Birds, mice, ants and fire all play a role in the amazing lifecycle of these beautiful pincushions. Flower Valley Farm has three commonly occurring types of pincushions: Leucospermum patersonii, Leucospermum cordifolium and Leucospermum prostratum. These colourful balls can be seen by visitors while hiking, and have a fascinating relationship within the ecosystem. The unique pincushion flowers have adapted by developing nectar, scent, bright colours, and shapes to attract mice or birds for pollination.
Once the flower heads fall onto the ground, it breaks open and ants carry the seed underground. The seeds are covered by a fatty layer that attracts the ants, which is called an elaiosome. The ants eat the elaiosome and leave the exposed seed in the ground until a fynbos fire triggers germination and growth. The fire temperature and seed depth all influence the success of germination and ultimately the lifecycle of the pincushion.
Some interesting facts about the pincushions at Flower Valley Farm:
This flower is represented on the Flower Valley logo, because it is unique to threatened limestone fynbos and abundant on Flower Valley farm. Leucospermum patersonii flowers from August to November between Kleinmond and the Elim Flats near Cape Agulhas. The big orange flower heads act as a landing pad for sugarbirds that visit to extract nectar from the flower head. During this process sugar birds transport pollen from the long-incurved styles to other flower heads.
Leucospermum cordifolium can be seen in flower from August to January on acid nutrient poor soils in the Bredasdorp mountains, Soetanysberg, Elim areas and as far as Kleinmond and Houhoek. Flower heads are yellow to orange or crimson. Pollinators include the friendly sunbird, and fynbos endemic sugarbirds.
Leucospermum prostratum can be seen in flower during the months of July to December, trailing on the ground in sandy areas. Visitors often miss this ground pincushion and need to look closely for it. This pincushion occurs from the Kogelberg to the Elim hills. Flower heads are bright yellow and turn deep orange or red when mature. This small pincushion has a huge amount of pollen and sweet-scented flower heads that attract field mice, which pollinate the plant.