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IDM Cape Peninsula - Conebushes - Leucadendron

Identifying Conebushes species is simple if you obtain a seed. This is often considered a nuisance and too troublesome, but in truth it is much easier to identify a Conebush to species than many other Fynbos plants. The fact that conebushes are so common in Fynbos means that ignoring them requires one to gloss over a major landscape feature. Conebushes are responsible for the yellow tints the mountains take on in spring (only slightly surpassed by the alien Acacias - which are fast losing their glory), and they really "shine" when one hikes under misty or heavily overcast conditions, hence their names "Sunshine bush", "Goudbos" and "Geelbos". They are also extremely diverse and quite widespread on the mountains.

Only Leucadendron levisanus - Cape Flats Conebush has small hairy fruit and cones less than 20 mm long.

The other group with hairy fruit on the Peninsula contains two sister species with relatively large nuts: Leucadendron argenteum - Silver Tree and Leucadendron rubrum - Spinning-top Conebush. To appreciate their relationship one need only look at the seed: both have the feathery petals partially fused into a tube that slides up the style and forms a helicopter-like parachute.

One species of Conebush is extinct on the Peninsula. The Wynberg Conebush - Leucadendron grandiflorum is most closely related to the shale-loving Crown Conebushes with long, thin seeds with ridged margins and leaf like cone bracts. It was described by Richard Salisbury in 1806 from a single drawing and a note that it occurred on Wynberg Mountain (Hill). Based on its close relative Leucadendron globosum from thc Elgin Valley it may have occurred on the steeper south slopes of the Wynberg Hill. It was never seen again!

T'he remaining species fall into two groups:

  1. Seeds triangular and less than 5 mm broad: Delta-seed Conebushes (subsection. Trigona);
  2. Seeds flat and more than 5 mm broad: Sunshine Conebushes (subsection Alata).

There are only two species of Delta-seed Conebush:

  1. Acacia-leaf Conebush - Leucadendron macowanii, which one might confuse with the Rooikrans (PAN 12: 4); and
  2. Flats Conebush - Leucadendron floridum with its beautiful cup-like rosette below each flowerhead (PAN 5).

In the section Alata there are six species: Two species are multi-stemmed:

  1. Common Sunshinebush - Leucadendron salignum with silver-hairy cones; and
  2. Common Spear-leaf Conebush - Leucadendron spissifolium spissifolium with brown, hairless cones.

Of the remainder:

Two species have big leaves (> 10 mm wide):

  1. Peninsula Conebush - Leucadendron strobilinum with exposed cones , slightly hairy; and
  2. Laurel-leaf Conebush - Leucadendron laurifolium with cones hidden by the leaves, cones ridged and hairless.

Two species have leaves less than 10 mm wide:

  1. Sickle-leaf conebush - Leucadendron xanthoconus with silver leaves cone bracts hairy; and
  2. Dune Conebush - Leucadendron coniferum with hairless, strawgreen mature leaves, cone bracts half hairless.

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