Dear Petalidium bracteatum, canescens, coccineum, crispum, cymbiforme, englerianum, giessii, halimoides, and all of the others,
I have cheated on you. I always said that you were my favorite, but the unexpected happened in May 2014 – I fell in love with someone else. I have tried to do my best to explain why, below, though I do not expect you to ever forgive me….
Petalidium angustitibum has to be among the top three most intriguing species in the genus (right now, it’s my #1). Like so many other species in the genus, it is a restricted-endemic in the truest sense of the phrase. I was fairly convinced we wouldn’t find it. We traveled 80 something kilometers through the sand-filled Kwoarib River… no road to speak of… in attempt to find elusive and mostly historical populations of this species.
We found it. The corolla tubes of this species—the longest of any Petalidium—and the very elongate inflorescences (again, the longest of any Petalidium) make this species one of the most distinctive \within the genus. Other observations: 32% nectar at 13:30. In full flower, but almost entirely absent fruits. Fruits that we did find were almost entirely predated. Iain managed to recover one inflorescence with several viable fruits, so there is hope for continued study of this species in cultivation.
Regarding the low fruit set: I cannot claim to know the real story, but not a single floral visitor was seen throughout the course of the day. Is it possible that such pollinators are no longer with these plants are? And if P. angustitibum is not capable of selfing, well then, that’s the end of the road for this species (as an aside, we are rooting for you!). Whatever the explanation is, one thing is certain: the species is locally dominant in its native environment–indeed, it’s one of only a few species of flowering plants alive in this barren landscape–but it’s native environment includes a very, very small stretch of planet Earth.
After turning to the north, we drove on another 50 km or so, and made camp in a very special valley at the mouth of the Ugab mountains. Again: one of the nicest campsites of my adult life. I have photos to prove it….and lucky you, I’ll even share a snapshot of the beauty (see photo of four of us, above).
Wild collected, Klaassen et al. (awaiting data from Essie [WIND & COLO]); Photos by E. Tripp