Durbanville Nature Reserve – Pink Watsonia – 1

Also known as, Suurkanol in Afrikaans


Watsonia barbonica, a magnificent bulbous plant with tall spikes of rose-pink, trumpet-shaped flowers makes a picturesque display, flowering for up to 4 or 5 weeks – a beautiful garden subject that needs little maintenance.

Watsonia barbonica is a tender to half-hardy herbaceous perennial that grows up to 2 m high. It is deciduous, growing during autumn-winter-spring and dying back after flowering in spring to early summer and remaining dormant during summer. The rootstock is a corm, 30-40 mm in diameter with grey-brown tunics. It bears upright fans of 5-6, up to 8 glossy, broad, sword-shaped leaves, 20-40 mm wide, that are one to two thirds as long as the flower spike. The margins of the leaves are without color (hyaline) and moderately thickened.

The flowering stem usually bears two or more small bracts in the upper part, is usually branched and reaches up to 2 m in height. The flower is a spike, the main axis bearing up to 20 flowers and the branching (lateral) spikes up to 10 flowers. The flowers are large and showy, pale to deep pink to light purple, and faintly fragrant. The tepals have a darker midline, and a white streak at the base and very occasionally a plant is found where the whole tepal is white.

Flowering time is during late spring to early summer-from October to early December and sometimes into January. The fruit is an oblong capsule, more or less woody, sometimes widening at the apex, splitting to release winged seeds, 8-12 x 2.5 mm.


Watsonia borbonica grows in the extreme southwest of the Western Cape, from Tulbagh southwards to the Cape Peninsula and eastwards to Bredasdorp. Its habitat is mainly rocky sandstone slopes or well-drained slopes of clay and granite, and sometimes in deep sandy soil at the foot of the mountains.

It is particularly abundant after fires and is known at some sites to only flower in the first and second years following a fire. Abundant flowering after a fire is followed by the production of masses of seed, which increases the number of successful seedlings. In areas that have burnt, Watsonia borbonica provides a major source of food for nectar-feeding insects and birds, and for the various rodents that eat the seed produced.

Watsonia borbonica is pollinated by large, solitary bees, mainly of the family Apidae: subfamily Anthophorinae. The bees visit the flowers in the early morning, seeking nectar and collecting pollen from flowers that have just opened. The styles of the flowers only unfurl later on their second day and become receptive, and at the same time the nectar levels rise. The bees visiting for the nectar transfer some of the pollen collected earlier from the freshly opened flowers. By noon there is no more nectar or pollen and the bees move away. Goldlatt 1989 and John Manning.

Sunbirds have been seen to visit the flowers as well, but soon lose interest, probably because only a small amount of nectar is produced. Long- tongued flies also visit and may play a role in pollination ( John Manning (pers.comm.)

Pink Watsonia, Watsonia borbonica, 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: 1/1000 sec
  • ISO Speed: ISO-100
  • Focal Length: 200 mm
  • Metering Mode: Spot Metering
  • Handheld
  • Post Processing: Adobe Photoshop CS6
  • Photographer: Coreen Kuhn
  • Information:

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