Drakensberg Sugarbush

Scientific Name
Protea dracomontana Beard
Higher Classification
Common Names
Drakensberg Dwarf Sugarbush (e), Drakensberg Sugarbush (e), Drakensbergse Dwergsuikerbos (a)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
A.G. Rebelo, H. Mtshali & L. von Staden
Protea dracomontana is widespread, common and not in danger of extinction. It therefore qualifies as Least Concern.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Free State, KwaZulu-Natal
This species is widespread in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, extending to adjacent areas in the Free State Province. It also occurs at Ngele, an outlier peak in the Drakensberg foothills near the southern border of KwaZulu-Natal. An isolated subpopulation occurs on the summit of Nyangani Mountain in eastern Zimbabwe. It was historically recorded in Lesotho, but no recent records exist and it may be locally extinct.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Mooi River Highland Grassland, Low Escarpment Moist Grassland, Southern KwaZulu-Natal Moist Grassland, Drakensberg Foothill Moist Grassland, Lesotho Highland Basalt Grassland, uKhahlamba Basalt Grassland, Northern Drakensberg Highland Grassland, Southern Drakensberg Highland Grassland, Drakensberg Afroalpine Heathland
It occurs in montane grassland and among rocks, 1300-3000 m. It is a long-lived species, and survives fires by resprouting from underground boles or rootstocks. Wind-dispersed seeds are not stored on the plant, and are released immediately after ripening. It is pollinated by birds and insects.
Protea dracomontana has declined somewhat in the Drakensberg foothills due to habitat loss to agriculture, timber plantations and expanding rural settlements. Loss continues outside protected areas, but the majority of the population in South Africa is well-protected in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg National Park, where it has no severe threats.

This species is common in the Drakensberg, where it occurs in dense, isolated stands. It is declining outside protected areas in KwaZulu-Natal and the Witsieshoek region in the Free State, but the majority of the population in South Africa is stable. The subpopulation in Zimbabwe is also protected, and is assumed to be stable.

Population trend
There is a dispute as to whether the isolated subpopulation on Mount Nyangani in Zimbabwe is a separate species, P. inyanganiensis, or not. There are some morphological differences, but the main difference is that the plants on Mount Nyangani flower at a different time. The most recent literature (Chisumpa at al. 2006, Rebelo 2001) treats it as a single species.
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Protea dracomontana BeardLeast Concern Raimondo et al. (2009)
Protea dracomontana BeardLower Risk - Least Concern Scott-Shaw (1999)

Chisumpa, S.M., Brummitt, R.K. and Marner, S. 2006. Proteaceae. In: G.V. Pope, R.M. Polhill and E.S. Martins (eds). Flora Zambesiaca 9 (Part 3):49-85. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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

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Distribution map

© C. Grant

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