There are 48 species of Leucospermums, all but three endemic to South Africa. are typically evergreen shrubs, ranging from groundcovers to small trees. Most are rounded in shape and free-flowering. They have a flower head at the end of each branch.
A characteristic 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. Tough, sometimes leathery leaves are spirally arranged.
Leucospermums do not rely on showy bracts to enhance the flowers, unlike other members of the Proteaceae family. The flowers are dense inflorescences which have large numbers of prominent styles, each thickened at the apex to form the stigma. This is what inspired its common name of ‘pincushion’
Flowering time is generally mid-spring to mid-summer. The oval to round fruits ripen faster than most 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. This 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. It is this elaiosome that gives the genus its name – white seed.
Full sun, drought tolerant once established, well drained, acidic, lean soil with low humidity. No phosphorous should be provided. Temperatures between 65 and 75 F. (18 to 24 C.) are required to set good bloom. We will have to see if our climate here in Oceanside, Oregon will enable them to bloom.
Name Derivation: derived from the Greek leukos, meaning white and sperma, meaning seed. The seeds are actually black but are coated with a white fleshy skin.
Common Name: Pincushions or pins
Leucospermum is in the family Proteaceae.