Plant story - Mimetes hirtus, vulnerable species bagged by Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership in South Africa

Also known as the Marsh pagoda or Vleistompie, this species is difficult to collect.

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01 Jan 2010

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msb mimetes hirtus bagging

Collectors 'bagging' the seeds (Photo: C Cowell)

Due to development this species is now classified as vulnerable

This species is found growing in moist marshy conditions, hence its common name of Marsh pagoda. This occasional mountain Fynbos species is restricted to marshes, seeps and stream banks on black peaty soil.  It is a relatively short-lived species, leaving seeds in the soil to await the next fire. Found only on the Cape Peninsula, Kogelberg, Kleinmond and Klein River Mountains and Elim Flats, Mimetes hirtus is classified as vulnerable because its natural habitat of lowland marshes and stream-banks are being greatly reduced and damaged due to development. It is also sought after as a cut flower.

Population found

A population on the Ou Wa Pad, a road near Cape Town leading to the Silvermine Reserve, was targeted for collection by the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership and the initial site visit was in September 2006. There were 250 plants at this site, approximately 8 years old and in good condition, producing many flower heads and seed.


Special technique needed

Mimetes hirtus flowers from May to November, but mainly in winter (July to August). The fruits are released 2-6 months after flowering, and they ripen and are released on an ad hoc basis making them difficult to collect.

 A technique called ‘bagging’ was used to collect this species. Netting material was tied over old, pollinated flower heads to catch the seeds when they ripen and are being released. The population was then monitored and two months later, the seed was collected.

Mimetes hirtus

Mimetes hirtus flower

Flower heads are in terminal spikes consisting of small clusters of florets with yellow bracts with red tips

Species details

Mimetes hirtus is an erect, single-stemmed shrub 1 - 2m high. The flower heads are in terminal spikes consisting of small clusters of florets with yellow bracts with red tips – these form the large, cylindrical flower heads. The flowers attract nectar-feeding birds, which aid pollination.

The leaves of Mimetes hirtus are covered in minute hairs hence the name hirtus.

It is recommended that these plants be monitored on a yearly basis. Removal of alien vegetation should take place as this is a fire hazard for this species.

Name: Mimetes hirtus (L.) Salisb. ex Knight
Family: PROTEACEAE

Story by Carly Cowell and Nicolette Stoll
SANBI, Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden
Cape Town, Republic of South Africa
All pictures by Carly Cowell


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