Scientific Name
Eriosema populifolium Benth. ex Harv. subsp. populifolium
Higher Classification
National Status
Status and Criteria
Endangered A2c; B1ab(ii,iii,iv)
Assessment Date
L. von Staden & D. Raimondo
A population reduction of at least 50% is estimated based on 54% habitat loss to sugarcane cultivation and forestry plantations within the last 80 years (generation length 30-50 years). EOO 1 600-3 000 km², with many subpopulations now locally extinct in the southern parts of the range. Remaining severely fragmented subpopulations are now isolated due to the fragmentation of the habitat and continue to decline as a result of poor recruitment in small subpopulations.
South African endemic
Provincial distribution
Southern KwaZulu-Natal, from Umlaas Road to Hlokozi-Highflats.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
KwaZulu-Natal Sandstone Sourveld, Dry Coast Hinterland Grassland
Moist grassland, restricted to areas of deep black soils, 400-1 100 m.
The deep black soils of the moist Ngongoni grasslands where this species grows are considered to be the most valuable agricultural land in KwaZulu-Natal (C.R. Scott-Shaw pers. comm.) and have been excessively transformed since the 1930s (last 80 years), mostly for commercial sugarcane cultivation as well as forestry plantations. It has been calculated using GIS that 54% of the Ngongoni grasslands within the known range of this species have been transformed. However, this may be an underestimate as the new vegetation map of South Africa (Mucina and Rutherford 2006) does not distinguish between moist and dry Ngongoni grasslands (C.R. Scott-Shaw pers. comm.), and the drier grasslands are less severely transformed. Remaining subpopulations are small, isolated and mainly confined to road verges, and the species is suspected to be declining due to poor recruitment and dispersal.

There are more subpopulations than indicated by the number of collections (C.R. Scott-Shaw pers. comm.). This species used to be quite common, but as its habitat is prime agricultural land, subpopulations are now mainly confined to road verges and other refugia (Stirton and Gordon-Gray 1978) and it is very difficult to estimate the number of remaining subpopulations.

Population trend
Not currently conserved in any formally protected area.
Type collection: The type specimen, Sanderson s.n. (K) appears to have been collected somewhere in the former Transvaal. However, this species has never been recorded in that area, and similar, suitable habitat as in the known distribution does not occur there, and it appears that the specimen may have been mislabelled (Stirton and Gordon-Gray 1978).
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Eriosema populifolium Benth. ex Harv. subsp. populifolium EN A2c; B1ab(ii,iii,iv)Raimondo et al. (2009)
Eriosema populifolium Benth. ex Harv. subsp. populifolium VU Scott-Shaw (1999)

Mucina, L. and Rutherford, M.C. (eds). 2006. The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

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.

Scott-Shaw, C.R. 1999. Rare and threatened plants of KwaZulu-Natal and neighbouring regions. KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service, Pietermaritzburg.

Stirton, C.H. and Gordon-Gray, K.D. 1978. The Eriosema cordatum complex. I. The Eriosema populifolium group. Bothalia 12(3):395-404.

von Staden, L. & Raimondo, D. 2007. Eriosema populifolium Benth. ex Harv. subsp. populifolium. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2023/02/08

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Distribution map

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