Name : Leucospermum praecox Rourke

Family: Proteaceae
Common names: Mossel Bay pincushion , ; large tufted pincushion

 

Leucospermum praecox flowers before most other pincushions and creates an eye - catching display from mid-autumn all through winter.

 

Description

Leucospermum praecox is a rounded, robust shrub up to reaching 2 - 3 m tall and 4 m wide. It is has bushy growth and has an upright habit. The trunk can reach 80 mm in diameter. Leaves are obovate to wedge-shaped , 3570 x 1530 mm and overlap each other. The y are leaves are soft and hairy when young . ; t T he se hairs give the young leaves a whitish, light green / white appearance. After a year, the leaves lose the hairs , and become smooth and leathery. E ach leaf tip has 5 - 11 glandular teeth. Leaves are 3570 x 15-30 mm .

Bushes are floriferous and sometimes have 4 flowers on the tips of branches. Flowering occurs between April and September. Flower heads measure 60 mm across and have a spherical shape. Flower buds first open as a tightly curled lemon - yellow - / green whorl. As they unfurl the styles become darker yellow and finally orange while the pollen presenter (tip of style) remains yellow. Once the flowers have been pollinated or the flower s begins to age, the styles and pollen presenters darken to red.

Seeds ripen in the flower head for two months. After this , the large nut seeds are released and fall to the ground where they are carried underground by ants.

 

Conservation status

Leucospermum praecox is listed as Vulnerable on the current Red Data List .

It does occur s over a large area but its habitat is rapidly being diminished due to expanding farming activities.

 

Distribution and habitat

Leucospermum praec ox occurs on the Riversdale Flats between Albertinia and Mossel Bay . It grows in white sandy soil at a n altitude of 0 - 250m.

 

Derivation of name and historical aspects

The name Leucospermum is derived from the Greek leukos , meaning white and sperma , meaning seed. The seeds are actually black but are coated with a white fleshy skin (el i a io some). Praecox means early or premature and which alludes to the early flowering.

Ecology

Leucospermum seeds are covered by a soft white fleshy skin. When the seeds fall to the ground, ants collect them and take them underground to their nests. They eat the fleshy skin (el i a io some) and the seed is now planted snuggly underground where it is safe from predation and fire. This is known as myrmecochory. Mature plants are killed by fire and rely on the ants to bury their seed s so that they it can germinate after fire.

 

Flowers are pollinated by birds.

 

During the first year, new leaves are The dense , ly covered with soft, velvety hairs found on the new soft delicate leaves during the first year . This is to protect the m delicate soft leaves from drying out in the sun and from being eaten by predators. After the first year, the hairs disappear and the leaves harden , becom e smooth and develop a waxy coating. The hairs disappear and a smooth leaf surface remains

 

Uses and cultural aspects

Leucospermum praecox is a great addition to any fynbos garden and is also as well as being suitable as a cutflower.

 

Growing Leucospermum praecox

Leucospermum praecox will grow in most well-drained garden soils. They will grow in alkaline soil but will thrive in acid soil. It is a fast grower and will flower in the second year after planting. Nip out tips of plants while they are young to encourage the plants to bush and become more compact. As the plant grow s and flower s you can cut flowers for the vase , t his will prune the plant at the same time.

Leucospermum praecox is relatively hardy and not susceptible to too many diseases and pests in a garden situation. The most important factor in preventing disease in proteas is to make sure the environmental conditions are correct. This includes getting direct sunlight for the most of the day, a well-drained soil where the soil does not stay saturated and stagnate, and good air circulation ensuring that the above-ground parts of the plant dry quickly after watering. It is also important to ensure that the soil stays cool in the hot months and roots are not disturbed by digging. A thick layer of mulch or groundcover planting can be used to keep the soil cool and prevent moisture loss. If any of these factors are not correct, the plants become weakened and stressed and you will be sure to attract some form of pest or disease.

The best time to plant into the garden is just before the rainy season. This enables plants to establish themselves and send down deep roots before the hot, dry, summer season. Leucospermum praecox requires a sunny situation with well-drained soil. In nature the plants grow together in large monospecific stands producing an amazing flowering display; one would require a very large garden to recreate this effect! You could plant in a rambling informal indigenous shrubbery using companion plants such as Elegia capensis , Leucadendron salignum , Euryops annae , Aloe arborescens , and Erica cerinthoides .

Propagate Leucospermum praecox can be propagated from cuttings or seed . but C c uttings have a much higher success rate than seeds.

Make cuttings from December to March (summer to autumn). The cuttings should be semi-hardwood, 60 - 100 mm long, and taken from the current season's growth. Dip the cuttings into a rooting hormone solution or hormone powder and plant into a medium of 50% polystyrene and 50% finely milled bark. Place in a growing house with bottom heat (25ºC) and intermittent mist. Once the roots are well developed, remove from the mist unit and harden off for three weeks. Plant the cuttings into small bags and grow on until ready to plant into the garden.

 

Sow seed at the end of February when the days are warm and the nights start to cool down (late summer to autumn). Soak Leucospermum seed in smoke water to which hydrogen peroxide has been added, at the ratio of 1% of the total volume for 24 hours. This loosens the outer see d coat and oxygenates the seed. The softened seed coat is rubbed off. Dust the seed with a systemic fungicide. Sow on a well-drained medium consisting of 1 part loam, 1 part bark, and 2 parts sand, firm down and cover with a layer of sand or finely milled bark. Seed can be sown in an open seedbed, or in a seed-tray placed in a sunny position. Germination begins after three to four weeks. Once two true leaves have grown, prick the seedlings out into small bags. The seedlings will have to be pricked out in batches, as the seed s germinate s at different times. Place the seedlings in a lightly shaded area with good air circulation. When plants are ± 50100 mm tall or after one year's growth, they can be planted into the garden. Nipping out the tips of the seedlings will encourage branching and produce a neater shrub.

The best time to pla ce the young plant s in the garden is just before the rainy season. This enables plants to establish themselves and send down deep roots before the hot, dry, summer season. Leucospermum praecox requires a sunny situation with well-drained soil. In nature the plants grow together in large monospecific stands producing an amazing flowering display; one would require a very large garden to recreate this effect! You could plant them in a rambling informal indigenous shrubbery using companion plants such as Elegia capensis , Leucadendron salignum , Euryops annae , Aloe arborescens , and Erica cerinthoides .

Leucospermum praecox will grow in most well-drained garden soils. It will grow in alkaline soil but will thrive in acid soil. Being a fast grower it will flower in the second year after planting. As the plants grow and flower you can cut flowers for the vase. This will prune the plants at the same time.

Leucospermum praecox is relatively hardy and not susceptible to too many diseases and pests in a garden situation. The most important factor in preventing disease in proteas is to make sure the environmental conditions are correct. This includes getting direct sunlight for most of the day, a well-drained soil which does not stay saturated and will not stagnate, and good air circulation ensuring that the above-ground parts of the plant dry quickly after watering. It is also important to ensure that the soil stays cool in the hot months and that roots are not disturbed by digging. A thick layer of mulch or groundcover planting can be used to keep the soil cool and prevent moisture loss. If any of these factors are not correct, the plants become weakened and stressed, and you can be sure to attract some form of pest or disease.

 

References and further reading

Eliovson, S. 1979. Proteas for pleasure . MacMillan, South Africa Publisher s: Johannesburg .

 

Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J.C. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa . Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town and Missouri Botanical Garden .

 

Rebelo, A. (Tony). 2001. Proteas. A field guide to the proteas of southern Africa , edn 2. Fernwood Press , & National Botanical Institute, Cape Town .

 

Vogts, M. 1982. South Africa 's Proteaceae . , Know them and grow them . Struik , Publications: Cape Town .

 

Website: Protea Atlas Project.

 

 

Louise Nurrish

Kirstenbosch

October 2009

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