One of the most colourful succulent plants is undoubtedly the Fanta-orange-coloured
'vygie', Lampranthus aureus. It's one of the 'must-have'
plants for the succulent garden.
This vygie, Lampranthus aureus,(vygies also refer to other
colourful plants in the family Aizoaceae) is a neatly rounded, erect,
small shrub that grows up to about 400 x 500 mm. The leaves are
paired, free or slightly fused at the base, dark green and grow
to 50 mm. The most attractive aspect of the plant is its unbelievably
bright orange flowers. The shiny orange flowers are borne singly
or in clusters on short stalks, are 60 mm in diameter and appear
from August. Yellow forms also occur. Flowers are followed by a
woody fruit capsule that has five locules (locules are little compartments
in which the seeds are borne).
Lampranthus aureus occurs in a broad band along the southwest
and west coast of Western Cape from Vredenburg to Saldanha. The
plants seem to have a preference for sandy, loamy soils and granite
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name is derived from the Greek words, lampros (bright)
and anthos (flower), referring to the large showy flowers.
The Lampranthus genus is one of the largest genera in the
Aizoaceae family. The genus consists of 227 species and 13 varieties.
Other related species are found along the coast of Namibia, Northern,
Western and Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal.
are all pollinated by insects at midday when flowers are fully open.
In the past these plants were known as midday plants. They are also
referred to as 'municipal workers' as the flowers open at 9 am and
close at 5 pm. Swollen leaves, fat with water, ensure the survival
of the plant during long, hot and dry spells. Brightly coloured
flowers are advertisements to pollinators for ensuring seed production.
Another adaptation for survival is the abundance of seeds that are
produced. The more seeds there are, the better the chances of germination
and ultimately the survival of the species. These plants will only
disperse their seeds once water has become available. Seeds are
able to survive in the capsule for many, many months. When it rains,
the capsule swells up and opens so that the splashing drops displace
seeds onto the ground where they will germinate quickly. The plant
does this so that precious seeds aren't wasted if there is not adequate
Uses and cultural aspects
There are no medicinal or traditional uses associated with these
plants. They are however sought out for their use in the garden.
Lampranthus aureus is cultivated extensively for the horticultural
industry. The plants are very showy, tough and thus make fantastic
Growing Lampranthus aureus
plants are best suited for winter rainfall areas where hot summers
are experienced. The plants do not thrive in areas that are subject
to prolonged periods of frost. They can withstand drought very well
and do not need much care.
To enjoy the best results from plants one can use them either in
small groups directly in the garden or in window boxes and small
containers in sunny spots. Remember that these plants require sunny
areas to flower at their best. A suggested garden layout is to mix
this particular species with other related species in mixed or single
colour groups. Other bright-coloured species are
L. multiradiatus, L. hoerleinianus and L. reptans.
Lampranthus affinis is also a good
garden. Lampranthus aureus can also be used in rock gardens,
on steep slopes or embankments as mass plantings.
Plants can be grown from seeds that are sown in summer or winter
in river sand. Seeds are then kept in an enclosed area where they
are moistened regularly. Cuttings are best rooted after fruiting
Not many pests attack these plants. Occasionally, plants suffer
from scale attack in which a systemic pesticide will help. Compost
and bone meal will ensure and enhance healthy growth of plants.
- Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus
of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National
Botanical Institute, Cape Town and Missouri Botanical Garden.
- Smith, G.F., Van Jaarsveld, E., Hammer, S., Chesselet, P., Hartman,
H., Burgoyne, P., Van Wyk, B-E. & Kurzweil, H. 1998. Mesembs
of the world. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
Karoo Desert NBG