Bushveld Section of the Conservatory
A portion of the waterberg conglomerate showing Drimia epigea, Monadenium lugardiae, Pachypodium saundersiae, Sansevieria pearsonii and Jatropha variifolia.

The Bushveld regions are situated in northern South Africa. The climate is subtropical characterized by hot summers with thunder-showers and warm to mild winters. The plants in this region have a summer growing cycle. The typical vegetation consists of savanna, a grassland containing trees & shrubs. These include flat-topped Acacia, Albizia, bush willows, cork bark, wild figs, mopane trees, aloes, mother-in-laws-tongue, and baobab trees.

The region is also rich in succulent plants, especially Euphorbia, Aloe and Sansevieria. The succulent plants found here compared to the winter active succulent karoo are larger and thickset or cylindric, with a much lower diversity.

The region is vast and extends to tropical Africa in the north. Geologically it is also diverse. Formation introduced into the Conservatory include Sandrivier Gneiss, sandstone, dolomite and Waterberg conglomerate.

The baobab (Adansonia digitata) is the central and largest plant in the conservatory and is now very well established. It is deciduous, losing its leaves in May and producing new leaves at the end of November each year. It is a great survivor in spite of heavy abuse in the African savanna from both man and beast. Elephants eat the tree bark. Local people strip the bark to make mats and use the inner part of the tree as shelter.



Sesamothamnus lugardii is a dwarf thickset tree that grows to 3 meters high. It has small gray leaves and tubular white flowers. It is widespread in dry regions. Other interesting introductions to this section include: Sterculia rogersii, mopane (Colophospermum mopane), cork bark (Commiphora marlothii, C. mollis, C. africana, C. merkeri, C. glandulosa). A mopane tree was also introduced, but kept low due to its potential size. Wild figs planted here include F. tettensis, F. stuhlmannii and F. abutilifolia. The bushveld dragon tree (Dracaena transvaalensis) is endemic to the dolomitic formations in the Olifants River Valley of Mpumalanga. It is a small tree or branched shrub bearing rosettes of dark green leaves and warty fruits. It belongs to the family Dracaenaceae and is illustrated in the photo below. The four local Sansevieria species belonging to the same family were introduced in the display. These include:S. pearsonii, S. halli, S. hyacinthoides and S. aethiopica.


The Mpumalanga region holds the worlds richest concentration of aloe species. Typical aloes introduced include: A. alooides, A. angelica, A. fosteri, A. dolomitica, A. aculeata, A. brandraaiensis, A. burgersfortensis, A. immaculata, A. zebrina, A. vogtsii, A. petrophila and A. monotropa.


The indigenous leopard orchid (Ansellia africana) grows normally epiphytically on mopane bark (Colophospermum mopane), but occasionally on rocks. It forms dense clusters and flowers during spring. It has been planted along the step railing. Eulophia petersii, another terrestrial orchid, has large green succulent pseudobulbs forming clusters here among the Sansevieria and aloe.


Three Haworthia species occur in the Bushveld regions: H. macmurtryi, H. limifolia and H. koelemaniorum. Gasteria batesiana have been introduced from Mpumalanga and planted among dolomite rocks. They flower during late spring. Euphorbia trees are well represented in the Bushveld and all the arborescent species were introduced into the conservatory. These include: the naboom (E. ingens), E. confinalis, E. excelsa, E. lydenburgensis, E. grandidens, E. cooperi, E. zoutpansbergensis, and E. rowlandii. E. grandialata is a spreading shrub with very attractive mottled stems. It is in the foreground in the photo on the right right. In the background of the photo, Encephalartos inopinus and Dracaena transvaalensis are represented. E. grandicornis is similar, but has green stems and longer spines. E. keithii, a rare endemic from the Lebombo mountains, is also thriving here. Euphorbia knobelii and E. perangusta are attractive shrubs bearing yellow flowers, both rare endemics from the North West Province.

The aromatic Hemizygia petrensis and Plectranthus venteri, both shrublets from the Bushveld, have been used throughout this section as a chemical deterrent to insect pests.


Bushveld plants are well adapted to disturbances. Arons rod (Tinospora fragosa), or wonder plant, is a creeper with succulent stems to the thickness of a mans arm, beautiful heart-shaped leaves and red berries. When detachment from the soil is caused by animal disturbances, it grows a survival root at the rate of 1,5 cm per day. This can happen 4 meters above ground level. The initial root is thin and once re-rooted will continue to grow. If broken again the plant refuses to give up and will simply grow another new root. It is deciduous, losing its leaves in winter. Roots only start re-growing during the rainy season in summer or autumn. The vernacular name 'Arons rod' is derived from a biblical incident and a dispute over leadership. It was Arons rod which sprouted, proving him the true leader of Israel. (See Deuteronomy 24.)

Plants are well adapted to grazing patterns. Sansevieria, when grazed, leaves stolons behind which resprout later. Other interesting succulent plants include the Impala lily (Adenium multiflorum, A. oleifolium and A. swazicum). These are striking with their pink flowers. Pachypodium saundersii, Ceropegia stapeliiformis, C. ampliata, Stapelia clavicorona, S. gettliffei and Huernia zebrina have also been included in the display. The bushveld region of Mpumalanga is rich is Cycad species and several have been planted here, such as E. inopinus, ( see above) E. cupidus, E. eugene maraisii and E. lanatus. These palm-like plants produce cones (males and females separate) and are very popular collector's items.

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