Mountain dahlia (Liparia splendens)

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderFabales
FamilyFabaceae
GenusLiparia (1)
SizeHeight: up to 1 m (2)

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

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).

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)

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)

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).

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.

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).

For further information on the Cape Floristic Region and its conservation see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  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:
    http://www.sanbi.org/biodiversity/reddata.htm
  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)
    http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/xp/hotspots/cape_floristic/Pages/default.aspx
  7. UNEP-WCMC: Cape Floral Protected Areas of South Africa (February, 2008)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/sites/wh/pdf/CAPE%20FLORAL%20REGION.pdf
  8. Fernkloof Nature Reserve (February, 2008)
    http://fernkloof.com/
  9. Fauna and Flora International (February, 2008)
    http://www.fauna-flora.org/fynbos.php