For the revival of our "Fynbos Friday" posts, we begin with something currently in bloom on Haut Espoir, and with an important history in South Africa. Fynbos Friday is a way we can share stories and information about the diversity of species on the farm. We are very passionate about all the plants and animals that have made Haut Espoir 'home'.
The Sugarbush was one of the first proteas described by Carl Linnaeus (in 1753), who originally called it Leucadendron repens. Alas, he based his description on Boerhaave’s confusing illustrations, and retained the name for what is now Protea repens: the “creeping” protea (from the Latin repere “to creep”, hence repent). Thus Carl Thunberg’s later, more appropriate, name, Protea mellifera, the “honey-bearing” protea, which was used for almost 200 years, is incorrect. However, both names are better than Pr scolopendriifolia, which is the name we would have had to be using now, had Linneaus not made his mistake and mixed up Boerhaave’s plates..
So how, looking at the size, color and height variance, do we know that it’s Protea repens? The shape of the flowers is very distinctive, chalice-shaped, and forms an inverted, brown “ice-cream cone” seedhead.
For 200 years Protea repens was South Africa’s national flower. It was not officially proclaimed – it had just grown to that status. On 19 February 1976 Protea cynaroides was proclaimed the official national flower of South Africa. The Sugarbush was usurped from its rightful role, gained through popularity, utility and appeal, by a plant with a bigger flower head.
Few other plants are as well ingrained in our history as is Protea repens. In the words of Fred Michel, a Cape Town dance-band leader, who while picnicking amid Sugarbushes on Lion’s Head composed the now world famous song: “Suikerbossie ek wil jou he” (Sugarbush, I want you!).