Spectacular veld candelabra

Brunsvigia radulosa is one of the most striking plants at Verloren Valei, writes Gerrit van Ede.

Brunsvigia radulosa (Photograph by Gerrit van Ede)
Lighting up the veld -Brunsvigia radulosa (Photograph by Gerrit van Ede)

When it is in full flower, Brunsvigia radulosa’s large umbrel of 40 or more pink flowers is hard for any visitor to Verloren Valei to miss during the summer months. Individual flowers are 75-100mm in size, and flower head stands out against the green and brown of the summer grasslands.

When you’re lucky enough to find a group of them in flower, you realise that nature really knows how to mount a real display!

The genus Brunsvigia was named after the Duke of Braunschweig (Brunswick), one of the German princely states, in 1755 by Lorenz Heisters. The species name, radulosa, refers to the roughness of the very large leaves. The plant has up-to six leaves, which lie flat on the ground and can reach a size of  500mm long and 200mm wide. The plant has a very large bulb.

The type specimen of Brunsvigia radulosa was collected by the British explorer William Burchell in about 1813 from “near the Hondeblats River”, in Colesberg District in the Northern Cape, according to the South African Biodiversity Institute website.

The genus Brunsvigia is widespread in Southern Africa mostly in semi -arid conditions. About 10 species occur in the winter rainfall area of South Africa. When large numbers of these flowers grow close together and flower simultaneously, the effect can be overwhelming, as this photo of Brunsvigia bosmaniae from the Northern Cape shows.

Almost unbelievable—a group of Brunsvigia bosmaniae in full flower (Photograph by Van Zijl Guesthouse)

When flowering is over, flower head breaks away from the plant and becomes a tumble-weed. In this way the seed is dispersed over a large area. The fleshy seeds germinate very quickly, but the seedlings may take seven or more years before they bloom.

The Afrikaans names for Brunsvigia is misryblom of kandelaarblom (candelabrum flower). Where the name misryblom comes from I do not know. The Southern Sotho name is Lemathla.

This species is not considered to be threatened in nature.

Taxonomically the genus Brunsvigia belong to the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis) family. There are about 20 species in the genus. B. radulosa is often confused with B. natalensis, but it is not clear whether they in fact two different species. Morphologically they appear different in that B. natalensis is in plant and flower size smaller and the flowers are more red then the flowers of B. radulosa. They do occur together in some areas of South Africa, but only B. radulosa occurs on Verloren Valei.

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