Soapstone Pincushion

Scientific Name
Leucospermum gerrardii Stapf
Higher Classification
Common Names
Soapstone Pincushion (e)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Vulnerable A4c; B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii)
Assessment Date
A.G. Rebelo, H. Mtshali & L. von Staden
Leucospermum gerrardii has a limited distribution range, with an Extent of Occurrence of 11 632-11 724 km², and an Area of Occupancy of 84-96 km². The population is severely fragmented and there is continuing decline due to ongoing habitat loss and degradation. A population reduction of 35-40%, inferred from the recent rate of habitat loss, is projected to be met by 2119, over a period of less than three generations for this long-lived resprouter (generation length 50-100 years), which includes two generations in the past and one generation projected into the future.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga
Leucospermum gerrardii has a limited distribution range in the Barberton Mountains in eastern Mpumalanga, South Africa, extending to adjacent areas in north-western Swaziland. It is rare in KwaZulu-Natal, where it is known from a small area between Nkandla and Ndwedwe.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
KwaZulu-Natal Sandstone Sourveld, Barberton Serpentine Sourveld, Midlands Mistbelt Grassland, Moist Coast Hinterland Grassland, Barberton Montane Grassland, KaNgwane Montane Grassland
It occurs predominantly on sandstone derived soils in mistbelt and drier Ngongoni grasslands, and is often associated with serpentine, 800-1600 m. It is a long-lived species, and survives fires by resprouting from underground stems. Seeds are released after ripening, and dispersed by ants to their underground nests, where they are protected from predation and fire. It is pollinated by birds.
This species' habitat in the Barberton Mountains has been fragmented through extensive past loss to commercial timber plantations. It has also lost habitat to plantations and mining around Bulembu in Eswatini in the past. There is no significant ongoing expansion of plantations, but plantations are major sources of alien invasive plants that spread into adjacent native vegetation, and outcompete local species. Within properties owned by commercial timber companies in the Barberton Mountains, invasive plants are generally well controlled and remaining grassland fragments are in good condition. Much of the remaining grasslands in the Barberton region are now protected in provincial and private nature reserves, but livestock grazing within some protected areas is causing ongoing degradation of sensitive mistbelt grasslands, as well as aiding the spread of invasive species. In KwaZulu-Natal, large areas of this species' habitat was also lost to timber plantations in the past. None of the subpopulations are in protected areas, and overgrazing is a major ongoing threat, as well has habitat loss to expanding rural settlements and subsistence agriculture. In Eswatini, subpopulations outside protected areas are threatened by expanding rural settlements, overgrazing, and alien invasive plants. This species' habitat inside Malolotja Nature Reserve is in good condition, but alien invasive plants, particularly wattles, which are very difficult to eradicate, are spreading into the reserve. Overall, this species has already lost at least 32% of its habitat, and loss is expected to continue, although at a relatively low rate.

Subpopulations in the Barberton Mountains are all small and isolated, with no subpopulation consisting of more than 200 mature individuals. In KwaZulu-Natal, it is known from three very isolated subpopulations, with none consisting of more than 100 mature individuals. In Swaziland, subpopulations are also generally small and isolated, except within the Malolotja Nature Reserve, where this species is locally common, and known from several patches of more than 100 plants. As most individuals are in small, isolated subpopulations, the population is considered severely fragmented. This long-lived species (generation length 50-100 years) has already lost 32% of its habitat, and based on recent rates of habitat loss (1990-2014) a population reduction of 30-40% is expected to occur within three generations including two generations in the past, and one projected into the future.

Population trend
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Leucospermum gerrardii StapfVU A4c; B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii)2020.1
Leucospermum gerrardii StapfNT A2cRaimondo et al. (2009)
Leucospermum gerrardii StapfVU A1cB1B2abcScott-Shaw (1999)
Leucospermum gerrardii StapfNot Threatened Hilton-Taylor (1996)

Boon, R. 2010. Pooley's Trees of eastern South Africa. Flora and Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.

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.

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

Rebelo, A.G., Mtshali, H. & von Staden, L. 2019. Leucospermum gerrardii Stapf. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version . Accessed on 2024/07/22

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Distribution map

© S. Louw

© S. Louw

© L. von Staden

© L. von Staden

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