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Kniphofia caulescens occurs in marshes on high-altitude mountain slopes in South Africa. The flowers are pollinated by birds.

Kniphofia caulescens (Lesotho red hot poker)

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
In the uplands of South Africa, the brightly-coloured flower spikes of the Lesotho red hot poker can be seen from a distance.

Kniphofia caulescens occurs in marshes on high-altitude mountain slopes in South Africa. The flowers are pollinated by birds.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Lesotho red hot poker is restricted to South Africa and Lesotho. It is also found elsewhere in cultivation.

Description

Overview: Kniphofia caulescens usually has several stems and grows to about 60 cm tall. Each stem has a crown of narrow, grey-green leaves.

Leaves: Each leaf is v-shaped in cross-section, with fine teeth along its edge, and can be up to 70 cm long.

Flowers: The flower spike usually rises above the leaves. The tubular flowers are densely clustered at the top of the spike and are initially red before fading to yellow. The lower flowers change to yellow first, resulting in the characteristic bicoloured flower spike with red flowers at the top and yellow ones below. The flowers are about 2 cm long and when they open, the stamens protrude from them.

Threats and conservation

This species forms very localised populations, which places it at greater risk from habitat destruction than species that form extensive ones.

Uses

Lesotho red hot poker has been considered by the Basutos to be a charm against lightning, and hence in the past was cultivated near their huts.

The torch-like inflorescences, and attractive blue-green foliage, make this species a very striking ornamental plant.

Lesotho red hot poker at Kew

Lesotho red hot poker is grown as part of the Living Collection at both Kew Gardens and Wakehurst.

Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens are held in the Herbarium, one of the behind-the-scenes areas of Kew. Details of some specimens of Lesotho red hot poker can be seen in the online Herbarium Catalogue.

South Africa Landscape - Kew at the British Museum

Between April and October 2010, Kew and the British Museum brought a small corner of South Africa to the heart of London. The South Africa Landscape celebrated a shared vision to strengthen cultural understanding and support biodiversity conservation across the world.

Kniphofia caulescens (Lesotho red hot poker) was one of the star plants featured in the Landscape.

Distribution
South Africa
Ecology
Mountain grassland. On peaty soil overlying rock formations, marshy places and seepage areas.
Conservation
Not yet formally assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

Kniphofias contain knipholone compounds, making them toxic if eaten. Kniphofias can also cause eye and skin irritation.

[KSP]
Use
Local charm against lightening, ornamental.

Native to:

Cape Provinces, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho

English
Lesotho red hot poker

Kniphofia caulescens Baker appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Dundas, J.C., Lesotho 28434.000
Cooper, T. [s.n.], South Africa K000256219 Unknown type material

First published in Bot. Mag. 98: t. 5946 (1872)

Accepted by

  • Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds.) (2003). Plants of Southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14.: i-vi, 1-1231. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Whitehouse, C. (2016). Kniphofia; The complete guide: 1-440. Royal Horticultural Society.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Codd, L.E. (1968). The South African species of Kniphofia (Liliaceae). Vol. 9: Parts 3 & 4: 455-458.
  • Codd, L.E. (2005). Flora of Southern Africa. Vol. 5: Part 1 (Asphodelaceae: Kniphofia): 45-47.
  • Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1992). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. Vol. 2 (D to K): 741. Macmillan Press, London.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds.) (2003). Plants of Southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14.: i-vi, 1-1231. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0