Two of a kind

Published: Monday 12th of December 2016

Pincushion in the wild

It is perhaps not common knowledge that a number of the Proteas, Leucospermums (Pincushions) and even the Leucadendrons (Cone bush) that one sees for sale in supermarkets, deli’s and florists are hybrids of two wild ‘parent’ species. For example the yellowy-orange Pincushion, Leucospermum conocarpodendron that has recently been flowering in the mountains around Cape Town, is one of the parents of the commercially grown Lsp. Veldfire and Lsp. Tango. Just as Protea aristata is one of the parents of the popular Protea Venus which starts flowering in May.

In some cases ‘wild’ species are also sold commercially but these have almost always been through a process of selection where only those plants that produce flowers of good colour, stem length, longevity are chosen. These include the white and red Protea cynaroides or King Protea and the white Protea barbigera.

The seeds of a hybrid plant are usually not viable which means they cannot germinate. That’s why commercial species are bred taking cuttings from the adult bushes and rooting them in nurseries. For this reason commercial species are propagated by taking cuttings from the adult bushes and rooting them in nurseries. Propagation of commercial ’wild’ species is also done in this way. This results in consistency of the products. If this process of propagation did not occur and process was left to the bees, there would be little difference between commercial orchards and veld fynbos - variable, interesting, gorgeous but, well, wild....!