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Botany Photo of the Day
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Mimetes cucullatus

Mimetes cucullatus
Mimetes cucullatus

Here is Taisha again, with the third entry on South African plants and biomes. She writes:

Today we feature two photographs of Mimetes cucullatus, known as the common mimetes or pagoda or the red mimetes or pagoda. In Afrikaans, this species is known as rooistompie, or simply stompie. Rooi means "red", and stompie means "little stump". Retired UBC Botanical Garden staff member, David Tarrant, sent these images from his visit to Cape Town's Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden last November. Thank you kindly, David!

The fynbos is a biome located in southwestern South Africa. It consists of two distinct vegetation groupings, the fynbos and the renosterveld. These regions together form over 45000 km2 of land, all above 300 meters in elevation. Renosterveld typically has fertile, fine-grained soils of silts and clays whereas fynbos has poorer nutrient quality. Rainfall occurs throughout the year and accumulates anywhere from 300-2000 mm annually. Fire is an important influence on fynbos community processes, and the region must burn every 6 to 45 years to sustain many plant species.

Mimetes cucullatus is an example of a plant that relies on fire for regeneration. This is the only species of Mimetes that is a resprouter (as opposed to only being a reseeder). After fire, plants regenerate from a large, woody, underground rootstock, whereas most others are killed by fire (unless they have a thick, corky bark and survive). Seedlings will also sprout post-fire when conditions are suitable.

Common mimetes is a widespread species. It is easy to distinguish from other members of the Proteaceae with its unusual tubular and wool-like flowers grouped in four perianth segments. In bud, the segments touch each other, but do not overlap. They then separate as the flower opens to expose the style equipped with a sticky pollen presenter. Stigmas on these perfect flowers are not receptive at anthesis, thus preventing self-pollination. Within each of the white tuft-like perianth segments rests a single anther. Colourful leaves surround each floret like a hood. After pollination by sunbirds or sugarbirds, a nut-like fruit develops. The seeds within the fruit have elaiosomes (grey-white oily protuberances) at either end. These eliaosomes attract ants, who collect the seeds to carry back to their underground nests. There, they eat the elaiosomes, but do no damage to the seeds. Seeds deposited in ant nests can remain viable for many years.

3 Comments

Wow what a fascinating plant with an amazing life cycle! Plus, the flowers are so very striking.

Beautiful photos and a very interesting write-up. I don't think I've ever before seen wooly flowers quite like these. I also wonder whether the habitat is getting the fires it needs to maintain its plant community.

One of my favorite South African ornamentals!

One does not have to travel to South Africa to see it!

The University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum has it in their collection:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ericinsf/2059082466/

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