Liparia hirsuta


Family: Fabaceae (alternatively: Leguminosae , subfamily Papilionoideae)
Common names: Common hard-leaved pea, gewone hardeblaar-ertjie (Afr.)


With its silvery, hairy calyx and bright yellow flowers, Liparia hirsuta is an eye catching plant.

Liparia hirsuta is a single or multistemmed, reseeding, perennial shrub that grows up to 3 m tall. Leaf shape is oblanceolate to obovate. The flowers and seeds are characteristic of taxa in the Papilionoideae. Bracts are longer than the pedicel, and clasp the base of the hairy calyx.

Inflorescences consist of 7–12 flowers in a raceme. Flowers are irregular, with imbricate (overlapping) corollas in bud. Petals are yellow and composed of a standard, two wings and two fused keel petals, normally with 10 free stamens, but occasionally nine free and one fused stamen . Flowering time is between August and April. Seed pods are hairy, erect and contain few seeds.


Conservation status
Liparia hirsuta is Red-Listed as Least Concern (LC). However, the species was not chosen for a complete assessment during the screening processes as a possible taxon of conservation concern. It was provided with an automated conservation status. This species (and all with an automated LC conservation status) is in the process of being reassessed.

Distribution and habitat
Liparia hirsuta is a mountain fynbos plant. It grows at altitudes of 300–1 070 m along the coastal mountains between Langeberg and Kareedouw in South Africa. It is often found in marshy places, along mountain streams and in moist kloofs (gullies).

  Growing in habitat: Image Outramps

Derivation of name and historical aspects
The Fabaceae family is the third largest flowering plant family. Worldwide, it contains approximately 650 genera and 18 000 species. In South Africa, there are 155 recognised genera and 1 516 species. Liparia is endemic to South Africa's Cape Floristic Region, and L. hirsuta is one of 20 species within the genus.

Liparia is derived from the Greek word liparos, meaning oily and shiny, either in reference to the waxy, fatty surface of the leaves, or its smooth, shiny flowers. The species name hirsuta originates from the Latin word hirsutus, meaning hirsute or hairy, possibly in reference to the hairy calyx.

The genus Liparia was initially described and published by Linnaeus. He placed six species within the genus, but only described two (in 1771); L. sphaerica and L. graminifolia, with L. sphaerica being the type species of the genus. Judging from its detailed description, it may have been described from several flower and fruit samples, and possibly cultivated in a conservatory. Thunberg later (1794–1800) described several new Liparia species. In 1825, however, De Candolle studied the characteristics and definitions of the genus, and as a result, only accepted the description of one species, L. sphaerica. The excluded species were grouped into separate genera: Priestleya, Rafnia, Borbonia – which included L. hirsuta – and one incorrectly identified Liparia turned out to be a Psoralea.

Following a study on the morphological and alkaloid characteristics of Liparia and Priestleya by Schutte and Van Wyk (1994), and a subsequent revision of Liparia by Schutte (1997), it was suggested that the two genera be combined. They share similar leaf shape, size and venation patterns, simple racemose inflorescences (with a variable number of flowers), lengths of peduncle and inflorescence axes. When P. hirsuta has closer to 12 flowers, the inflorescence axis becomes shorter and bracts become larger and petaloid, thus creating a nodding motion. In this instance it resembles the head-like nodding inflorescence of Liparia parva and L. splendens. Fewer flowers and a short axis length will cause a decussate, four-flowered inflorescence similar to P. capitata, or paired flowers similar to P. boucheri. Furthermore, Liparia and Priestleya share a similar alkaloid combination and any variation in floral structure and inflorescence may have resulted from adaptations in pollination mechanisms. As a result, it was proposed that Priestleya be placed in synonymy under Liparia . 

Not much is known about pollination mechanisms in Liparia hirsuta. Liparia varies widely in inflorescence morphology. A single species (e.g. L. splendens, L. angustifolia and L. parva ) can attract a variety of different pollinators such as sunbirds, bees, flies and rodents.

Liparia hirsuta has root nodules and fixes nitrogen through symbiosis with Rhizobium bacteria. Nitrogen fixation makes the soil more fertile.

Fynbos is a fire-driven and fire-prone vegetation type. Liparia hirsuta rarely sprouts after a fire and has a non-sprouting fire survival strategy. Non-sprouters generate from seed after a fire and are characterised by a single main stem at the base.

Liparia hirsuta seeds are dispersed by ants (myrmecochory). The seeds contain large, fleshy arils that attract ants, which then carry seeds away into their nests.

Uses and cultural aspects
There are no accounts of medicinal or cultural uses of Liparia hirsuta, but it is cultivated as an ornamental plant.

Bush in habitat: Imahge Outramps

Growing Liparia hirsuta

Liparia hirsuta can be propagated from seed and cuttings. To propagate L. hirsuta from seed, select mature, fleshy, fully-formed seeds. Separate viable seeds from unviable seeds by placing them in a cup of water: viable seeds will sink, while unviable seeds float. Place seeds in hot water at 80°C until cool, to soften the solid, impermeable seed coat. Soak seeds in an aqueous smoke extract or commercial seed primer for 24 hours. Alternatively smoke seed trays after sowing. After soaking the seeds, carefully dust them with a fungicide dressing to ward off potential fungal infection in post-emerging seedlings. Sow seeds in a sterile, sandy, well-drained soil medium. The medium should be kept warm and moist until germination. Incubate seeds in full sun at an autumn (March–May) temperature . Seed germination from treated seeds takes approximately six weeks. To increase the seedlings' chances of survival, reduce root disturbance by sowing seed in plugs/small containers or transplant seedlings at an early stage. Seed-grown plants are always stronger than plants propagated from cuttings.

To propagate from cuttings, p ick cuttings during late summer/autumn to early spring. Select thin, new shoots at the base of the plant, preferably a heel, from semi-hardwood growth directly from the rootstock. Other methods include taking semi-hardwood tip cuttings. Treat cuttings with adequate rooting hormone. Plant cuttings in a sterile, well-drained medium, such as milled bark polystyrene, and place it in a mist unit with a bottom heat of about 24°C. To reduce root disturbance, plant cuttings into plugs or small containers.

[Anthony Hitchcock is acknowledged for his advice and notes on how to propagate Liparia hirsuta .]

References and further reading

  • Bos, J.J. & De Wit, H.C.D. 1967. The genus Liparia L. Journal of South African Botany 33(4): 269–292.
  • Brown, N. & Duncan, G. 2006. Grow fynbos plants . Kirstenbosch Gardening Series. South African National Botanical Institute. Cape Town.
  • Cowell, C. 2010. Liparia angustifolia.
  • Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J.C. 2000. Cape plants: a conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria & Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis.
  • Harvey, W.H. 1894. Leguminosae. Flora Capensis 2: 567
  • Koekemoer, M., Steyn, H.M. & Bester, S.P. 2013. Guide to plant families of southern Africa. Strelitzia 31. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
  • Letten, A.D. & Midgley, J.J. 2009. Rodent pollination in the Cape legume Liparia parva . Austral Ecology 34: 233–236.
  • Notten, A. 2008. Liparia splendens. Plantzafrica.
  • Raimondo, D., Von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. & Manyama, P.A. (eds) 2009. Red List of South African plants 2009. Strelitzia 25. South African Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
  • Schutte, A.L. 1997. Systematics of the genus Liparia (Fabaceae). Nordic Journal of Botany 17: 11–37.
  • Schutte, A.L. & Van Wyk, B-E. 1994. A reappraisal of the generic status of Liparia and Priestleya (Fabaceae). Taxon 43: 573–782
  • Stearn, W.T. 2004. Botanical Latin . Timber Press, Devon.
  • Trinder-Smith, T.H. 2003. The Levyn's Guide to the Plant Genera of the southwestern Cape . Red Roof Design, Cape Town.


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June 2014

With thanks to Ispot website for images



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