Home Don't just hike Flora-good Frithia Pulchra
The world at our feet ...
This group consists of those trees and plants indigenous to the area but the ones selected are randomly picked from a vast list.
Look with astonishment at these small indigenous plants as you walk over the rough terrain of the Magaliesberg. Feel their juicy grey leaves and wonder how they exist in this environment and admire the bright coloured flowers.
The world at our feet …
In the Magaliesberg dwells a small plant that is native to South Africa, and indeed, is found hardly anywhere else but on our favourite Sunday hills. You’ll find it growing in gravel patches on the higher slopes. It’s easy to find when in flower but you’re cleverer to spot it when it isn’t. It’s called …
The genus was named after Frank Frith, gardener of the South African Railways in Pretoria. 'Pulchra', the specific name, is derived from the Latin word for beautiful. Frithia pulchra is the only species in its genus, and belongs to the Mesembryanthemaceae, the ‘vygie’ family. Popular names include ‘window plant’, ‘fairy elephant’s feet’ and ‘baboon’s fingers’.
It occurs in the Magaliesberg, from Pilanesberg to Pretoria and in isolated pockets further east near Bronkhorstspruit and Witbank. It grows in very shallow 'washes' of coarse, gravelly quartzite-derived soil over Magaliesberg quartzite rock, at altitudes around 1500-1600m. The pH of such soil is 5.5 to 6 - notably acid. In these areas, the average annual rainfall, which occurs mainly from October to March, is about 700mm, while the average monthly maximum temperature is 34 degrees in summer and between 18-25 degrees in winter.
The Frithia plant consists of a small rosette of fingerlike leaves which lie largely buried in the gravel. The leaves are club-shaped, that is, broadest towards the tips, which are truncated. After rains the leaves swell and protrude to about 10-25mm above the surrounding gravel. In winter and in times of drought, the leaves shrivel and almost disappear beneath the gravel, thus reducing transpiration and helping the plant to avoid loss of water. The flat tips of the leaves are translucent and have no chlorophyll, which allows the sunlight through to the inner parts where chlorophyll is present. In summer, the flowers appear and often cover the whole plant. The flowers are 25mm across and usually a glossy magenta, shading to white in the centre of the flower. A white-flowered form also exists.
Use your sight to obtain a glimpse of these beautiful plants.