Monday, 16 September 2013

Taxon of the Day: Ursinia calenduliflora

Ursinia calenduliflora

Taxon of the Day moves to South Africa for an annual, endemic herb found throughout the region known as Namaqualand. Ursinia calenduliflora (DC.) N.E.Br. is just one of hundreds of flowering species found in this unique floral region. In peak springtime (usually mid-august to mid-september) the most spectacular flower displays can be found, where multi-coloured carpets span as far as the eye can see. Duration, timing and intensity of displays are all determined by weather,  mostly notably, amount and arrival time of rain. A good year can never be accurately predicted, although many try, as it can help with marketing the region as an annual tourist destination. Most of the year, this area of north west southern Africa is a barren desert, with very little green let alone other colours, which makes the short period of flowering, seemingly unimaginable beforehand, even more incredible.

Different floras and online resources, unsurprisingly considering its wide distribution over a region inhabited by indigenous and settler communities, cite different common names. Le Roux (2005) uses the Afrikaans name Berggousblom which translates to mountain daisy, others use english names including Namaqua Parachute Daisy (Manning, 2009) and Springbok rock ursinia. TotD would like to know what the The Nama people, native inhabitants of this region for thousands of years, whose language contain distinctive click click sounds, have named this plant. Something different to the above for sure.

A small dancing part of a big carpet
The genus Ursinia in the family Asteraceae, is named after the botanists Johan Ursinu (1608-1666) and contains 43 species in the Catalogue of Life supplied by the Global Compositae Checklist. All species collectively referred to as parachute daisies, are native to southern Africa, with the highest concentration in the Western Cape. One species is the exception, U.nana is reportedly found in Ethiopia.

CoL Annual Checklist: Ursinia calenduliflora
CoL contributor: Global Compositae Checklist
Image copyright: RLF Matthias

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