Next Fynbos ID courses:
Tues 5 to Fri 8 Sept 2017 and Sat 11/Sun12 and Sat 18/Sun19 Nov 2017
Looking for similarities and differences to sort plants into groups is the first step.
August 2017 ID group
Kara, Linde, Lynne, Margie, Trevor and Margie inspect the plant samples and put them into a group based on how they survive environmental conditions
Proteas, Ericas, Restios and Bulbs……….
Most of us know that this is how we know that we are in the fynbos but what does this really mean?
It means that there are four main ways that plants adapt themselves in order to survive harsh, windy dry summers, raging fires, poor soils and cold, wet winters.
Some plants have leaves that are hard, leathery and fibrous with a very thick cuticle to prevent water loss. They do not wilt in the harsh summer conditions. Most members of the Protea family have these sclerophyllous leaves, but what do we do with the ones that don’t? Where do they belong.
Ericas and Ericoid leaves
The easiest way to limit water loss in summer is to reduce the size of your leaves. This is what many fynbos plants have resorted to.
There are many different groups of plants that use this strategy and not all of them are Ericas.
So the term Ericoid is used to describe small leaves. This means buchus, daisies, phylicas, Brunias and Protea family members like Serrurias could all be lumped in the group with the Ericas.
Confusingly the term Ericoid can also be used to refer specifically to the rolled nature of Erica leaf margins….. so it all depends on the context.
Restios or reeds
Restios look sort of like grasses and reeds. The main difference is that they have dispensed with their leaves and all that is left is the base of the leaf sheathing the stem or culm.
The smooth, green culms have taken over the energy trapping function usually carried out by leaves. In addition, they are excellent mist traps. the smooth, cold culms cause water to condense and run down to the roots. Some species of the Restio family have finely divided stems that increase the efficiency of extracting water.
It is easy to put a plant in the Restio group because of what it looks like but small flower characters have to be used to ascertain Genus and species.
Geophytes : bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes
The term geophyte is any organ that stores food and water underground and hence the term USO’s (underground storage organs)
Plants can shunt water and carbohydrates to any part of the plant for later use.
- swollen roots are called tubers
- swollen leaves form bulbs
- swollen horizontal stems are called rhizomes or tubers
- swollen vertical stems are called corms
- swollen leaves inside the seed are called cotyledons
The geophytic survival strategy is excellent to hide away from the summer drought but also helps plants evade fire and hungry predators.
Other: many fynbos plants don’t conform
It is impossible to put all 9000 species of fynbos plants into only four groups.
Grouping species into families based on overall similarities of roots, stems, leaves and flowers and of course genes gives us our current system of classification
Flowers and inflorescences
Flowers are the sex organs of plants and their function is to efficiently facilitate transfer of pollen between different flowers.
Reducing the size of individual flowers and clustering them together in large heads increases the chances of cross pollination from a single pollinator.
For the first time Fynbos Fundi, distinguishing the difference between a single flower and a head of flowers is very important.
All daisies and proteas have complex heads of flowers !!!
Some people rote learn plant names but can seldom tell you why a plant belongs in a specific group.
Familiarising the features of fynbos families by drawing, dissecting and recording is a good way to train yourself.
Start with species you know………
If you work with plants you know first, you discover interesting features by reading in the text. This helps you to connect to the botanical jargon and embeds the existing information in your head into the botanical framework.
Aloe Family : ASPHODELACEAE
Does this Bulbine look like the Aloe below?……
They both have actinomorphic, heterosexual flowers with a superior ovary of 3 carpels. The number and positon of parts in the flower is the same but the way the tepals attract pollinators is different.
Bulbine flowers have tepals arranged in an open star shape
Aloes have tepals arranged into a tube.
Yellow sap is a feature that most of this family have.