Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei
Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei (L.Bolus) E.G.H.Oliv. & I.M.Oliv.
Common names: Fourcade's heath
Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei is an attractive and hardy coastal species that is not as well known as its close relative, E. glandulosa subsp. glandulosa, but equally suitable for gardens.
This species forms a sturdy, medium-sized, multi-stemmed, bushy shrub growing up to 1,2 m tall. It grows close to the coast between boulders or tightly packed in amongst scrub vegetation. It produces attractive, semi-translucent, tubular flowers ranging from bright to dull red and even yellow and has conspicuous longitudinal veins on the corolla. There is a superb red-flowered form growing near Sedgefield. It has a distinctive hairy, green calyx and broad to elongate leaves. The hairy calyx and pedicel (stalk that attaches the flower to the stem) give it a mildly sticky feel. It flowers from May to November.
Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei is classified in the Red List as vulnerable. The habitat of the species is largely transformed due to coastal development, agriculture, forestry plantations and invasive alien plants. There are between eight and twelve severely fragmented subpopulations which continue to decline. The exclusion of fire is changing the coastal fynbos habitat of the species to dense thicket.
Distribution and habitat
It is restricted to a narrow band along the coast from George to Cape St Francis.
Plants are often found scrambling over rocks and in the teeth of coastal winds and even within reach of salt spray and these conditions can reduce it to a mere 0.3 m in height. Plants are found growing in the following vegetation types: South Outeniqua Sandstone Fynbos, Tsitsikamma Sandstone Fynbos and Southern Cape Dune Fynbos. It is therefore likely that it is tolerant of soils ranging from acid to neutral or even slightly alkaline. It is able to withstand severe summer salt-laden winds and the dry environmental conditions associated with this.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei was named in honour of Mr. H.M. Fourcade (1866-1948) by Louisa Bolus. He was a Frenchman who came to South Africa when he was 15 years old. He was a forester, businessman, land surveyor, inventor and an amateur botanist. He found this erica and brought it to the attention of Louisa Bolus at the Bolus Herbarium.
Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei is found in exposed, windy and sunny positions on coastal hill slopes or on dune fynbos near the sea. It grows on well-drained, acidic to neutral sands. It is a reseeding species, meaning that it reproduces from seed and does not resprout after fire. It produces copious quantities of seed and germinates easily after fire or where old plants have been cleared away. Its tubular flowers attract sunbirds that seek its nectar, and while dipping into the flower tube disturb the anthers which deposit pollen onto their beak. Plants are pollinated as the birds move from flower to flower.
It is an attractive horticultural species and flowers almost throughout the year. It is recommended as a strong-growing, reliable garden plant and is easy to maintain in average Mediterranean conditions and will also grow well as a large pot plant. This species is ideal for warm, sunny gardens and is salt-tolerant and therefore a good plant for a coastal garden.
Growing Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei
Fourcade's erica is easily grown from fresh seed which should be sown in late summer or autumn. Germination is greatly enhanced by the application of smoke which mimics the conditions in nature. Seed is sown onto a well-drained, slightly acidic growing medium consisting of a combination of river sand and well decomposed pine bark in roughly equal proportions. Seed germinates in about six weeks, emerging as tiny, delicate plantlets that must be lightly watered with a watering can. Let the seedlings grow to about 10 mm tall before pricking them out into small individual pots. Young seedlings are encouraged to grow by feeding them every week with a diluted organic fertilizer. Seedlings grow slowly and will only be big enough after twelve months when they may be planted into the garden. It is advisable to plant out during the cooler autumn or early winter months to allow the plants to establish before the onset of summer.
It is also easily rooted from cuttings in autumn or spring, in multi-trays on heated benches under mist spray. Select small tip- or heel cuttings about 20-30 mm long, taking thin wood from the previous season's growth. Heel cuttings are preferred where a short side shoot is removed from the stem. The base of the cutting is treated with a rooting hormone for semi-hardwood cuttings which are then placed into a rooting medium of 50:50 fine-milled bark and polystyrene or perlite pellets.
It grows well near the sea in acidic to neutral soils. A good watering once a week during summer months is recommended for the first year, after which it will survive on its own.
It can be grown in a large container, providing that the correct, well-draining growing medium is provided. Fynbos planting medium is made up of a combination of equal parts composted pine bark or pine needles and river sand. A little (20%) loam may also be added. It is a woody species, so regular pruning is recommended to keep the plants well branched and compact. Plants that are pruned are more presentable, last longer and produce more flowers.
Erica plants are adapted to living in poor soils, but, for best results, should be regularly fed with diluted organic liquid or small amounts of organic pellet fertilizers that are low in phosphorus.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J.C. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria and Missouri Botanical Garden.
- Schumann, D. (Dolf), Kirsten, G. (Gerard) & Oliver, E.G.H. 1992. Ericas of South Africa . Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Shrub
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer, Autumn, Winter
Flower colour: Red, Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy