Original Research

Vegetative morphology and interfire survival strategies in the Cape Fynbos grasses

H. P. Linder
Bothalia | Vol 20, No 1 | a902 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v20i1.902 | © 1990 H. P. Linder | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 October 1990 | Published: 18 October 1990

About the author(s)

H. P. Linder, Bolus Herbarium, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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It is shown that there is a wide range of structural variation in the habit of the Arundineae and Ehrharteae of the fynbos of the Cape Floristic Region (Cape Province, South Africa). Structural differences in the bases of the fynbos grasses have been classified into four groups: swollen, knotty tillering, weak and annual. Variation in the position of the innovation buds occurs with one group having basal perennating buds, implying that all the culm material is annual, while the second group has cauline innovation buds, leading to the development of a divaricate perennial herb. The recognition of caducous, mesic (orthophyllous) and sclerophyllous leaf blades is also possible, based on leaf morphology and anatomy. These variations in growth forms allow the classification of the Cape grasses into five guilds adapted for survival in the dense fynbos vegetation that develops between the well-spaced fires in these heathlands. The following guilds have been recognized: competition avoiders that grow on rock ledges and outcrops where competition from shrubby vegetation is reduced; reseeders, that survive the protracted interfire period as seed; geophytes, that survive this period as underground organs; coppicers, that survive as small plants; and competitors, that grow tall by means of cauline innovation buds, and so are able to compete with the shrubby heath vegetation.


Cape flora; ecology; fire; fynbos; growth form; habit; Poaceae; survival strategies


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Crossref Citations

1. Global grass (Poaceae) success underpinned by traits facilitating colonization, persistence and habitat transformation
H. P. Linder, Caroline E. R. Lehmann, Sally Archibald, Colin P. Osborne, David M. Richardson
Biological Reviews  vol: 93  issue: 2  first page: 1125  year: 2018  
doi: 10.1111/brv.12388