Grey Conebush

Scientific Name
Leucadendron pubescens R.Br.
Higher Classification
Leucadendron elatum H.Buek ex Meisn., Leucadendron pillansii E.Phillips, Leucadendron retusum R.Br., Leucadendron sericocephalum Schltr.
Common Names
Grey Conebush (e), Knokkerbos (a), Knopbos (a), Pitjiebos (a), Pitjieknopbos (a), Silky Conebush (e), Syhaartolbos (a), Syhaar-tolbos (a)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
A.G. Rebelo, H. Mtshali & L. von Staden
Leucadendron pubescens is a widespread and abundant species. It is declining on the Bokkeveld Escarpment, in the Sandveld and Koue Bokkeveld, but is not yet in danger of extinction.
South African endemic
Provincial distribution
Northern Cape, Western Cape
Leucadendron pubescens is a widespread species, occurring from the Bokkeveld Escarpment near Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape to the Piketberg and Sandveld, and southwards through the Cederberg and Koue Bokkeveld to the Klein Swartberg and Touwsberg mountains in the Little Karoo, Western Cape.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Olifants Sandstone Fynbos, Hopefield Sand Fynbos, Swartruggens Quartzite Fynbos, Matjiesfontein Quartzite Fynbos, Bokkeveld Sandstone Fynbos, North Langeberg Sandstone Fynbos, Graafwater Sandstone Fynbos, Leipoldtville Sand Fynbos, South Swartberg Sandstone Fynbos, Agter-Sederberg Shrubland, Nardouw Sandstone Fynbos, Cederberg Sandstone Fynbos, Winterhoek Sandstone Fynbos, Piketberg Sandstone Fynbos, South Hex Sandstone Fynbos, Lambert's Bay Strandveld, Saldanha Flats Strandveld, North Swartberg Sandstone Fynbos
It occurs in sandstone and quartzite soils in montane and lowland fynbos, 0-1700 m. Mature individuals are killed by fires, and only seeds survive. Seeds are released after ripening, and dispersed by ants to their underground nests, where they are protected from predation and fire. It is dioecious, with insect-pollinated male and female flowers occurring on separate plants.
The main threat to Leucadendron pubescens is habitat loss to agricultural expansion, predominantly rapidly expanding cultivation of the deep sandy soils of the Bokkeveld Escarpment and Sandveld for rooibos tea and potatoes, and to a lesser extent, fruit orchards in the Koue Bokkeveld. About 23% of its habitat is already irreversibly modified, and loss continues. However, since this species is also widespread and abundant in montane areas that are unsuited to agriculture, the overall rate of habitat loss is very low (3% in 24 years). Other minor threats noted during field surveys are habitat degradation due to overstocking of small remnants of natural vegetation with livestock, as well as inappropriate fire management. As a reseeder, this species is vulnerable to increases in fire frequencies.

This species is extremely common, and occurs in dense stands. During Protea Atlas Project field surveys, more than 1000 subpopulations were recorded. It is suspected to be declining due to ongoing habitat loss in areas with flats with deep sandy soils, but the rate of loss is very low (3% in 24 years), and population reduction is unlikely to exceed 15% in three generations.

Population trend
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Leucadendron pubescens R.Br.Least Concern Raimondo et al. (2009)

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.

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.

Rebelo, T. 2001. Sasol Proteas: A field guide to the proteas of southern Africa. (2nd ed.). Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.

Vlok, J. and Schutte-Vlok, A.L. 2010. Plants of the Klein Karoo. Umdaus Press, Hatfield.

Rebelo, A.G., Mtshali, H. & von Staden, L. 2019. Leucadendron pubescens R.Br. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2022/01/23

Comment on this assessment Comment on this assessment
Distribution map

© J.H. Vlok/A.L. Schutte-Vlok

Search for images of Leucadendron pubescens on iNaturalist