The Gordon's Bay pincushion is quite unusual for a pincushion in
that its flowers are a creamy white colour where they are normally
a striking orange or yellow. It is also an easy one to grow, and
it is a good cutflower.
bolusii grows into a rounded shrub, about 1.5 m tall. The leaves
are hairy when young, and have one apical tooth. The flowerheads
are flat and rounded, about 20 mm in diameter, each one made up
of 50 - 100 small tubular flowers. The buds are encased by pinkish
red bracts, and the flowers are creamy white, with a strong, sweet
fragrance that is very noticeable on windless evenings. Flowering
time is spring to midsummer (September to December), peaking in
late October to early November. The nut-like seeds drop out of the
flowers about two months after flowering.
This pincushion is found in a small area on rocky, west-facing,
sandstone slopes of the mountains above Clarence Drive, between
Gordon's Bay and Kogel Bay, overlooking False Bay.
The flowers are pollinated by bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and
moths. The seeds are dispersed by ants that are attracted to the
fleshy skin that covers the seed, called an elaisome. The ants carry
the seeds to their underground nests where they consume the elaisome,
but the seed remains safe until conditions are right for them to
germinate. Leucospermum bolusii is killed by fire, i.e. it
is not a resprouter, but its seeds survive. Even though its distribution
range is relatively small, dense stands of it occur and it is not
Derivation of the name
The genus Leucospermum is named from the Greek leukos
meaning white, and sperma seed, referring to the white or
light-coloured seeds of many species. This species is named after
Harry Bolus (1834-1911), a South African botanist and founder of
the Bolus Herbarium in Cape Town. It gets its common name from its
restricted habitat above Gordon's Bay, and its Afrikaans name refers
to its white flowers and the tick-like appearance of the seeds (wit
meaning white, luisies are little ticks and a bos
is a bush). Many other pincushions are also called luisiesbos.
The genus Leucospermum is a member of the protea family.
It consists of 48 species that occur in southern Africa as far north
as Zimbabwe, with the majority occurring in the winter rainfall
regions of Western Cape.
Growing Leucospermum bolusii
bolusii is a good garden subject and an excellent cutflower.
It does best in well-drained, acid sandstone soils in a sunny position.
Like most members of the protea family, it is intolerant of rich
soils and strong doses of chemical fertilizers with high nitrogen
(N) and phosphorous (P) content. In heavy clay soils or waterlogged
conditions they are more susceptible to infection with the root
Feed with well-rotted compost, dug into the planting hole and
thereafter laid down over the surface of the soil as a thick mulch
at least once every year, or in both autumn and again in spring.
Seed germinates easily in late summer - autumn - early winter (March
- May). They don't need to be treated with smoke primer to initiate
germination, but do respond to the typical autumn hot day and cold
night temperature fluctuations. They are usually ready for planting
into bags/containers after three to four months.
This pincushion can also be propagated by cuttings. Semi-hardwood
tip cuttings or heel cuttings should be taken in late summer - autumn
and rooted with bottom heat in a mist unit. A rooting hormone is
required for optimal rooting.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus
of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National
Botanical Institute, Pretoria & Missouri Botanical Garden
- Jackson, W.P.U. 1990. Origins and meanings of names of South
African plant genera. University of Cape Town Printing Dept.,
- Protea Atlas Project: http://protea.worldonline.co.za
Christien Malan and Alice Notten
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden