After Erica verticillata had not been seen in the wild for many decades, efforts started in the 1980s to survey all remaining sandplain fynbos fragments remaining on the Cape Flats for surviving plants. Although no wild plants could be found, plants surviving in cultivation were found in a botanical garden in Pretoria, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Belvedere Palace Gardens in Vienna, where plants had been maintained in cultivation for more than 200 years. A forgotten plant was also rediscovered growing in a forest clearing in Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Cape Town, probably a seedling originating from old Erica collections that were formerly grown in the area.
Cuttings from all cultivated sources were obtained and an ex situ breeding programme established at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Within the former natural range of this species, only two fragments of natural acidic lowland sand fynbos remain. A small fragment was preserved in the middle of the Kenilworth Racecourse, which was established 1882, and another is located at the Rondevlei Nature Reserve. The Kenilworth site was severely infested with alien invasive plants, and had not burnt for more than 100 years. After a controlled fire in 2005, the old senescent fynbos at the site regenerated with spectacular success, and cultivated Erica verticillata plants were reintroduced at the site, where the population is presently thriving. Plants were also first reintroduced at Rondevlei in the 1990s, but initially with limited success. Repeated plantings from plants grown from multiple clones from the Kirstenbosch ex situ breeding programme have now also successfully established in this reserve.
Both these introduced populations however still need to prove to be self-sustaining, and is dependent on effective fire management, which is very difficult within small remnants of natural vegetation within urban areas, where fire pose a danger to surrounding private properties. Ongoing alien invasive clearing and management is also needed.
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