Erica perspicua J.C.Wendl
Common names: Prince of Wales heath (Eng.); veerheide (Afr.)
The Kogelberg Biosphere is well known for its plant diversity, with ericas being plentiful, amongst them Erica perspicua, one of the most well known and loveliest.
This is an erect shrub growing to a height of about 1 m or more, and flowering from February to June. It has willowy branches and tufts of usually hairy leaves.The flowers, which are tubular, vary in colour from white through pink and white, red and white, dark red or purple and white, to uniform red.They grow singly on short side branches; are soft and hairy.The anthers are muticous (anthers without appendages). The flowers vary in colour from white through pink and white, red and white, dark red or purple and white to uniform red. It flowers from February to June.
Distribution and habitat
It is found in marshes and vleis at low altitudes and is very common from Betty's Bay through to Hermanus on the Cape coast.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Erica is one of the largest genera in South Africa, with about 605 indigenous species, mostly concentrated in the south-western Cape with the greatest number centred around Caledon. Ericas are very popular both here and in Britain.
The genus name Erica comes from the Greek word ereike meaning to break and perspicua (Latin) meaning transparent, which refers to the translucent nature of the flower. Erica perspicua acquired its common name from its resemblance to the plumes on the crest of the Prince of Wales' coat of arms. The Afrikaans common name also alludes to feathers/plumes. The word heath comes from an old English word for waste and refers to wild, uncultivated land and to the plants (heaths/ericas) found there.
Birds, bees and other insects pollinate the flowers.
Growing Erica perspicua
Erica perspicua occurs in moist, wet areas amongst plants such as Osmitopsis asteriscoides, Wachendorfia thyrsiflora, Mimetes hirtus, Todea barbara and Chondropetalum tectorum. Many of these are difficult to cultivate, but E.perspicua grows easily in normal garden conditions, provided the soil is acid and it receives sufficient water. It is unlikely to survive frosty winters. In inclement climates, try cultivating it in a large pot which can be moved.
It is best grown from seed which has been smoke-treated.
Give a gentle, but good watering. Seedlings may be fed with an organic, seaweed-based fertilizer to strengthen the root system. This plant can also be propagated from cuttings taken from the side shoots, either heel or tip cuttings.
- Burman, L. & Bean, A. 1985. Hottentots Holland to Hermanus. Wild Flower Guide Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town.
- Eliovson, S. 1984. Wild flowers of southern Africa, edn 7. MacMillan. New York.
- Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, vol. 3. Balkema, Cape Town.
- Schumann, D., Kirsten, G. & Oliver, E.G.H. 1992. Ericas of South Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
Harold Porter NBG
Plant Type: Shrub
SA Distribution: Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Late Summer, Autumn, Winter
Flower colour: Purple, Red, White, Pink
Aspect: Full Sun, Shade
Gardening skill: Easy