This is usually a Shrub but can reach 3m high. The trifoliate Leaflets are extremely rolled under. The solitary, zygomorphic, yellow, pea-type Flowers have 2 basal bracts. Fruit is a pod with 3+ Seeds.
Common names: Woltee, Meyer’s honeybush tea.
Family: Fabaceae, Leguminosae. (Pea, bean or legume family). After the Orchidaceae and the Asteraceae, the Fabaceae is the third largest Angiosperm (flowering plants) family with 700+ genera and close to 20 000 species. Local Tree genera include Acacia (Vauchellia, Senegalia), Albizia, Bauhinia, Bolusanthus, Burkea, Calpurnia, Colophospermum, Cyclopia, Dichrostachys, Erythrina, Erythrophleum, Faidherbia, Indigofera, Mundulea, Peltophorum, Philenoptera, Schotia and Xanthocercis. The Fabaceae are recognisable by their fruit and by their pinnately compound Leaves. Leaves may also be simple and usually have stipules – some of which may be spinescent. Leaflets are usually entire. Flowers are bisexual and bracteate. Regular flowers usually have 4-5 sepals and the same number of petals. Irregular flowers have 4-5 sepals and 5 or less petals. Stamens have anthers that have 2 pollen sacs and there are usually at least twice the number of stamens as petals – often 10. The superior Ovary has one locule that may contain 1 or more ovules. The Stigma and Style are simple. The single Carpel develops into the Fruit, which is usually a pod. This pod dehisces on both sides and may break into segments. Seeds vary.
Name derivation: Cyclopia – derieved from Greek cyclos a circle and pous a foot. This refers to the intrusive calyx base. Originally, “pous” used to be a Greek unit of length. meyeriana – after Friedrich Karl Meyer, a German botanist (1926–2012).
Conservation Status: L C (Least Concern).
This plant is usually a shrub or a small Tree up to 3m high. Bark is smooth and grey.
The trifoliate (compound leaf with 3 leaflets) Leaves lack petioles and are thus sessile. Leaflet margins that are extremely rolled under and, as a result, are almost circular in cross-section. They are up to 30 x 2mm and are an impressive deep green that contrasts with the yellow flowers.
The bright yellow Flowers are zygomorphic (irregular flower: when corolla is divisible into 2 equal halves in one plane only). These pea-type flowers are axillary, solitary and occur at the ends of stems. The flowers have a sweet-honey scent. Paired Bracts (a much-reduced leaf, particularly the small scale-like leaves in a flower cluster or associated with flowers) are fused at the base around the Pedicel (stalk of a single flower). (Sep-Dec). The greenish Calyx has a shallow tube. It is truncate and intruse (pushed or projecting inward) at base and with usually triangular lobes that are slightly longer than the tube. In the Corolla, the rounded upper Vexillum or Standard Petal has a distinctive deep red central base. The oblong Wing Petals have a transverse fold. The 2 joined Keel Petals are incurved and obtusely beaked. The 10 Stamens have dilated Filaments. The superior Ovary is galbrous (hairless).
The compressed Fruit is an oblong Pod (a usually dehiscent fruit) that has a distinct beak at its end. Pods are oblong to obliquely ovoid and contain at least 3 Seeds.
Distribution & Ecology
All species of Cycolpia are Endemic (endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location) in the Cape Floral Kingdom. This plant occurs in mountain fynbos (this is a belt of natural shrubland or heathland in the winter rainfall area within the distinctive vegetation of the Western Cape). Plants occur in marshy areas and wet slopes from the Cederberg mountains (which lie about 300km to the north of Cape Town) to the Riviersonderend mountains (which lie about 160km to the east of Cape Town). These plants are adapted and thrive in this typical Mediterranean, winter rainfall climate. This plant can survive fires by regenerating after being burned. A very hard testa (seed coat) protects the Seeds.
Honey-bush tea can be made from the leaves, young twigs and flowers. This tea lacks caffeine and is usually without tannins and considered to be health giving. The plant is a decretive fynbos plant and can be Grown via seeds or cuttings. Seeds need to be scarified before planting. Plants do best in moist, well-drained, acidic soil – in full sun.