Mountain dahlia (Liparia splendens)

Liparia splendens splendens flowering
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Mountain dahlia fact file

Mountain dahlia description

GenusLiparia (1)

The mountain dahlia, a member of the pea family, is a spreading shrub with slender stems, sprouting from a woody base (2). The leathery (2), hairless leaves are oval, sharply pointed at the tip, and measure 30 to 50 millimetres long (4). The scientific species name of the mountain dahlia, splendens, means ‘brilliant’ in Latin, and probably refers to the vibrantly coloured flower heads. 15 to 17 orange to yellow flowers, flushed with pinkish-red, cluster tightly together to form large, nodding flower heads that droop from the end of curved branches (4) (5).

Height: up to 1 m (2)

Mountain dahlia biology

The brilliant flowers of the mountain dahlia, which are borne from May until January (5), are adapted for pollination by sunbirds (4). As the bird probes the flower for a sip of nectar, its head is dusted with pollen, or pollen from a previous plant is deposited (4).


Mountain dahlia range

Endemic to the Cape Floristic Region, a ‘hot-spot’ of plant diversity in the Western Cape province of South Africa; the mountain dahlia is distributed from the Cape Peninsula, eastwards to the Hottentots Holland mountain range (5)


Mountain dahlia habitat

The mountain dahlia grows in mountain and lowland fynbos (5), on rocky sandstone slopes (2), from 20 to 1,200 metres above sea level (5)


Mountain dahlia status

Subspecies Liparia splendens splendens is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa (3).


Mountain dahlia threats

The mountain dahlia species is not yet known to be threatened, but the subspecies L. s. splendens is deemed to be vulnerable to extinction (3). Information regarding specific threats facing this subspecies is not yet available. However, it is known that urban expansion, the encroachment of agriculture, and invasive alien plant species, pose a threat to the habitat of the Cape Floristic Region (6), to which this species is confined.


Mountain dahlia conservation

Within the Cape Floristic Region there are a number of protected areas (7), such as Fernkloof Nature Reserve, in which the subspecies Liparia splendens comantha occurs (8). In addition, a number of conservation organisations are working to conserve the botanically rich habitat of the Cape Floristic Region (6) (9). Conservation actions include purchasing land to protect it from the threats of encroaching agriculture and urban development (9), the removal of alien plants, and the establishment of new protected areas (6).


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 natural shrubland vegetation occurring in the southwestern and southern Cape of South Africa, holding the greatest diversity of plant species in the world. Fynbos is characterised by tall shrubs with large leaves, heath-like shrubs, wiry reed-like plants, and bulbous herbs.
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.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. Schutte, A.L. and Van Wyk, B.E. (1994) A reappraisal of the generic status of Liparia and Priestleya (Fabaceae). Taxon, 43: 573 - 582.
  2. Paterson-Jones, C. and Manning, J. (2007) Ecoguide Fynbos. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.
  3. Threatened Species Programme. (2007) Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa. Available at:
  4. Van Wyk, B. (2000) A Photographic Guide to Wildflowers of South Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
  5. Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J. (2000) Cape Plants: A Conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. National Botanical Institute of South Africa, Pretoria .
  6. Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots (February, 2008)
  7. UNEP-WCMC: Cape Floral Protected Areas of South Africa (February, 2008)
  8. Fernkloof Nature Reserve (February, 2008)
  9. Fauna and Flora International (February, 2008)

Image credit

Liparia splendens splendens flowering  
Liparia splendens splendens flowering

© Colin Paterson-Jones /

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