Durbanville Nature Reserve – Broad-leaf Watsonia – 2

Also known as, breëblaar-kanolpypie, rooikanolpypie, kanolpypie in Afrikaans


Watsonia marginata is a beautiful plant, with attractive foliage and gorgeous spikes of cup-shaped pink or white flowers. It is easily distinguished from other species of Watsonia by both its leaves and its flowers.

The leaves are made distinctive by being unusually broad, bluish-green in color and with pronounced, heavily thickened, yellowish margins while the flowers are different from other members of this genus in that they are actinomorphic (radially symmetrical, as in a flower that can be divided into two identical halves (mirror images) along more than one plane), and they have a short and narrow perianth tube where other members are zygomorphic (of unequal or irregular shape, divisible into equal halves in one plane only) and have longer and wider perianth tubes. In other words, Watsonia marginata flowers are cup-shaped and Ixia-like compared to its tubular-flowered relatives.

This watsonia is a deciduous, winter-growing, summer-dormant corm. Each corm produces 3 – 4 broadly sword-shaped, bluish-green leaves with pronounced yellowish margins and prominent midribs. The leaves appear in autumn, and stand one-third to two-thirds as high as the flower spike, i.e. 40 – 60 cm tall.

Towards the end of their growing season, each corm sends up one straight, tall flower spike, each spike reaching a height of 1.2 – 1.5 m occasionally as high as 2 m. The spike has a large number of short branches which are closely pressed against the main axis of the flower stalk, each carrying a few flowers, with the whole spike carrying up to ±50 densely packed flowers. The flowering season extends for about 4 weeks during spring to early summer (Sept. to Nov.).

Flower color is variable, occurring in shades of mauve, pink or white, even maroon, and the center of each flower is marked with magenta and white. There are also dwarf forms with pink or white flowers, where the flower spike is only about 0.5 m tall. At Kirstenbosch, although we have various shades of mauve, pink and white and dwarf forms in the collection, we display a mauve flowered form and the white form called ‘Star Spike’ in the Garden, both of which are tall. The fruit of Watsonia marginata is a small, rounded, woody capsule of several angular brownish seeds with prominent membranous ridges.


Watsonia marginata occurs in the winter-rainfall region of South Africa in the area between the Bokkeveld Mountains near Nieuwoudtville in the north to the Cape Peninsula and the Caledon district in the south, and is virtually restricted to areas of complete summer drought. It can be found growing from near sea level to middle elevations in the mountains, in stony clay soils and sometimes in seasonally marshy or temporary seep areas in sandy soils.

Watsonia marginata belongs in the Iridaceae (iris family), a family of roughly 70 genera and 1800 species which occur all over the world. Other members of this family well known to gardeners and florists alike include Iris, Gladiolus, Freesia and Dietes. The genus Watsonia is one of the larger genera in this family, yet occurs only in southern Africa. It contains 52 species, 34 of which are concentrated in the winter-rainfall region, in the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape, 21 in the summer-rainfall regions of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Swaziland and the Eastern Cape, and 1 species in Madagascar.

Broad-leaf Watsonia, Watsonia marginata, Durbanville Nature Reserve, Durbanville, South Africa
  • Location: Durbanville Nature Reserve, Durbanville, South Africa
  • Date Taken: 2020-10-25
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: Canon Zoom Lens EF-S 18-200 mm 3-5.6 IS
  • Exposure Program: Manual
  • Image Quality: RAW
  • F-Stop: f/5.6
  • Exposure Time: 1/500 sec
  • ISO Speed: ISO-100
  • Focal Length: 18 mm
  • Metering Mode: Spot Metering
  • Handheld
  • Post Processing: Adobe Photoshop CS6
  • Photographer: Coreen Kuhn
  • Information:

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