Leucospermum gueinzii Meisn.
Common names: kloof fountain-pincushion, kloof pincushion (Eng.); luisiesbos (Afr.)
An attractive shrub with bright green leaves tipped with red teeth, covered with yellow and orange flowers that change to crimson when mature.
Leucospermum gueinzii is a stout, upright shrub, that grows up to 2–3 m high, with a single main stem. The new branches of 2 to 3 years old, are hairy and they become hairless when mature. The bright green leaves are lanceolate, 75–100 mm long and 20–30 mm wide, with a pointed tip, usually with 4 glandular red teeth. The new leaves are covered in minute hairs and are hairless when mature.
The flowerhead is circular, like a ‘cushion stuck full of pins’, and the 'pins' are the individual flowers. The flowerheads are always in the axils of leaves and are never on the tips of the stems (axillary); this allows for the free continuing growth. It produces flowerheads of about 100–140 mm in diameter, on 10 mm long stalks. The flowers are yellow and deep orange and become bright crimson when mature. The flowers consist of a long style of 70–75 mm, curved from the centre, and a perianth of 55–60 mm long, with a sparsely hairy, orange tip. It flowers in spring to midsummer (August to January) and releases the seeds 2 months after flowering. The seeds at the bottom of the flowerhead ripen first and drop to the ground. The nut-like seed has a tough coat of several layers.
Leucospermum gueinzii can be confused with L. grandiflorum, however, L. grandiflorum can be recognized by its elliptic to elliptic-oblong leaves, and their different distribution habitat and range.
Leucospemum gueinzii is assessed as Endangered (EN) on the Red List of South African plants. The threats are habitat loss due to afforestation, expansion of vineyards and invasive alien plants.
Distribution and habitat
Leucospermum gueinzii is endemic to the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, and occurs from Jonkershoek to Verkykerskop and Groenland Mountains, near Houhoek in the Western Cape. The plants grow in clay soil derived from Cape granite, near streams in kloofs, in isolated clumps in moist conditions of 1 000 mm rainfall annually in Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos, Boland Granite Fynbos and Cape Winelands Shale Fynbos habitats.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Leucospermum is a member of the Proteaceae family, which consists of 14 genera in southern Africa, found mainly in fynbos. Leucospermum has 51 taxa of 48 species, of which 2 species are outside South Africa and 3 species occur outside the Cape.
The generic name Leucospermum means ‘white seed’ and was given by Robert Brown in 1810. It is derived from the Greek words leukas, meaning ‘white’ and spermum, meaning ‘seed’. The white seed refers to the milky white layer that covers the seed, and is an elaiosome or ‘ant-fruit’, which was discovered in 1984.
This species is named after Wilhelm Gueinzius who collected at the Cape between 1839 and 1841.
The English common name pincushion, refers to the mass of styles of the flowerhead that look like pins. Luisies, meaning ‘ticks’ is an old Afrikaans common name which refers to the way its grey-white, rounded seeds in among the crumpled and dried hairy flowerheads, resemble blood gorged ticks in the tangled fur of an animal (Vogts, 1989).
Leucospermum gueinzii flowers are bird pollinated; the flowerheads are visited by Sugarbirds (Promerops cafer), Malachite (Nectarinia famosa), Orange-breasted (Nectarinia violacea) and Lesser Double-collared Sunbirds (Nectarinia chalybea). Many insects, including beetles (Coleoptera spp), have also been found on the inflorescencences, and are believed to have a direct or indirect effect on pollination.
The hard seed coat (nut-like) is covered with an elaiosome that ants feed on. The ants will carry the seeds to their nest underground and remove or eat the elaiosome and leave the seed undamaged in their nest, where it will be protected from fire and other animals. These ants do no harm to the seeds. Rodents, korhaans, pigs and squirrels eat the seeds. The alien invasive Argentine Ant also feeds on the elaiosome but they don’t bury the seeds in their nest and the exposed seeds are eaten or burned by fire.
The hard seed coat restricts the penetration of oxygen to the seed embryo. This delays the germination of the seed.
The seeds that have been stored underground, will germinate when the soil temperature is cool during the night, and senescent plants are removed by fire. Rodents and insects may eat the seedlings that emerge in a burnt environment, free of competition.
Leucospermums have 3 or more glandular tips on the leaves which are thought to function as nectaries for attracting wasps and ants. These insects are thought to prey on other insects that feed on the young leaves of these plants (Rebelo 2000).
Leucospermum gueinzii can be used in the fynbos garden, planted with companions such as buchus, restios, Protea and Brunia, on aerated soil, in a sunny area with good air circulation.
Growing Leucospermum gueinzii
Leucospermum gueinzii is easily propagated both by seed and cuttings. Collect the seed after 2 months of flowering. The ripe seeds can be seen when the individual florets are flopping. Cut the head and leave to dry. Then store the seed in the cold room for 2 weeks prior to sowing. The seeds are hard and covered with an elaiosome. Soak the seed with 1% solution of hydrogen peroxide for 24 hours to soften the seed coat and remove the elaiosome by rubbing on them in the bags or by fingers. Remove all the soft or squashy seeds, as they are immature.
Treat the seed with fungicides before planting and once a week after planting, to prevent fungal infections. The seed should not be allowed to dry out and must be sowed immediately after dusting it with the fungicide. Both seed and plant are susceptible to fungal infections. Sow the seed in late summer to autumn (March to May) using a well-aerated growing medium and smoke the seed with the dry and green fynbos materials. Use a smoking tent or smoke packets to treat the seed. The seedlings are ready for potting-up when they have produced the first true leaves.
Take cuttings of semi-hardwood in autumn and spring and treat with a rooting hormone to stimulate the rooting. Dip the cutting in the rooting hormone for at least 5 seconds. Place your cuttings in a well-drained and aerated sowing medium of 70% perlite and 30% fine bark or coarse sand and finely milled pine bark. Insert the cuttings in the multitrays with sufficient space between each cutting to allow air circulation and place them in the heated benches of 25ºC, under intermittent mist. Regularly treat the cuttings with a fungicide to prevent fungal infection. Remove the dead leaves and wilting cuttings until your cuttings are rooted. Move the rooted cuttings to the hardening-off house for about 2 weeks and transfer the cuttings into small, nursery plastic bags, using the mixture of well-drained, acid medium.
Place the seedlings or cuttings under the shade net in the nursery until they are ready to be planted into the garden, after a period of 2 to 3 years. Net shade reduces the direct sun which can dry out the soil in the plastic bags and can also prevent scorching. Plant the seedlings in acidic soil, preferably between 5–7 pH levels.
Keep the soil moist during the hot dry season, by mulching your bed about 5 mm thick. The mulch will keep the roots cool, keep moisture to the soil and reduce the growth of weeds. Chipping mulch is recommended, as they break down very slowly and also releases small amounts of nutrients to the plant. Light pruning can promote lateral branches.
The new leaves of Leucospermum gueinzii can be attacked by mealybug and maggots of the protea midge or tip fly, which causes severe malformation. Use a systemic insecticide containing active ingredient imidacloprid, for preventative control.
- A passion for flowers, blog. Why the name Luisies? uploaded 22 June 2013. http://apassionforflowers.blogspot.co.za/2013/06/why-name-luisies.html
- Duncan, G., Brown, N. & Nurrish, L. 2013. Grow proteas. Kirstenbosch Gardening Series. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town.
- Powrie, F. 1998. Grow South African Plants. A gardener's companion to indigenous plants. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
- Rebelo, A.G. 2000. Proteas of the Cape Peninsula. Protea Atlas Project. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
- Rebelo, A.G. 2001. Proteas. A field guide to the proteas of southern Africa, edn 2. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
- Rebelo, A.G. et al. 2006. Leucospermum gueinzii Meisn. National Assessment: Red List of South African plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2018/02/05.
- Rourke, J.P. 1972. Taxonomic studies on Leucospermum R.Br. Journal of South African Botany, Supplementary Volume 8
- Vogts, M. 1989. South Africa’s Proteaceae. Know them and grow them. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Shrub
SA Distribution: Western Cape
Soil type: Sandy, Clay, Loam
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
Flower colour: Red, Yellow, Orange
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Average