This small, evergreen shrub, found only in South Africa, has handsome, silky foliage, with silver-grey, glossy hairs bestowing the green leaves a silvery sheen (1) (2). When in flower, small, pink blooms, (only one centimetre across) (4), are borne at the point where a leaf attaches to the stem (1). The flowers, in delicate shades of pink and white (2), have a structure characteristic of the pea family (Fabaceae) to which this species belongs; each flower consists of a large back petal, two smaller side petals and two fused, lower petals which enclose the stamens and pistil (1).
- Also known as
- cape satin bush, silky podalyria, silver sweet bush pea.
- Height: up to 1 m (2)
Lesser bush sweet pea biology
The lesser bush sweet pea flowers in the winter months of May and June (2), when the plant is pollinated by insects, such as carpenter bees (Xylocopa species), as they visit the small flowers. From about October until January, the plant bears swollen seed pods, which, when split, release several small seeds (1).
Lesser bush sweet pea range
Endemic to the Cape Floristic Region, a ‘hot-spot’ of plant diversity in south-western South Africa. The lesser bush sweet pea is distributed from Saldanha, southwards to the Cape Peninsula (2)
Lesser bush sweet pea habitat
The lesser bush sweet pea grows on sandstone and granite outcrops, below an elevation of 500 metres, and near the coast (2) (4).
Lesser bush sweet pea status
Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa (3).
Lesser bush sweet pea threats
The lesser bush sweet pea is believed to face threats from alien plant infestations, grazing and too frequent fires (1); events that impact the delicate balance of the natural habitat. Stands of invasive alien trees and shrubs are currently, (as of 2003), believed to cover around 2.6 percent of the Cape Floristic Region. This is predicted to increase to up to 32 percent within the next 20 years (5), which is likely to have a significant impact on many Cape Floristic Region endemic plants, including the lesser bush sweet pea.
Lesser bush sweet pea conservation
Within the Cape Floristic Region there are a number of protected areas (6), and a number of conservation organisations are working to conserve the botanically rich habitat of the Cape Floristic Region (7) (8). Conservation actions include purchasing land to protect it from the threats of encroaching agriculture and urban development (8), the removal of alien plants, and the establishment of new protected areas (7), measures which should hopefully prevent this handsome silvery shrub becoming threatened with extinction.
Find out more
For further information on the Cape Floristic Region and its conservation see:
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- Cape Floristic Region
- An area occupying about 90,000 square kilometres in South Africa that contains an incredibly high diversity of plant species (around 8,700 species), of which 68 percent are found no where else.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- The female reproductive organ of a flowering plant; consisting of a stigma (the pollen receptor), style (a stalk connecting the stigma with the ovary below), and ovary (encloses the ovules).
- The transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
- The male reproductive organs of a flower; comprised of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk).
- PlantZAfrica (February, 2008)
- Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J. (2000) Cape Plants: A Conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. National Botanical Institute of South Africa, Pretoria .
- Threatened Species Programme. (2007) Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa. Available at:
- Paterson-Jones, C. and Manning, J. (2007) Ecoguide Fynbos. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.
- Rouget, M., Richardson, D.M., Cowling, R.M., Lloyd, J.W. and Lombard, A.T. (2003) Current patterns of habitat transformation and future threats to biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Biological Conservation, 112: 63 - 85.
- UNEP-WCMC: Cape Floral Protected Areas of South Africa (February, 2008)
- Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots (February, 2008)
- Fauna and Flora International (February, 2008)