Rare Asclepias in Flower

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 this photo.

A.woodii

Asclepias woodii (Wood’s Asclepias), a member of the Milkweed family, is listed as Vulnerable in the SANBI Red Data List.  It is a  KZN Midlands endemic which 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

This is an extract from a presentation Kate did on the plant recently:

How do Asclepiads attract pollinators?  Floral scent – Asclepiads produce a number of volatile compounds. A recent study identified between 15 – 57 compounds and a distinct scent profile for each species. Nectar is produced in small to moderate quantities.

How are the flowers adapted for pollination?   Inflorescences are dense and mechanically strong. 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 which attach them to pollinators.

What pollinates the plants? Chafer beetles. 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.

Asclepias woodii

Join the regular Beacon Hill walk on the last Sunday of each month to see some of the 106 species of plants which flower in this special piece of grassland.

Contact Eve Hughes 082 872 4333

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4 thoughts on “Rare Asclepias in Flower

  1. David Clulow

    Very pleasing to learn of another valuable find on Beaconhill. The pleasure is to know that there must be other new potential finds, waiting for discovery

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  2. David Clulow

    The Asclepias woodii found on Beaconhill is most pleasing. That November is its time of flowering is confirmed by the population found by CREW in 2010 on November 26th on the northern slopes of Mt Ashley, which is the hill on the southern side of Midmar. It is sad that it was once so common in our region, but now has been largely obliterated.

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  3. Pingback: Rare Treasures in the Hills | Midlands Conservancies Forum

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