Rare plants sighted on Beacon Hill

2013-12-09 00:00

ON the regular Beacon Hill walk on the last Sunday of November, Eve Hughes was thrilled to discover eight Asclepias woodii plants in flower.

“I spotted them some distance away and wasn’t sure, but on closer investigation, Molly Perret and I were convinced.”

She called Gareth Boothway, biodiversity stewardship manager for Midlands Conservancies Forum, to let him know. He went up to see the plants and took photos.

Asclepias woodii (Wood’s Asclepias), a member of the milkweed family, is listed as vulnerable in the Sanbi Red Data List. It is a KwaZulu-Natal Midlands endemic that reappeared on the hill recently after not being seen for nearly 100 years.

Kate Fennell, Friends of Beacon Hill committee member, said: “It’s always such a treat to find new things flowering on the hill, especially a rarity such as Asclepias woodii.”

Fennell shared some facts about the plant in a recent presentation. Asclepiads attract pollinators through its floral scent and produce various volatile compounds. A recent study identified between 15 to 57 compounds and a distinct scent profile for each species. Nectar is produced in small to moderate quantities.

With inflorescences that are dense and mechanically strong, the plants are perfectly adapted to pollination. Coronas are fat and fleshy, and store nectar. Inside the cups are hairs (papilla), which are thought to secrete nectar. Pollinaria produce pollen in compact masses called pollinia. These have mechanical clips that attach them to pollinators.

Chafer beetles pollinate the plants. The beetles are agile, fast-flying and hairy. Importantly, they do not damage the flowers when feeding. Asclepiads with similar features share chafer pollinators. Because bees are uncommon in grasslands, chafers fulfil the role of large bees.

Join the Beacon Hill walk on the last Sunday of each month to see some of the 106 species of plants that flower in this special grassland. Visit Midlands Conservancy Forum at


• Contact Eve Hughes at 082 872 4333.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.