Fynbos Families

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 fynbos family: Linde, Kara, Lynne, Margie, Trevor and Margie
August 2017 fynbos ID course participants. 

 

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 members of the Protea family have large leathery leaves
Most members of the Protea family have large leathery leaves

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

Many fynbos plants have small, fine leaves
Many fynbos plants have small, fine 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

Judy trying to tell if this large Elegia is a Mr or a Mrs.
Judy trying to tell if this large Elegia is a Mr or a Mrs.

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

Flowering geophytes
Flowering geophytes

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

What is this?. asks Lynne
What is this?. asks Lynne

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

Is this a single flower or an inflorescence?
Is this a single flower or an inflorescence?

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 !!!

Recording information

recording information from close observation and checking in books
recording information from close observation and checking in books

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………

Recording information by looking and drawing
Margie and Lynne recording information by looking and drawing

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.

Looking closely at Oxalis Kara discovered that the petals are furled.
Looking closely at Oxalis Kara discovered that the petals are furled.

 

Oxalis pes-caprae
Oxalis pes-caprae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aloe Family : ASPHODELACEAE

 

Bulbine and Aloe are  in the same family
Bulbine and Aloe are in the same family

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.

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Pollinator's view of an Aloe flower
Pollinator’s view of an Aloe flower

 

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.

 

Thank you to all of you who attend courses and become part of my Fynbos Family

July ID group:
July 2017 ID group: Louise Tessa, Lindsay, Chrisna, Judy and Jane

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