Lampranthus aureus (L.) N.E.Br.
Common names: golden vygie (Eng.), gouevygie (Afr.)
One of the most colourful succulent plants is undoubtedly the beautiful bright orange Lampranthus aureus. It is one of the 'must-have' plants for the succulent garden.
This vygie, Lampranthus aureus, is a neatly rounded, erect, small shrub that grows up to about 400 x 500 mm. ('Vygie' also refers to other colourful plants in the family Aizoaceae.) The leaves are paired, free or slightly fused at the base, dark green and grow to 50 mm. The most attractive aspect of the plant is its unbelievably bright orange flowers. The shiny orange flowers are borne singly or in clusters on short stalks, are 60 mm in diameter and appear from August. Yellow forms also occur. Flowers are followed by a woody fruit capsule that has five locules (locules are little compartments in which the seeds are borne).
According to the current Red List, Lampranthus aureus is assessed as Vulnerable (VU).
Distribution and habitat
Lampranthus aureus occurs in a broad band along the southwest and west coast of the Western Cape from Vredenburg to Saldanha. The plants seem to have a preference for sandy, loamy soils and granite outcrops.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name is derived from the Greek words lampros (bright) and anthos (flower), referring to the large showy flowers. The Lampranthus genus is one of the largest genera in the Aizoaceae family. The genus consists of 227 species and 13 varieties. Other related species are found along the coasts of Namibia, the Western and Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal.
Lampranthus aureus plants are pollinated by insects in the middle of the day when flowers are fully open. (In the past, these plants were known as midday plants, and they are also referred to as "municipal workers" as the flowers open at 9 am and close at 5 pm.) The leaves, swollen with water, ensure the survival of the plant during long, hot and dry spells. Brightly coloured flowers are advertisements to pollinators and ensure seed production. Another adaptation for survival is the abundance of seeds that is produced. The more seeds there are, the better the chances of germination and ultimately the survival of the species. These plants will only disperse their seeds once water has become available. Seeds are able to survive in the capsule for many, many months. When it rains, the capsule swells up and opens, and the splashing drops displace seeds onto the ground where they will germinate quickly. In this way, precious seeds are not wasted if there is insufficient water.
There are no medicinal or traditional uses associated with these plants. They are however sought out for their use in the garden. Lampranthus aureus is cultivated extensively for the horticultural industry. The plants are very showy and tough, and make fantastic water-wise specimens.
Growing Lampranthus aureus
Lampranthus aureus is best suited for winter rainfall areas where hot summers are experienced. The plants do not thrive in areas that are subject to prolonged periods of frost. They can withstand drought very well, and do not need much care.
To enjoy the best results from vygies, one can use them either in small groups directly in the garden or in window boxes and small containers in sunny spots. Remember that these plants require sunny areas to flower at their best. A suggested garden use is to mix this particular species with other related species in single or mixed colour groups. Other brightly-coloured species are L. multiradiatus, L. hoerleinianus and L. reptans, as well as Lampranthus affinis. Lampranthus aureus can also be used in rock gardens and on steep slopes or embankments in mass plantings.
Plants can be grown from seeds that are sown in summer or winter in river sand. Seeds are then kept in an enclosed area where they are moistened regularly. Cuttings are best rooted after fruiting in May.
Not many pests attack these plants. However, occasionally they suffer from scale attack, necessitating a systemic pesticide. Compost and bone meal will ensure and enhance healthy growth of plants.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town and Missouri Botanical Garden.
- Smith, G.F., Van Jaarsveld, E., Hammer, S., Chesselet, P., Hartman, H., Burgoyne, P., Van Wyk, B-E. & Kurzweil, H. 1998. Mesembs of the world. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
Karoo Desert NBG
Plant Type: Succulent
SA Distribution: Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Clay, Loam
Flowering season: Early Summer, Late Summer
PH: Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Flower colour: Yellow, Orange
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy