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SWAZILAND'S BIODIVERSITY: Swaziland's Endemic Plants

Helichrysum nudifolium (L.) Less. var. roseum McCallum var. nov.


Information extracted from Donald McCallum's unpublished thesis.

Helichrysum nudifolium var. roseum
Helichrysum nudifolium (L.) Less. var. roseum McCallum var. nov.


Description: Perennial herb with leaves in a basal rosette and flowering stems up to about 50 cm tall. Basal leaves lanceolate, 4 16 x 1.0 2.5 cm with 3 main veins impressed above, raised below; pseudopetioles up to 13 cm long. Cauline leaves similar to basal leaves but soon sessile and stem-clasping, becoming distant elongate bracts towards the tips. Heads campanulate, 4 x 4 mm; involucral bracts in about 4 ranks, imbricate, deep pink or red, bases white woolly, tips ovate to sub-acute. Flowers red; pappus scabrid, dark pink at the base becoming paler towards tips.

Distinguishing features: Despite the large variation in most features of H. nudifolium, involucral bracts are never pink as in the new variety. They range from yellow and greenish to brown except in the case of specimens of var. oxyphyllum (DC.) Beentjie which may be almost white with the outer bracts tinged pinkish or reddish, but in that variety the florets are cream-yellow, not red as in the new variety.

Habitat: Mountain grassland among rocks.

Distribution: Collected in the northern part of Malolotja Nature Reserve in the area closest to Luhhumanani School. No other sites known.

Flowering season: Flowering plants collected in November.

Discussion: Helichrysum nudifolium ( L.) Less. is a widespread and very variable species occurring from Sierra Leone and Nigeria to Sudan and Ethiopia and south to Angola and South Africa as well as in Yemen. An indication of the variability of this species is that in a revision, Beentjie (2000) reduces H. pilosellum (L.f.) Less., a species that is quite distinct in southern Africa, to a variety of H. nudifolium because of almost continuous variation of features between these taxa over the entire distribution range. Plants of the new variety differ from the typical variety only in the colour of the involucral bracts and there is no geographical separation of the varieties, so the new variety is likely to be a neoendemic.

IUCN Red List assessment: No specimens matching the new variety were found in the National Herbarium (PRE). Collecting intensity in Swaziland has been greatest in protected areas and Malolotja Nature Reserve has been well surveyed (Dlamini & Dlamini, 2002). This suggests that the new variety is likely to be either uncommon or restricted in occurrence. During the present study a single locality was found, although at the time the plant was not recognized as a new discovery and consequently efforts were not made to find additional populations. Present knowledge would give a rating of DD - Data Deficient.




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