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Leucospermum spp. Pincushion Proteas
 
Leucospermum at San Francisco Botanical Garden

Leucospermum 'Veldfire'. Photo by Mona Bourell.

Leucospermum 'California Sunshine' at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Mona Bourell Leucospermum 'Scarlet Ribbon' at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Mona Bourell Leucospermum 'Scarlet Ribbon' at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Mona Bourell Leucospermum 'Scarlet Ribbon' at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Mona Bourell Leucospermum tottum hybrid at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor Leucospermum tottum hybrid at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor Leucospermum catherinae at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Joanne Taylor Leucospermum catherinae at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Marc Johnson Leucospermum 'Veldfire' at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Mona Bourell Leucospermum reflexum var. luteum at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Marc Johnson Leucospermum erubescens at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Marc Johnson Leucospermum erubescens at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Mona Bourell Leucospermum 'Tango' at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Marc Johnson Leucospermum cordifolium red form at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Marc Johnson Leucospermum cordifolium California Sunshine at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Marc Johnson Leucospermum catherinae at San Francisco Botanical Garden by Marc Johnson
 

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Leucospermum is a genus of about 50 species of flowering plants in the family, Proteaceae. Most species are native to the Western Cape Province of South Africa, where they occupy a variety of habitats including scrub, forest, and mountain slopes. Two species occur outside of South Africa, with one each in Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Typically, Leucospermums are evergreen shrubs. Some species are groundcovers and rarely are they small trees. The shrubs are usually neatly rounded in shape and free-flowering, bearing a flower head at the end of each branch. When not in flower, a character that differentiates Leucospermum from other members of the protea family, is the presence of 'toothed' leaves. The small indentations with raised edges, often red in color, occur along the margins or at least at the leaf tips. The leaves are spirally arranged and are tough and sometimes leathery.

Unlike the genus Protea, where it is the brightly-colored bracts that surround the flowers, the actual floral parts of Leucospermum are what catch the eye. The wonderful display of color in the spring can last for four months or longer. The flowers are produced in dense inflorescences which have large numbers of prominent styles, each thickened at the apex to form the stigma. This inspires the common name, "pincushion," reminding one of pins stuck into a pincushion.

Leucospermum, the scientific name, means "white seed" and was given because the fruit, technically a nut, is very smooth and shiny, and usually whitish-grey. These oval to round fruits ripen much more quickly than those of most other members of the protea family and are released upon ripening. In their native habitats, Leucospermums are myrmecochorous, meaning there is an ant-plant mutualism which disperses the seeds. Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship that mutually benefits the ants and the plants. The seeds have an appendage called an elaiosome which attracts ants and causes them to carry the seeds to their nests, where the elaiosomes are eaten. This disperses the seeds while keeping them underground, safe from fires and predators.

Pincushions have become an increasingly significant export cut-flower crop in several countries apart from its native South Africa. There are many named cultivars, and intensive breeding programs in South Africa and Hawaii are producing spectacular hybrids with disease-resistant characteristics. Cultivars available range from dramatic groundcovers to brilliant long-stemmed flowers produced on large shrubs. Cultivars grown at SFBG include: 'Scarlet Ribbon', 'Spider', 'Tango', 'Veldfire', 'California Sunshine', 'Yellow Bird', and 'Helderfontein'.

IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Joanne Taylor, Mona Bourell and Marc Johnson.

Location

Leucospermum spp. can be found in the South African garden (Beds 26B, 27F, 27H, 30, 32A-C, 42A, 42B, 43).
Visiting Info >>
Map (Bed Numbers) >>

Profile

Scientific Name Leucospermum spp.
Family Proteaceae
Plant Type Mostly shrubs
Environment Can be difficult in cultivation. Full sun, well drained, acidic soil, good air circulation, with some summer watering. Generally intolerant of rich soils. Applications of fertilizers with phosphorus not recommended. Young or un-established plants should be protected from frost.
Bloom Spring to Summer at the Garden.
Uses Excellent garden plants, for groupings or focal points. Great for cut flowers that have a long vase life.
More Info Species and cultivars in the garden: Leucospermum catherinae
Leucospermum cordifolium
Leucospermum erubescens
Leucospermum formosum
Leucospermum reflexum
Leucospermum reflexum var. luteum
Leucospermum cordifolium 'California Sunshine'
Leucospermum 'Scarlet Ribbon'
Leucospermum 'Spider'
Leucospermum 'Tango'
Leucospermum 'Veldfire'
Leucospermum glabrum 'Helderfontein'
Leucospermum tottum hybrid

Many plants in the Proteaceae family are short-lived, sensitive to the fungus Phytopthora and resent having their roots disturbed.
 
 
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Vaccinium ovatum

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Sambucus racemosa

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Sequoia sempervirens

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Asarum caudatum

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Deppea splendens

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Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

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Bomaria spp.

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Rhododendron occidentale

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Polystichum munitum

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x Chiranthofremontia lenzii

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Salvia leucantha

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Hydrangea seemannii

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Wollemia nobilis

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Cyathea cooperi

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Pinus radiata

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Correa spp.

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Garrya elliptica

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Magnolia x soulangeana

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February

Senecio glastifolius

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Ribes spp.

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April

Oxalis oregana

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May

Calandrinia grandiflora

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Taxus baccata

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Romneya coulteri

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Passiflora parritae

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Malvaviscus arboreus

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Monterey Cypress

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Aloe arborescens

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Aloe plicatilis

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January

Banksia seminuda

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February

Zantedeschia elliottiana

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Magnolia laevifolia

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Araucaria heterophylla

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May

Toxicodendron diversilobum

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Clarkia sp.

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Protea repens

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Camellia sinensis

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Thujopsis dolabrata

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Gordonia longicarpa

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Rojasianthe superba

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Echium spp.

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April

Iris douglasiana

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Digitalis purpurea

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Felicia amelloides

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Ceroxylon quindiuense

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Amaryllis belladonna

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Ginkgo biloba

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Acer morrisonense

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Ilex aquifolium

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Picea sitchensis

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Telanthophora grandifolia

Telanthophora grandifolia

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Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwartzkopf'

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Leptospermum Spp.

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Salvia gesneraeflora

Salvia gesneraeflora

May

Lavandula spp.

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June

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Fuchsia paniculata

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Luculia

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Rhododendron

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Fremontodendron californicum

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