Erica verticillata

Scientific Name
Erica verticillata P.J.Bergius
Higher Classification
Erica concinna Sol.
National Status
Status and Criteria
Extinct in the Wild
Assessment Date
E.G.H. Oliver, R.C. Turner & D. Pillay
A Cape Flats endemic that went extinct due to harvesting for cut flowers and urban development. It has been reintroduced at two sites: Kenilworth Racecourse in 2006 and Rondevlei between 2002 and 2005. Both reintroduced subpopulations have yet to prove to be self-sustaining.
South African endemic
Provincial distribution
Western Cape
Cape Flats.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Lowland fynbos in seasonally damp, acid sandy soils.
Erica verticillata formerly occurred on the Cape Flats between Mowbray and Muizenberg, an area now entirely transformed due to urban expansion of the city of Cape Town. It is suspected to have gone extinct in the wild in the early part of the 20th century, with the last documented collection from the wild dating from 1908.

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.

Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Erica verticillata P.J.BergiusExtinct in the Wild Raimondo et al. (2009)
Erica verticillata P.J.BergiusExtinct Hilton-Taylor (1996)
Erica verticillata P.J.BergiusExtinct Hall et al. (1980)

Bolus, H., Guthrie, F. and Brown, N.E. 1909. Ericaceae. In: W.T. Thiselton-Dyer (ed). Flora Capensis IV Section I (Vacciniaceae to Gentianeae):2-418. Lovell Reeve & Co., Ltd., London.

Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J.C. 2000. Cape Plants: A conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.

Hall, A.V., De Winter, M., De Winter, B. and Van Oosterhout, S.A.M. 1980. Threatened plants of southern Africa. South African National Scienctific Programmes Report 45. CSIR, Pretoria.

Helme, N.A. and Trinder-Smith, T.H. 2006. The endemic flora of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 72(2):205-210.

Hilton-Taylor, C. 1996. Red data list of southern African plants. Strelitzia 4. South African National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Hitchcock, A. 2007. The return of Erica verticillata. Veld & Flora 93(1):14-17.

Hitchcock, A., Cowell, C. and Stauch, M. 2008. Weaving the Golden Circle : Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area. Veld & Flora 94(1):31-35.

Oliver, E.G.H. and Oliver, I.M. 2005. The genus Erica (Ericaceae) in southern Africa: taxonomic notes 2. Bothalia 35(2):121-148.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Schumann, D., Kirsten, G. and Oliver, E.G.H. 1992. Ericas of South Africa. Fernwood Press, Cape Town.

Oliver, E.G.H., Turner, R.C. & Pillay, D. 2012. Erica verticillata P.J.Bergius. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2018/06/21

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Distribution map

© C. Merry

© C. Paterson-Jones

© L. von Staden

© Outramps

© I. Ebrahim

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