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Brand New Fynbos Species Discovered

Brand New Fynbos Species Discovered

Gans-Berg Nuus / News

Brand New Fynbos Species Discovered

-The ‘Nuwejaars Lily’-

The discovery of a beautiful and brand-new Fynbos species, the ‘Nuwejaars Lily’ (Nuwejaars Lelie) in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area (Nuwejaars Vleiland Spesiale Bestuursgebied) (NWSMA) had all botanical experts bemused. The plant has been confirmed to be a new fynbos species and has been officially named a Cyrtanthus novus-annus (Latin for Nuwejaars) - ‘Nuwejaars Lily’.  

The pretty pink and white-flowered plants have only been found in two locations - both on the NWSMA close to the most southerly tip of Africa.  With fewer than 250 plants in total, covering an area of less than 5km², the new Cyrtanthus will likely be classified as Endangered on the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Red List once assessed.  Dr Dee Snijman, an expert on Cyrtanthus said: “The species epithet honours the recent restoration of biodiversity in the Nuwejaars Wetlands area.”  

 
A new sister for the Bredasdorp Lily

In a botanical twist, the Cyrtanthus novus-annus is seen as a sister species to the Critically Endangered Cyrtanthus guthrieae (the Bredasdorp Lily), given their resemblance and their reasonable proximity to each other.  The Bredasdorp Lily only occurs in the mountains above the town, with a population also of around 250 plants.  There’s only one other example of a sister pair in the Amaryllidaceae family in the Western Cape, near Wellington.

This most unexpected discovery took place in 2019 when during an exploratory NWSMA trip, a small population of soft pink and white flowering plants were spotted.  Farmer and NWSMA member Liohan Giliomee, on whose property it was first seen, didn’t recognise the species.  Neither did environmental educator Sharon Brink, nor the NWSMA team. 

 
The experts were called in 

With the help of the horticulturist Geoff Nichols and the Botanical Society of South Africa’s Rupert Koopman, the experts were brought in to undertake a complete assessment earlier this year, including Dr Snijman and Dr John Manning.  Snijman has just released her scientific paper: “A new species of Cyrtanthus (Amaryllidaceae: Cyrtantheae) from the Agulhas Plain, Western Cape, South Africa”.  She says in the paper, “The unexpected discovery in 2019 of a small population of Cyrtanthus on the Agulhas Plain that could not be matched with any known taxon prompted the description of one further species.”

Koopman said: “This is a great story which highlights how special the Overberg is in terms of plant diversity.  And in fact, how special the fynbos biome is in general, considering that we are still picking up new species even in well-known areas.”

The new species occurs on low, open vegetation, which includes elements of both Central Rûens Shale Renosterveld and Elim Ferricrete Fynbos.  Both are Critically Endangered.  Koopman adds: “It also shows the importance of the integration of the botanical community.  This species went from the Nuwejaars conservation team, through a series of botanical experts and I acted as a courier to SANBI’s taxonomist to ultimately describe the species. This outcome - that the species is now formally described and can be assessed to receive a red list status - is essential.”

 
Hardus Botha

(Resource: NWSMA) 

Images: The newly discovered Fynbos species, the ‘Nuwejaars Lily’.

Brand New Fynbos Species Discovered

Gans-Berg Nuus / News

Gans-Berg Nuus is a weekly bilingual community newspaper serving Gansbaai and the surrounding Overstrand areas. With a front page that alternates between Afrikaans and English each week, Gans-Berg Nuus / News is proud to be a platform that stays up to date with local news stories, important municipa...

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