Protea Atlas Logo
  Overview of Project
  Project Staff
  Checking, Illustrations
  Upcoming Activities
  Id and  Species Lists
  Protea Information
  Protea Gallery
  Growing Proteas
  Interim Dist. Maps
  Afrikaanse Inligting


Proteas of the Swartberg

The Swartberg is one of the more alluring of the southwestern Cape Mountain Ranges. The northern border of the Little Karoo and the southern border of the Great Karoo it has provided a barrier to communications that plagued early settlers. Meiringspoort (Oudtshoorn to Beaufort West), the mighty Swartberg Pass (Oudtshoorn to Prince Albert) and Seweweekspoort (Oudtshoorn to Laingsburg) were built to overcome this problem, but even these studiously avoided the valleys of the Groot and Dwyka Rivers which dissect the ramparts. At 2325 metres, Seweweekspoort Peak is the highest pinacle in the Cape Fold Belt System: Toorkop, Toringberg, Kangoberg, Waboomsberg, Tierberg, Tierhoek and Blesberg all also rise to over 2 km above sea level, a feat only really equalled by the Hex River Mountains and a few isolated peaks [Sneeukop, Sneeuberg (both Cederberg), Keeromsberg and GrootWinterhoek] elsewhere. Die Hel (Gamkaskloof) must qualify as one of the most isolated spots in the Cape today, even though it is only 20 km from Calitzdorp as the crow flies. Even today the Swartberg is relatively poorly known with regard to its flora.

Regarding Proteaceae the Swartberg is relatively poorly endowed. That does not make it any the less interesting: the Ladismith Protea Pr aristata is a Klein Swartberg endemic (it occurs nowhere else), as is the Stalked Pincushion Ls secundifolium and the Ladismith Scepter Pa centauroides. Until recently the Frosted Protea Pr pruinosa was also thought to be a Klein Swartberg endemic, but a discovery near Blesberg extended its range to east of Meiringspoort. The Witteberg and Elandsberg to the north and west of the Swartberg have two endemics: the Large-leaf Protea Pr convexa and the Witteberg Sunconebush Ld cadens. No species are known to be confined to the Groot Swartberg range itself, although several species are uniquely shared between the Swartberg and Kammanasie Mountains (Pr venusta, Pr montana), while the Scented Scepter Pa dregei is endemic to the Witte-Swartberg. Available data suggest that many surprises may await atlassers to the botanically poorly-known ramparts, and we expect some more surprises from this area.

Several hiking trails (e.g. De Hoek, Klipkraal) and camping areas cater for atlasser requirements in the Swartberg, although most of the range is relatively inacessible. Despite valient atlassing efforts by David Osborne (over 610 Sight Record Sheets to date from the area), the Swartberg is still one of our more poorly atlassed ranges. We will be having our Second Annual Get Together at Besemfontein in the KleinSwartberg during October - see you there.

The area covered by the key is bounded by 33o00'S in the north, 33o30'S in the south and extends from 20o15'E (near Touwsriver) to 23o30'E (Willowmore). It thus includes (from west to east): Witteberg, Elandsberg, KleinSwartberg, GrootSwartberg, Slypsteenberg, Antoniesberg and Boesmanspoortberg. The key can also be used on the Anysberg and Touwsberg "islands" in the western Little Karoo. An asterix indicates an endemic to the area covered by the key.


Leaves needle-shaped with a channel on upper surface; cupule ("cone") with segments unbranched except at tip; single-stemmed below. Au cancellata Channel-leaf Featherbush


Leaves needle-like, hairless when mature, 10-30 mm long. Hakea sericea Silky Needlebush


Multiple-stemmed from an underground rootstock; leaves three-toothed, clasping flowerhead below to form a hood; involucral bracts asymmetrical. Mi cucullatus Common Pagoda


Habit erect to sprawling; leaves 2-6 mm wide, 22-45 mm long, linear-spoon-shaped, hairless, single nectary at tip. Vexatorella obtusata albomontana Witteberg Vexator


1. Habit variable, but single-stemmed at base; flowerheads less than 20 mm diam; pollen-presenter club-shaped. (Louse Pincushions) goto 2

1' Erect, multiple-stems from an underground rootstock, bearing warts/pustles at base; leaves wedge-shaped with 3-10 nectaries; flowerheads 50-90 mm diam., robust; pollen presenter conic-acute. Ls cuneiforme Wart-stemmed Pincushion

2. Habit erect to sprawling; leaves pointed with 1-3 nectaries, stalkless. goto 3

2' Stems creeping; leaves secund (pointing upwards like the teeth of a comb), hairless, tip rounded, with a 10-20 mm stalk; flowerheads 10-15 mm diam., 12-30 flowered. Ls secundifolium Stalked Pincushion *

3. Leaves crowded, grey-silver, with short, dense curly hairs; habit erect; flowerheads usually solitary. Ls wittebergense Swartberg Louse-Pincushion

3' Leaves spreading, green, hairless, except with sparse straight hairs when young; habit semi-erect to creeping, with corky bark on creeping stems; flowerheads often in clusters of 3-30. Ls royenifolium Eastern-Louse Pincushion


1. One flower per stalkless involucre; habit erect; leaves with silvery-silky hairs; petals cream to pale yellow, tube 1.5 mm long. Sp barbigera Fine-leaf Unispoon

1' Three flowers per involucre; habit sprawling; leaves hairless, bright green and tinted red; petals with a 4-5 mm long tube. Sp confusa Long-tube Triplespoon


1. Leaves all dissected, although upper ones with flattened, fleshy, reddish tips; flowerheads oval with few (12-66) flowers; florets styles hairless (Cornflower Sceptres). goto 2

1' Leaves all dissected, up to 80 mm long; flowerheads 25-90 mm long, lax; involucral bracts woolly-haired; styles scantily haired. Pa dispersus Long-head Common Sceptre

1" Leaves hairless, dissected below, uppermost leaves fan-shaped; petals and style silver-pink; involucral bracts red-yellow. Pa roodebergensis Honey-scented Elongate Sceptre

2. Flowerhead spike-like, 25-50 mm long; bracts woolly haired, leaf tips red. Pa dregei Scented Cornflower Sceptre *

2' Flowerhead compact (20-25 mm long) with florets emerging in a tuft from brown, very sparsely shaggy-haired, involucral bracts; leaf tips clear. Pa centauroides Ladismith Cornflower Sceptre *


1. Flowerheads born at tips of branches. goto 2

1' Flowerheads born at base of plant concealed by leaves and branches; involucral bracts dark-purple brown; leaves held perpendicular to stems, dull red. Pr humiflora Patent-leaf Rodent Sugarbush

2. Heads bowl-shaped, large; involucral bracts inconspicuous when flowering; styles 40-130 mm long. goto 3

2' Heads bowl-shaped, small; involucral bracts conspicuous; styles 15-45 mm long. goto 6

2" Heads chalice shaped; styles 45-130 mm long goto 11

3. Erect plants - trees are gnarled shrubs; flowerheads resembling shaving-brushes in late bud (Shaving-brush Sugarbushes). goto 4

3' Flowerheads born on the ground - a creeping plant; involucral bracts pink, covered with white, woolly hairs on the outside; petals and fruit white. (Snow Sugarbushes) goto 5

4. Leaves 80-180 mm long, 15-60 mm wide, elliptic, dull olivaceous to covered with a grey waxy bloom; involucral bracts green, usually hairless. Pr nitida Wagon Tree

4' Leaves 35-60 mm long, 2-20 mm wide, spoon-shaped to oblanceolate, usually green; involucral bracts with white-silky to rusty-weak hairs. Pr rupicola Krantz Shaving-brush Sugarbush

5. Styles 30-45 mm long; leaves flattened; stems underground. Pr scolopendriifolia Hart's Tongue Fern Snow Sugarbush

5' Styles 55-58 mm long; leaves folded in half lengthways; stems spreading along ground. Pr pruinosa Frosted Snow Sugarbush

6. Flowerheads born aerially goto 7

6' Flowerheads usually born on the ground goto 8

7. Habit spreawling; flowerhead facing downwards, 60-130 mm in diam.; leaves 20-45 mm long, elliptic, flat. Pr sulphurea Sulphur Penduline Sugarbush

7' A low, erect bush; flowerhead facing upwards, up to 40 mm diam.; leaves channelled, 45-80 mm long, with a spine at the tip. Pr canaliculata Groove-leaf Rose Sugarbush

8. Leaves smooth; west of Swartberg Pass (Western Ground Sugarbushes). goto 9

8' Leaves usually rough; east of Swartberg Pass (Eastern Ground Sugarbushes). goto 10

9. A dense mat of sprawling branches; young stems and leaf bases with reddish resin; leaves cabbage-like, waxy grey, 60-100 mm wide. Pr convexa Large-leaf Western-ground Sugarbush *

9' Stems underground; leaves narrow, rolled back along length, 2-3 mm wide. Pr revoluta Rolled-leaf Western-ground Sugarbush

10. A dense, compact shrub with short underground stems emerging to produce a tuft of erect leaves; leaves 140-400 mm long, 2-5mm wide, needle-like or channelled. Pr intonsa Tufted Eastern-ground Sugarbush

10' Forming dense mats; stems creeping, much branched; leaves 40-100 mm long, 1-4 mm wide, midrib not visible, needle-like in the west, broader in east. Pr montana Swartberg Eastern-ground Sugarbush

10" Stems trailing along ground from underground rootstock, sparsely branched; leaves 80-180 mm long, 2-28 mm wide, midrib distinct, secund (pointing upwards like the teeth of a comb). Pr tenax Tenacious Eastern-ground Sugarbush

11. Inner involucral bracts bearded. goto 12

11' Inner involucral bracts hairless or if hairy then not bearded or spoon shaped goto 13

11" Inner involucral bracts spoon-shaped, widely splayed; outermost involucral bracts with black rim; petal tips with purple, woolly hairs; leaves 30-65 mm wide, ovate, waxy grey with a pink blush. Pr eximia Broad-leaf Spoon-bract Sugarbush

12. Flowerhead oblong; leaves elliptic, with a 2-20 mm-long stalk. Pr laurifolia Laurel-leaf Bearded Sugarbush

12' Flowerhead oblong; leaves strap-shaped, with a 10-15 mm long stalk; innermost involucral bracts somewhat spoon-shaped. Pr lorifolia Strap-leaf Bearded Sugarbush

12" Flowerhead rounded with a cone of awns in the middle; leaves variable, stalkless, margins wavy. Pr magnifica Queen (Bearded) Sugarbush

13. Branches hairless; flowerheads 100-140 mm long. goto 14

13' Branches of current year's growth hairy; flowerheads 35-70 mm long. goto 15

14. Involucral bracts hairless, outer surfaces with sticky resin; seedheads resemble inverted ice-cream cones. Pr repens Common Sugarbush

14' Involucral bracts red, slightly downy; leaves needle-shaped, 70-100 mm long, 2-3 mm wide. Pr aristata Ladismith Sugarbush *

15. A sprawling shrub forming mats, stems trailing; leaves sucund (pointing upwards like the teeth of a comb), 8-20 mm wide; pollen presenter threadlike. Pr venusta Ground White Sugarbush

15' An erect shrub; leaves 20-45mm wide; involucral bracts curl horizontal on flowering; pollen presenter threadlike. Pr punctata Water White Sugarbush


1. Fruit a hairy, rounded nut; cones variously shaped (Sandveld, Kouga & Silver Conebushes). goto 2

1' Fruit a rounded, hairless nut, shed when ripe; cone with open, hollow bracts. goto 4

1" Fruit hairless, flattened or triangular, retained in cone on bush; cone with tightly-sealed bracts. goto 7

2. Single-stemmed below; leaves linear-oblanceolate; fruit with style retained, stored in cones on bush; female petals with plumes (Silver Conebushes) goto 3

2' Multistemmed from an underground rootstock; leaves linear; fruit mottled, tip pointed, shaggy haired, shed. Ld brunioides brunioides Foetid Sandveld Conebush

2" Single-stemmed sprawling bushes; leaves erica-like, thick, fleshy; fruit small, obovoid, with short hairs, shed; style shed; woolly-cream flowers; many dark-brown, pointed, basal bracts. Ld sorocephalodes Woolly Kouga Conebush

3. Leaves thick, fleshy, hairless, up to 45 mm long, 3-6 mm wide; a low shrub, petals in fruit free except at base. Ld dregei Dish Silver Conebush

3' Leaves up to 60 mm long, 2-4mm wide, with flat silvery hairs; erect up to 2m tall; petals in fruit fused into a 10 mm tube. Ld album Linear-leaf Silver Conebush

3" Leaves green, hairless to adpressed silky haired, up to 70 mm long, male heads small, numerous; female cones top-shaped, with florets in a tuft at tip. Ld rubrum Spinning-top Silver Conebush

4. Petals fused along middle with only tips and base free; leaves hairless (Sunconbushes) goto 5

4' A robust, greyish green shrub; leaves narrowed to base, smaller in males; cone rounded, silvery haired; petals free in fruit. Ld pubescens Silky Arid Conebush

5. Erect shrubs; leaves spreading, greater than 10 mm (20 in females) wide; male stigma truncate, cleft (Stigmatic Sunconbushes). goto 6

5' Small sprawling shrub; leaves nearly secund (pointing upwards like the teeth in a comb), 20-40 mm long, 4-7 mm wide, tinged red; male stigma cylindric, minutely cleft. Ld cadens Witteberg-sprawling Norwestern Sunconebush *

6. Heads erect, hidden by involucral leaves in bud; leaves elliptic, dense-short haired ageing to hairless; male floral bracts linear. Ld barkerae Swartberg Sunconebush

6' Heads erect, a rosette of oily, recurved basal bracts in bud; leaves oblong, up to 120 mm long; male floral bract hairless; fruit rounded; cone cylindrical, bracts curling backwards. Ld tinctum Spicy Sunconebush

6" Heads nodding, a rosette of oily, recurved basal bracts in bud; leaves broadly elliptic, about 50 mm long. Ld cordatum Droopy Sunconebush

6"' Heads erect, a rosette of oily, recurved basal bracts in bud; leaves elliptic, up to 75 mm long; male floral bract hairy; fruit ridged; cone with broad base, narrowed to top, basal bracts tightly bent backwards. Ld pubibracteolatum Purple-leaf Sunconebush

7. Fruit flat, more than 5 mm wide; some leaves needle-shaped; cone bracts horizontal (Needle-leaf Conebushes). goto 8

7' Fruit flat, more than 5 mm wide; all leaves flat; cone bracts curved upwards; female petals free, hairless (Sunshine Conebushes). goto 9

7" Fruit triangular, less than 5 mm wide; female petals fused, short hairy; leaves 3.5-4.5 mm wide, 18-24 mm long, no obvious involucral leaves. Ld rourkei Uniondale Trigosperm Conebush

8. Leaves needle-like, 8 (male) -22 (female) mm long; males with many, small, stalked flowerheads. Ld teretifolium Terete Needle-leaf Conebush

8' Leaves needle-like, 41-58 mm long; up to 4 m tall; male flowerheads spicate, 40 mm long. Ld nobile Karoo Needle-leaf Conebush

8" Leaves needle-like below (38-44 mm long), broadened above (3.5-5 mm wide); florets dark red; cones 100 mm long; globose, male flowerheads 11 mm long. Ld comosum comosum Ridgecone Needle-leaf Conebush

9. Multiple-stemmed from an underground rootstock. goto 10

9' Erect, single stemmed at base; leaves long and narrow, up to 105 mm long, 8 mm wide; involucral leaves forming cup around flowerheads. Ld eucalyptifolium Gum-leaf Sunshine-conebush

10. Cone bracts silvery-hairy; leaves waxy-grey, 20-60 mm long, 3-6 mm wide. Ld salignum Common Sunshine-conebush

10' Cone bracts brown, shiny, hairless; leaves 45 mm long, 2.3 mm wide. Ld spissifolium fragrans Fragrant Spear-leaf Sunshine-conebush

Back Keys