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Home Wanted for Serruria furcellata

Kraaifontein Spiderhead - Photo: Ismail EbrahimSerruria furcellata, the Kraaifontein Spiderhead, is extinct in the wild.  The last known plants died out at North Pine in the late 1980's, after an attempt to keep the last wild population alive on the commonage.  Fortunately, two plants survived at the University of the Western Cape Nursery, probably rescued by Barrie Low.

Ismail Ebrahim at the Protea Atlas Project, National Botanical Institute at Kirstenbosch, took cuttings from these plants and now has 20 plants ready for planting out. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to plant them.  Its natural home is now the suburbs of Brackenfell, Kraaifontein and Kuilsriver.

The only nature reserve within the distribution range of this species is the Bracken Nature Reserve which is more of a quarry than a nature reserve and which does not have any viable Fynbos surviving in it.

We thus have a problem.  We cannot really introduce this to areas outside of its natural range, otherwise it will compete with and hybridize with the species that occur there.  Its close relatives the Spiderheads Serruria aemula, Serrruria foeniculaceae and Serruria trilopha are all also Critically Endangered with extinction for exactly the same reason: Cape Town! It requires deep acid sands, on flat extensive areas. Because it is a resprouter - it has a rootstock that survives fire - it normally occurs at low densities in Fynbos. 

What are we going to do?  If you can help in propagating this plant and keeping populations of it going, we could ensure that this plant will not become permanently extinct (We cannot risk only two populations at Kirstenbosch and the University of the Western Cape in case a disease wipes them out).  But we need a home in the Oostenberg region. A natural area that can be rehabilitated with natural plants, kept clean of aliens, and that authorities will allow to burn in summer every 10 years.  We also need some champions to make this happen and to look after the plants.

If you can help, please contact Ismail who is now working on the CREW project- Custodians of Rare & Endangered Wildflowers of Kirstenbosch/Botanical Society of South Africa at Tel: (021) 799-8742 Fax: (021) 797-6903.

Tony Rebelo
23 Sept 2003

Serruria furcellata - Photo: Ismail Ebrahim
Kraaifontein Spiderhead - Serruria furcellata

Serruria furcellata - Photo: Ismail Ebrahim

One of the 20 Kraaifontein Spiderhead - Serruria furcellata plants that Ismail Ebrahim has cultivated

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