Witsenberg Conebush

Scientific Name
Leucadendron chamelaea (Lam.) I.Williams
Higher Classification
Leucadendron decurrens R.Br.
Common Names
Witsenberg Conebush (e)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Critically Endangered A4c
Assessment Date
A.G. Rebelo, H. Mtshali & L. von Staden
A population reduction of 80% is projected to be met within the next 20 years based on observed population decline between 1995 and 2004. This species has a generation length of 20 years.
South African endemic
Provincial distribution
Western Cape
This species is endemic to the Western Cape, where it occurs from the Koue Bokkeveld to Franschhoek Valley.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Breede Alluvium Renosterveld, Winterhoek Sandstone Fynbos, Cederberg Sandstone Fynbos, Breede Shale Fynbos, Kouebokkeveld Shale Fynbos, Breede Sand Fynbos, Leipoldtville Sand Fynbos, Breede Alluvium Fynbos, Kouebokkeveld Alluvium Fynbos
It occurs in seasonally damp sandy flats, 150-1000 m. Mature individuals are killed by fires, and only seeds survive. Seeds are released after ripening, and is stored in surface leaf-litter. It is dioecious, with insect-pollinated male and female flowers occurring on separate plants.
This species' habitat has been severely reduced by cultivation of fruit vineyards, potatoes and other cash crops. It has lost at least 50% of its habitat, and 5% was lost between 1990 and 2014. Remaining subpopulations are now confined to road verges and small fragments where they are threatened by a lack of fire, alien invasive plants and road verge clearing. Agricultural pest control has also caused a decline in some subpopulations.

Formerly extensive subpopulations in the Breede River Valley, Witsenberg Vlakte and Koue Bokkeveld have been severely reduced and fragmented by agricultural expansion, with most plants now persisting in small remnants and road verges. A large proportion (30%) of the remaining subpopulation in the Breede River Valley was lost to road verge clearing in 2004. The majority of a large subpopulation of several thousand plants on the Witsenberg Vlakte recorded during Protea Atlas Monitoring between 1995 and 1997 has subsequently been lost to expanding orchards. At least 50% of subpopulations known through historical records are now locally extinct. The only large remaining subpopulation, consisting of >1000 mature individuals, is in the northern Koue Bokkeveld. Population reductions based on habitat loss underestimates the extent to which this species has declined over the past 40 years, as it has declined mainly due to road verge clearing and agricultural pest control - it is estimated to have declined by at least 60% within two generations. If loss continues, it is likely to exceed 80% within the next 20 years. This species is easily confused with L. corymbosum, and has led to contradictory reports on the status of this species in the past. Claims that this species is tolerant to grazing and ploughing are based on such misidentifications (Hall 1982, Hall 1984, Hall and Veldhuis 1985). The species was thought to be locally extinct in the Groot Drakenstein, Agter-Witsenberg and Koue Bokkeveld, but subpopulations have been rediscovered during Protea Atlas Project surveys (1991-2001).

Population trend
Only a single isolated subpopulation of less than 100 plants in the Groot Winterhoek is currently conserved.
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Leucadendron chamelaea (Lam.) I.WilliamsCR A4cRaimondo et al. (2009)
Leucadendron chamelaea (Lam.) I.WilliamsEndangered Hilton-Taylor (1996)
Leucadendron chamelaea (Lam.) I.WilliamsEndangered Hall et al. (1980)

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. and Veldhuis, R.N.J. 1985. South Arican red data book: Plants - Fynbos and Karoo biomes. South African National Scientific Programmes Report 117. CSIR, Pretoria.

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.

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

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

Rebelo, A.G., Mtshali, H. & von Staden, L. 2018. Leucadendron chamelaea (Lam.) I.Williams. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2022/01/23

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Distribution map

© I. Ebrahim

© I. Ebrahim

© I. Ebrahim

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