We were delighted to discover at the recent Hermanus Wild Flower Festival that we had uncovered a new species for our Coastal Herbarium.
Most of us are familiar with the fairly common root parasite, Hyobanche sanguinea, or Katnaels, and we had assumed for many years that this was the only species which occurred in our area. However, in addition to the usual bright red flower which we usually have on display at the Flower Festival, this year a second specimen was brought in by Dr Vic Hamilton-Atwell which differed somewhat from the usual. This specimen was larger, had less curved corolla tubes and was pink instead of red.
Luckily botanical artist Linda de Wet was at her usual post in the marquee at the Show. She spotted the specimen and was able to tell us that, having recently painted it, she had had it identified as a newly-described species Hyobanche thinophila.
This species is found along the coast from Yzerfontein to Stilbaai and is, in fact, the plant which appeared in the S A Wild Flower Guide No 5 (Hottentot’s Holland to Hermanus) under the name H. sanguinea. Jose and I photographed the plant at Betty’s Bay and noted at the time that it looked a little different to the plants we knew from the Hermanus mountain, but had no idea that it would turn out 30 years later to be a new species!
Dr Andrea Wolfe of the Ohio State University spent a number of seasons in South Africa studying the genus Hyobanche, of which 7 species had previously been described. She noted that several populations along the coast of the Western Cape did not match the descriptions of other named species and in particular were very different to H. sanguinea She named this new species H thinophila, which means ‘sand-dune-loving’
Article and photos by Lee Burman