BIODIVERSITY: Endemic Plants
Kniphofia umbrina Codd.
Kniphofia umbrina (Photos: Linda Loffler, Kate Braun)
Information extracted from Donald McCallum's unpublished thesis:
Description: Perennial herbs with rosettes of leaves arising from thickened rhizomes, flowering plants 70 - 90 cm tall. Leaves 7 - 9 per peduncle, mid-green, v-shaped in section, up to 70 x 2 cm; margin smooth; apex blunt. Inflorescence tapering slightly towards apex, 7 - 15 x 1.5 - 2 cm, very dense. Flowers purplish-brown in bud opening reddish-brown, slightly scented; stamens exserted (Codd, 1969).
Distribution: Forbes Reef area.
Discussion: Codd (1969) lists the similarities between K. umbrina and K. typhoides Codd in his account, thereby suggesting the latter species as the most closely related to K. umbrina. This species has a distribution that partially surrounds the area where K. umbrina occurs, but at a considerable distance. The geographic separation between closely related species may be interpreted in various ways. The species may share a common ancestor which would have had a contiguous distribution, K. umbrina may have arisen from K. typhoides at a time when the distributions were contiguous or the distribution is a result of a long distance dispersal event. The first two possibilities would imply a long passage of time has elapsed. There are also a number of differences between the two taxa, which suggest a long period of divergence pointing to this species being palaeoendemic rather than neoendemic.
IUCN Red List assessment: This species is listed as Critically Endangered. CR B1B2c(iv) (Witkowski et al., 2001).
Information from Malolotja/Hawane Research Programme:
Habitat: Open sourveld grassland.
Flowering season: Flowering from January to March.
Distribution:The observed distribution of Kniphofia umbrina covers an area of approximately 10km by 4km, in the Hawane area, near Forbes Reef. This area includes title deed land which is developed to varying degrees, Swazi Nation Land, as well as Hawane Nature Reserve, which unfortunately does not include most the observed localities of this species.
In 1978, a detailed survey was carried out in advance of development within the area, and a number of plants were translocated to Malolotja Nature Reserve. Some of the translocated plants survived for a number of years, but these populations now no longer exist.
Monitoring of the Kniphofia umbrina populations has been carried out on a sporadic basis since 1985.
The largest population of Kniphofia umbrina observed during the 1980's and 1990's is now reduced to a few individuals, due to the establishment of an orphanage in this location.