northern, Western and Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Ecology
These plants are categorized as succulents as they store water in their leaves for use in time of prolonged drought periods. The bright colour of the flowers attracts pollinators to increase the production of seed. Seeds are released in wet weather conditions. The rain aids in dispersing the seed. It also ensures that there is enough moisture available for seed germination.

Fruit of Lampranthus bicolor Fruit of Lampranthus bicolor

Uses and cultural aspects
There are no medicinal or traditional uses associated with these plants. However, they can be used in the garden and they are ideal for a waterwise garden. 

Growing Lampranthus bicolor

Sow seeds in autumn, in trays filled with a mixture of sand and loam. Spread seeds out on top of the mixture and cover with a thin layer of sand. Make sure the trays are well drained. Keep the trays moist and in a well ventilated area. Plant seedlings out when they are about 50 mm high.

Plants can also be propagated from cuttings. Cut soft, young material from a healthy bush. Place cuttings in a mixture of 1:1 perlite and river sand. Ensure that the cutting medium is kept moist. Once cuttings have developed roots, they can be planted out in trays with a mixture of sand and loam.

References

  • Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town and Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Manning, J. 2003. Photographic guide to the wildflowers of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • Smith, G.F., Van Jaarsveld, E., Hammer, S., Chesselet, P., Hartmann, H., Burgoyne, P., Van Wyk, B-E. & Kurzweil, H. 1998. Mesembs of the world. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • Van Jaarsveld, E.J. & De Villiers-Pienaar, U. 2000. Vygies, gems of the veld. Grafica Quadro, Tradate (VA) Italy.

 

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To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.
This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website www.plantzafrica.com.


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