Characteristics of Silvertree (Leucadendron argenteum) in the Wild

Leucadendron argenteum
Silvertree or Silver Protea (Leucadendron argenteum) is an endangered species of tree in the family Proteaceae, endemic to a small area of ​​the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.

Silvertree grows in and around the city of Cape Town. The main population is on the slopes of Table Mountain, especially the Lion’s Head area, above the Rhodes Memorial and the slopes above the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

In addition, there are three isolated populations nearby, in Stellenbosch, Somerset West, and Paarl (it is not certain whether these are natural outliers, or planted here). The population of Somerset West is located within a natural heritage site called Silvertree Gorge, on the outskirts of Spanish Farm.

Historically, Silvertree was more widespread on Table Mountain, covering most of its slopes in a shimmering silver forest. However, in the past, the demand for its wood caused much of this forest to be cut down and now the silver tree is a rare and endangered species.

Leucadendron argenteum is a protected tree in South Africa.

 
The main barrier to Silvertree propagation is its short life span, as most do not live more than 20 years. But this does not affect their conservation, as fires rejuvenate populations on average every 15-20 years by killing living mature trees and triggering seed release, and germination.

Silvertree seeds can be stored and live for 80 years. Trees grew from seed take about 5-7 years to flower and produce seeds.

 

Characteristics of Silvertree Leaf

Leucadendron argenteum Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/leah164

The leaves are lanceolate, soft, smooth, glossy silver in color, 8-15 cm long and 2 cm wide, with a silvery sheen produced by dense velvety hairs.

 

Characteristics of Silvertree Flower

Leucadendron argenteum Flower
Source: inaturalist.org/fieke2

The flowers are round, 4-5 cm in diameter, and emit a pleasant aroma. Like all Leucadendrons, Silvertree is dioecious, with separate male and female plants.

 

Characteristics of Silvertree Fruit

Leucadendron argenteum Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/joctober

The fruit is a heavy, woody cone, and contains many seeds. Each seed is small with fine hairs, allowing it to be dispersed by the wind.

 

Characteristics of Silvertree

Leucadendron argenteum Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/communitree

Silvertree is a tree of striking color, growing to a height of 5-7 meters (the tallest up to 16 meters). The tree is erect and well-proportioned with thick, straight trunks and gray bark.

It grows most optimally on cool, eastern, and southern slopes, in clay derived from granite, at elevations of 100-150 m asl.

 

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