Petalidium lucens

Dear Petalidium lucens,

Way back when I was a graduate student at DUKE, I happened upon a loan of a herbarium specimen of you. I remember the day: I was sitting at the far end of the herbarium, with Dr. Wilbur looking over my shoulder to monitor my mischief. When I laid eyes on your bracts, it was love at first sight. (That, and the dense white tomentum of Petalidium englerianum….). At the time, I never knew that you and I would eventually cross paths. Well, 10 years later, we have. I am so glad that you waited for me…..

I have always wanted to tell you that I find you to be among the most brilliant species of what Kyle and I call “the Southern Clade” (Did you know you were part of a clade? Do you care?). Please tell me: what is the developmental basis for those beautiful, papery bracts that are interwoven by thick, red veins? What is the adaptive value, if any? And why is it that you inhabit such a narrow corner of Namibia, refusing to grow anywhere else on Earth?

Locally abundant, globally beautiful, you always make me smile whether in the cellulose, in the herbarium, from a photograph, or via a memory….

With fondness,

A botanical admirer

PS: Your friend, Petalidium linifolium, told me to tell you to get some skinnier leaves.

Wild collected, Namibia, Tripp et al. #2065 (RSA-POM); Photo by Erin Tripp

5 thoughts on “Petalidium lucens

  1. Wonderful. My own photographs at Augrabies falls blew me away but it does not get mentioned in the field guide books.

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  2. The area around Augrabies has been subjected to the worst drought in recorded history, since 2014. We live on the western boundary of the AFNP inside the Lower Orange river valley and can only express our amazement at the ‘durability’ of Petalidium lucens during this period, shedding all leaves, only to flower briefly after a little bit of rain. Perfect plant for xeriscaped garden. I have just germinated a few seeds for eventual transplant into our “rose garden”.

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    • This is an absolutely amazing observation Kobus! Thank you so much for sharing. I am not at all surprised to hear of its durability. These plants never cease to amaze me!! Take care and enjoy Namibia….a great place to call home!

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      • Is it common for this plant to host the ‘Alectra parasite’? Superficially, the flowers seem to be remarkably similar, or is it a mere coincidence?

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      • ha – that is a member of Orobanchaceae… not too distantly related to Acanthaceae! but definitely a different family. it is for sure a root parasite, but i’m not sure what it parasitizes….

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