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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fourcade's Heath (Erica glandulosa fourcadei)

 Family Ericaceae
Conservation status
Erica glandulosa
subsp. fourcadei is classified in the Red List as vulnerable. The habitat of the species is largely transformed due to coastal development, agriculture, forestry plantations and invasive alien plants. There are between eight and twelve severely fragmented subpopulations which continue to decline. The exclusion of fire is changing the coastal fynbos habitat of the species to dense thicket.
Distribution and habitat
It is restricted to a narrow band along the coast from George to Cape St Francis.

Plants are often found scrambling over rocks and in the teeth of coastal winds and even within reach of salt spray and these conditions can reduce it to a mere 0.3 m in height. Plants are found growing in the following vegetation types: South Outeniqua Sandstone Fynbos, Tsitsikamma Sandstone Fynbos and Southern Cape Dune Fynbos. It is therefore likely that it is tolerant of soils ranging from acid to neutral or even slightly alkaline. It is able to withstand severe summer salt-laden winds and the dry environmental conditions associated with this.
This species forms a sturdy, medium-sized, multi-stemmed, bushy shrub growing up to 1,2 m tall. It grows close to the coast between boulders or tightly packed in amongst scrub vegetation. It produces attractive, semi-translucent, tubular flowers ranging from bright to dull red and even yellow and has conspicuous longitudinal veins on the corolla. There is a superb red-flowered form growing near Sedgefield. It has a distinctive hairy, green calyx and broad to elongate leaves. The hairy calyx and pedicel (stalk that attaches the flower to the stem) give it a mildly sticky feel. It flowers from May to November.

Erica glandulosa
subsp . fourcadei is found in exposed, windy and sunny positions on coastal hill slopes or on dune fynbos near the sea. It grows on well-drained, acidic to neutral sands. It is a reseeding species, meaning that it reproduces from seed and does not resprout after fire. It produces copious quantities of seed and germinates easily after fire or where old plants have been cleared away. Its tubular flowers attract sunbirds that seek its nectar, and while dipping into the flower tube disturb the anthers which deposit pollen onto their beak. Plants are pollinated as the birds move from flower to flower.

 Uses and cultural aspects
It is an attractive horticultural species and flowers almost throughout the year. It is recommended as a strong-growing, reliable garden plant and is easy to maintain in average Mediterranean conditions and will also grow well as a large pot plant. This species is ideal for warm, sunny gardens and is salt-tolerant and therefore a good plant for a coastal garden.