Identifying Sceptres - Paranomus
The genus Paranomus is best distinguished by its leaves which vary from entire to dissected. The dissected leaves have a grooved dorsal surface ending in a mucron, and are always slightly curled upwards. The 'entire' leaf morph is unfortunately not found in all species, but in the species in which it occurs, it is characteristic of younger branches, especially those bearing inflorescences. The inflorescences are spike-like, with every bract containing a set of four flowers, each subtended by its own leathery bract. These bracts become woody with age, forming tiny round shells. The florets contain four free perianth segments, which are usually hairy on the outer surface. The ovary is surrounded by stiff, white hairs, and the style may be hairy or hairless. The fruits are a smooth nut, surrounded by a ring of hairs at the base and containing a persistent style.
The identification of Paranomus requires a X10 magnification hand lens, although groups may easily be discerned. Important features for the identification of Paranomus species include the position, length and density of hairs on the style, the size, shape and number of flowers in the spikes, and the leaf shapes and sizes.
1. Leaves of two distinct kinds: upper entire leaves and lower dissected, larger leaves goto 2
1' Leaves all dissected, although upper leaves may be much less divided than lower leaves goto 3
2. Perianth segments of florets densely woolly, and linear, untidy involucral and floral bracts goto section LONGICAULAE
2' Involucral and floral bracts ovate to acute, never linear, perianth segments with fine hairs, never woolly goto section REFLEXAE
3. Style hairless goto section ESTERHUYSENIAE
3' Style hairy, hairs confined to small zone below middle, pollen-presenter not much wider than style, spike globose, less than 15-25mm in diameter, leaves about 20mm long goto section CAPITATAE
3" Style hairy, hairs on various portions of style, if hairs only on lower half of style then spike not globose and longer than 25mm in length, leaves usually longer than 20mm, else floral bracts hairless on upper half goto section DISPERSAE
The Common Sceptres form the majority of the Sceptres which only have one form of leaf, namely dissected leaves. All have hairy styles, a feature shared with the Fine-leaf Sceptre, from which they differ by having leaves longer than 20 mm long and a spike longer than 25 mm in length.
Perianth length is a useful feature to measure before trying to identify members of this group.
Paranomus spicatus KOGELBERG SCEPTRE PERDEBOS
Paranomus bolusii OVERBERG SCEPTRE
Paranomus candicans POWDER SCEPTRE
Paranomus tomentosus HAIRY-LEAF
Paranomus bracteolaris SMOOTH-LEAF TREESCEPTRE
Paranomus lagopus RABBIT-PAW
Paranomus abrotanifolius BREDASDORP SCEPTRE
Paranomus dispersus LONG-HEAD SCEPTRE
The Cornflower Sceptres are the only Sceptres with leaves all dissected and with hairless styles. While the leaves are all dissected, they vary greatly in shape with some apical leaves entire. Generally, the small, usually dense, spikes are globose and have few flowers (12-66) per spike, most other Sceptres having over 70 flowers per spike (exceptions being the P. abrotanifolius with about 50 flowers and the P. capitatus with about 30 flowers).
Paranomus dregei SCENTED SCEPTRE
Paranomus esterhuyseniae KOUGA SCEPTRE.
Paranomus centauroides LADISMITH SCEPTRE
The Fine-leaf Sceptre is best recognized by its small, globose, dense, hairy spikes which give a fluffy ball appearance to the inflorescences. In addition, the leaves are very small (the smallest in the genus) and much divided with slender lobes. Other features of diagnostic importance are the hairy style and the pollen presenter which is not much wider than the style.
The Fine-leaf Sceptre is the only Paranomus which (if the grooved leaves are ignored) could easily be confused for a Serruria, as the diagnostic four flowers per bract is not easy to discern.
Paranomus capitatus FINE-LEAF SCEPTRE
The Woolly Sceptre is distinguished from other Sceptres with dimorphic leaves by its densely woolly inflorescences and untidy, brown, linear involucral bracts.
Paranomus longicaulis WOOLLY SCEPTRE POPPIESBOS
The Elongate Sceptres are undoubtedly the most beautiful of the Sceptres. The dimorphic leaves, with spathulate leaves subtending the spikes, distinguish the Elongate and Woolly Sceptres from other Sceptres. Within the Elongate Sceptres, two groups are easily delimited:
Those with bright yellow perianths and long (> 14 mm) styles (P. reflexus and P sceptrum-gustavianus), and those with silvery-pink perianths and short (< 11 mm) styles (P. spathulatus, P. roodebergensis and P. adiantifolius).
Paranomus spathulatus LANGEBERG SCEPTRE
Paranomus roodebergensis HONEY-SCENTED SCEPTRE
KING-GUSTAV'S SCEPTRE PERDEBOS
Paranomus reflexus VANSTADEN'S SCEPTRE