Threatened Plant Species – Moraea hiemalis

IRIDACEAE: Moraea hiemalis [Near threatened]

The elegant Moraea hiemalis is a solitary plant that grows to heights of 450 mm in open grassland, with its distribution restricted to parts of Pietermaritzburg, Richmond and Kamberg. The second part of the binomial name “hiemalis” means “of the winter”, which refers to the mid-winter flowering season that falls between the months of July and August.

Moraea hiemalis

Moraea hiemalis

Plants produce an underground storage stem (corm), 12 mm diameter that has dark brown tunics (coat of the bulb) with netted-veins. The stems are 150 mm long, upright, single, gradually narrowing over a long distance and brown at the apex, and contain enveloping and enclosing bract leaves .

Leaves are solitary and lengthier when compared to the stems. The leaves are scale-like, whole, brittle and brown in colour on the surface and ribbed and silver-purple beneath. The leaf margins are rolled inwards and cylindrical with a groove on the side towards the axis, 5 mm diam. The large enveloping and enclosing leaf bracts are herbaceous, desiccated, gradually narrowing over a long distance and light brown at the apex. The interior leaf bracts are 10 mm long and the exterior bracts are equivalent to or shorter than the interior bracts.

The flowers of the Moraea hiemalis are yellow with deep apparent veins and intense yellow nectar guides that are clearly visible on the outer tepals (a segment of a perianth which is not differentiated into sepals and petals). Outer tepals 50 mm long, limb 30 mm long and 20 mm wide. The flowers are marginally curved backwards. The inner tepals are 35 mm long and 12 mm wide, upright, narrowly egg-shaped and tapering to a point on the axis.

The filaments are 7 mm long, attached midway downwards. The anthers are 8mm long. The Ovary is 15 mm long, protruding out of the scale-like leaves. The style is 20 mm long, 10 mm wide and tubular. Seeds are flat like a disc or plate.

Have you seen this beautiful plant growing naturally? If so, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager:


  • Goldblatt, P. 1986. The Moraeas of South Africa: a systematic monograph of the genus in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Transkei, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Annals of Kirstenbosch Botanic gardens. 14: 1 -224. National Botanic Gardens.

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