Sickle-leaf conebush (Leucadendron xanthoconus)

Male sickle-leaf conebush in flower
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Sickle-leaf conebush fact file

Sickle-leaf conebush description

GenusLeucadendron (1)

The sickle-leaf conebush grows amongst the unique fynbos shrubland of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa.  A medium-sized, shrubby bush, arising from a single stem, this attractive plant has beautifully coloured, vibrant green and yellow inflorescences.  Its common name is derived from the narrow, sickle-shaped leaves, which are covered in fine silvery hairs, giving the plant a glossy appearance, a feature often more conspicuous on immature plants.  In common with other Leucadendron species, the leaves surrounding the inflorescence may change colour at various times of the year, and often redden with age (3). The fruit of the sickle-leaf conebush is a winged seed that grows on a tough, woody cone (2).

Also known as
glossy-leaf conebush, yellow conebush.
Height: up to 2 m (2)

Sickle-leaf conebush biology

The sickle-leaf conebush is a perennial plant that flowers in August (4).  As with all Leucadendron species, the male and female inflorescences are borne on separate plants (2).  Beetles are the main pollinators, but sunbirds, sugarbirds, flies and wasps are all attracted to the plants by the sweet, sugar-rich nectar and the conspicuously coloured bracts (4).  After pollination, female plants retain the winged seeds in the woody cone until a natural fire, which kills the parent, exposes them to the wind, dispersing the seeds across the landscape.  Retaining the seeds on the plant reduces their loss to ground dwelling grazers, such as rodents.  The germination of seeds is stimulated by a series of warm days, followed by cool nights at the beginning of autumn, while the commencement of winter rains encourages the growth of the young plant (2)


Sickle-leaf conebush range

The sickle-leaf conebush is endemic to the Western Cape, South Africa, where it grows on the lower slopes of several mountain ranges, up to 670 metres above sea level (2).


Sickle-leaf conebush habitat

Like all Leucadendron species, the sickle-leaf conebush is found in the Cape Floristic Region, where it forms part of the fynbos shrubland (3).  It is most abundant on well-drained, sandstone soils (2).


Sickle-leaf conebush status

This species has not yet been classified by the IUCN.


Sickle-leaf conebush threats

Extensive, dense stands of the sickle-leaf conebush remain throughout much of the species’ range. However, this species is threatened by urban expansion around coastal areas and agricultural encroachment, with low-lying populations the most affected. The introduction of alien plant species has also resulted in increased competition for natural resources (2) (5) (6). However, the sickle-leaf conebush is still extremely abundant and not yet in danger of extinction (6).


Sickle-leaf conebush conservation

The sickle-leaf conebush is restricted to the botanically rich habitat of the Cape Floristic Region where conservation is now a high priority, and this abundant plant is protected in more than 10 reserves within the Cape Mountains (5) (6) (7) . Conservation measures currently being undertaken within the species range include the restoration of the landscape to its natural state, through the burning and cutting of alien invasive plants, and the purchasing of land to protect against the threats of encroaching urban development and agriculture (5) (7).  


Find out more

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

For more information on African plants, see:



Authenticated (27/05/2010) by Lize von Staden, Red List Scientist, Threatened Species Programme, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa.



Modified leaf at the base of a flower.
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 south-western 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 beginning of growth, usually following a period of dormancy and in response to favourable conditions. For example, the sprouting of a seedling from a seed.
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
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.
Animals that in the act of visiting a plant’s flowers transfer 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.


  1. ZipcodeZoo (January, 2010)
  2. PlantZ Africa (January, 2010)
  3. Manning, J. (2007) Field Guide to Fynbos. Struik, South Africa.
  4. SANBI’s Integrated Biodiversity Information System (January, 2010)
  5. Cowling, R. and Richardson, D. (1995) Fynbos: South Africa’s unique floral kingdom. Fernwood Press, South Africa.
  6. von Staden, L. (2010) Pers. comm.
  7. Fauna and Flora International (January, 2010)

Image credit

Male sickle-leaf conebush in flower  
Male sickle-leaf conebush in flower

© Colin Paterson-Jones /

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