Waterlily Sugarbush

Scientific Name
Protea subvestita N.E.Br.
Higher Classification
Protea lacticolor Salisb. var. angustata E.Phillips, Protea lacticolor Salisb. var. orientalis (Sim) E.Phillips
Common Names
Igwanishe (x), Isiqalaba (z), Isiqalaba (x), Isiqane (x), Lip-flower Sugarbush (e), Lippeblom-suikerbos (a), Waterlily Sugarbush (e)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
A.G. Rebelo, H. Mtshali & L. von Staden
Protea subvestita is a widespread Drakensberg Escarpment endemic, occurring in South Africa and Lesotho. Its extent of occurrence (EOO) is 210 930 km², and area of occupancy (AOO) is 944 km². It is common in many areas of its range, although declining due to harvesting for firewood and too frequent fires, this species still occurs at many locations. Therefore it is listed as Least Concern.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga
This species is endemic to Drakensberg Escarpment from near Wakkerstroom in the north to the Eastern Cape. It also occurs on outlying mountains at Qudeni, Noodsberg and Ngele. It formerly occurred in Lesotho, but no subpopulations could be located in recent surveys.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Midlands Mistbelt Grassland, Mooi River Highland Grassland, Low Escarpment Moist Grassland, Mthatha Moist Grassland, East Griqualand Grassland, Drakensberg Foothill Moist Grassland, Eastern Free State Sandy Grassland, Wakkerstroom Montane Grassland, Lesotho Highland Basalt Grassland, uKhahlamba Basalt Grassland, Drakensberg-Amathole Afromontane Fynbos, Northern Drakensberg Highland Grassland, Southern Drakensberg Highland Grassland, Amathole Mistbelt Grassland, Amathole Montane Grassland
It is confined to infrequently burned habitats, often associated with gullies, scarps and forest margins. Occasional fires are required for successful recruitment. Mature individuals are killed by fires, and only seeds survive. Wind-dispersed seeds are stored in fire-resistant inflorescences, and released after fires. It is pollinated by birds.
This species is threatened by over-harvesting for firewood, carving and curios. As a serotinous reseeder it is vulnerable to too frequent burning of grasslands. Local extinctions can occur if fires repeatedly kill individuals before they reach reproductive maturity. However, since grasslands burn on a one to five year return interval, this species is confined to infrequently burned habitats, often associated with gullies, scarps and forest margins.

Protea subvestita is found growing, most commonly in colonies forming open woodland, rarely in dense thickets. Apparently it was present in Sehlabathebe Nature Reserve in Lesotho, and was likely common in parts of Lesotho in the past as it is commemorated by villages named after this species (Liqalabeng). This species is however no longer present in Lesotho as none were found during the Protea Atlas Project that conducted extensive surveys between 1996 and 2002. It is common across many parts of the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Drakensberg. It appears to be declining in the midlands (e.g. at Noodsberg and Qudeni) where subpopulations are small and localities more susceptible to fires. There has been evidence of extensive collecting of logs for firewood and carving at several localities. It is well conserved in many Drakensberg reserves and parks, although too frequent burning in some reserves may be a concern. A continuing population decline is inferred from over-harvesting and habitat degradation in parts of its range.

Population trend
It is found in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and Pongolo Bush Reserve. Its presence in Sehlabathebe National Park was not sufficient to prevent it from going extinct in Lesotho.
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Protea subvestita N.E.Br.Least Concern 2014.1
Protea subvestita N.E.Br.VU B2ab(iii,v)2013.1
Protea subvestita N.E.Br.VU B2ab(iii,v)Raimondo et al. (2009)
Protea subvestita N.E.Br.Lower Risk - Near Threatened Scott-Shaw (1999)
Protea subvestita N.E.Br.Not Threatened Hilton-Taylor (1996)

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

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.

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

Manning, J.C. and Goldblatt, P. 2012. Plants of the Greater Cape Floristic Region 1: The Core Cape Flora. Strelitzia 29. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Pooley, E. 2003. Mountain flowers: a field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

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.

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. Protea subvestita N.E.Br. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version . Accessed on 2024/04/17

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Distribution map

© L. von Staden

© L. von Staden

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