This is a fast-growing shrub with narrow, dark green leaves, bright
yellow flowers in profusion on the male plants in spring, and reddish
brown cones on the female plants in late summer. It is an excellent
plant for landscaping and looks best when planted in small groups
of five to seven plants.
Conservation status: Endangered
macowanii was named after one of the first professors of botany
in Cape Town, Professor Peter MacOwan, who collected a specimen
in the Wynberg area in the southwestern Cape around 1883. This is
now a very rare species, due to displacement by agriculture and
urban development. It has completely disappeared from the Wynberg
area and only occurs in a valley near the Cape Point Nature Reserve,
where the only remaining population is being threatened by the invasion
of the area by alien Acacia species. These alien trees not only
suppress the growth of the remaining plants, but the Acacia
leaves are similar to those of Leucadendron macowanii and
some plants have been mistakenly killed during clearing operations.
shrubs grow up to 2 m tall and have a single main stem. They are
quite fast growing and should have attained a height of 2 m in three
to four years from the date of sowing. The plants flower during
July and August with bright yellow flowers, with the male plant
looking the most attractive. The female flowers occurring in the
immature cones are very small. When mature, the cones are about
30 mm long and reddish brown in colour. They are quite attractive
on the plant as well as in flower arrangements. The seeds are retained
in the cones till they are released by fire or by drying of the
Leucadendron macowanii occurs in fire-prone vegetation,
where natural fires occur every ten to thirty years. This 'Mediterranean'
type of vegetation grows in soils with very low amounts of nutrients.
These nutrients are used up by the plants during their lifetime
and need to be returned to the soil to provide the food for a new
generation of plants. Leucadendron macowanii is adapted to
survive the fires by producing seeds throughout its lifetime, some
of the seeds being distributed and stored in the soil, others being
stored in the old cones, which will only be stimulated to open and
release the seeds when the plant dies or is killed by fire. These
natural fires occur mainly in late summer or autumn and are followed
by the first winter rains, which provide the moisture the young
seedlings need to grow to a size at which they can survive the long,
The genus Leucadendron has the only 10 Proteaceae species
in southern Africa which are exclusively wind-pollinated and Leucadendron
macowanii is one of these. The wind-pollinated species have
two main characteristics: they do not secrete nectar and they are
odourless. The flowers of the female plants have large stigmas for
filtering pollen out of the air. In the male plants, the pollen
does not adhere to the pollen presenter, but when the flower opens
it is scattered in large showers and drifts away in the wind (Rebelo
Growing Leucadendron macowanii
Leucadendron macowanii is an easy shrub to grow in a normal
garden situation where regular watering occurs. In their original
habitat the plants grow in damp sands near streams and when planted
in gardens do need regular watering to grow to their full potential.
The soil should be well drained and the plants should be in full
sun. They are best planted in small groups of five or seven plants,
about 1.5 m apart, so that both male and female plants can be expected
to be present.
Although the plants can be propagated vegetatively by making cuttings,
the propagation is best done by seed, sown from the middle of March
(late summer), when the day temperature starts to drop. The seed
is sown in open seedbeds, in a light, well-drained soil and covered
with a layer of sand (about 1 cm or 1 1/2 times the size of the
seed). The bed is then covered with a grid to protect it against
attacks from birds and rodents. The seed will germinate three to
four weeks after sowing.
The plants can be damaged by leaf borers, but generally look healthy
and do not suffer from many disfiguring diseases. Like all other
Proteaceae, the most harmful and destructive diseases are fungal.
Most losses occur during the summer months when a virulent root
fungus (Phytophthora camphora) can attack the plants. Control
through the use of fungicides in the garden is difficult and expensive.
By the time the plant shows distress, it is normally too late to
arrest the problem. The best methods of control are cultural, i.e.
water plants early in the morning; keep soil surface cool by mulching;
remove diseased plants immediately; do not over-water in summer
and prune and remove diseased material.
VOGTS, M. 1982. South Africa's Proteaceae: know them and grow
them. Struik, Cape Town.
REBELO, A.G. (Tony). 1995. SASOL Proteas. A field guide to the
proteas of southern Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
REBELO, A.G. (Tony). 2000. Proteas of the Cape Peninsula.
National Botanical Institute, Claremont.
MATTHEWS, L. 1993. The Protea growers handbook. Trade Winds
Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden