Dwarf Savanna Sugarbush

Scientific Name
Protea welwitschii Engl.
Higher Classification
Leucadendron welwitschii Hiern, Protea hirta Klotzsch (later homonym), not of L. (1771), Protea hirta Klotzsch ex Krauss, not of L. subsp. glabrescens Beard, Protea welwitschii Engl. subsp. glabrescens (Beard) Beard, Protea welwitschii Engl. subsp. goetzeana (Engl.) Beard, Protea welwitschii Engl. subsp. hirta Beard, Protea welwitschii Engl. var. glabrescens (Beard) Beard
Common Names
Cluster-head Sugarbush (e), Dwarf Savanna Sugarbush (e), Isiqalaba (z), Kleinsuikerbos (a), Suikerbos (a), Troshofie-suikerbos (a), Welwitsch-se-suikerbos (a), White Sugar-bush (e), Witsuikerbos (a), Witsuikerboskan (a)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
A.G. Rebelo, H. Mtshali & L. von Staden
This is a widespread species in the eastern and northern provinces of South Africa. The existing threats to this species' habitats are unlikely to cause a severe population decline in the near future. It is therefore listed as Least Concern.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West
This species is widespread across northern South Africa, with an isolated subpopulation in southern KwaZulu-Natal. It is also widespread across southern and tropical Africa, occurring in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Uganda.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Mooi River Highland Grassland, Carletonville Dolomite Grassland, Rand Highveld Grassland, Eastern Highveld Grassland, Sekhukhune Montane Grassland, Lydenburg Thornveld, Strydpoort Summit Sourveld, Waterberg-Magaliesberg Summit Sourveld, Steenkampsberg Montane Grassland, Long Tom Pass Montane Grassland, KwaZulu-Natal Coastal Belt Grassland, Northern KwaZulu-Natal Moist Grassland, KwaZulu-Natal Sandstone Sourveld, Gauteng Shale Mountain Bushveld, Andesite Mountain Bushveld, Central Sandy Bushveld, Loskop Mountain Bushveld, Western Sandy Bushveld, Waterberg Mountain Bushveld, Dwarsberg-Swartruggens Mountain Bushveld, Marikana Thornveld, Moot Plains Bushveld, Gold Reef Mountain Bushveld, Dry Coast Hinterland Grassland
It is very variable in habitat, from subtropical to cool montane grasslands, 300-2000 m. It is a long-lived species, with a generation length of 50-100 years, and survives fires by resprouting from underground boles or rootstocks. Wind-dispersed seeds are released to lie on the ground and germinate under suitable conditions. It is pollinated by beetles and birds.
While most of the population is not declining, there has been some loss of habitat, suspected to be less than 10%, to crop cultivation and urban and rural housing developments. This species is also susceptible to fire damage, and that probably accounts for the low-growing habit of many plants (Coates Palgrave, 2002).

It is widespread with thousands of subpopulations known. Currently it is not declining.

Population trend
It is extremely variable throughout its range. Although many varieties have been recognized in the past, some of which were geographically distinct, none is currently upheld by most taxonomists. In Zimbabwe, this species can be confused with P. gaguedi. It is distinguished from this species by its unusual habit of producing 2-4 flower heads together, and the fact that its old flower heads open out flat when the seeds are shed, whereas those of P. gaguedi remain cup-shaped (Coates Palgrave 2002).
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Protea welwitschii Engl. subsp. welwitschii Least Concern Raimondo et al. (2009)
Protea welwitschii Engl.Lower Risk - Near Threatened Scott-Shaw (1999)
Protea welwitschii Engl. subsp. welwitschii Not Threatened Hilton-Taylor (1996)

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

Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik, Cape Town.

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.

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 welwitschii Engl. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version . Accessed on 2024/04/17

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Distribution map

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