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Is it a bird? Is it a bee? No, it's a lizard pollinating South Africa's 'hidden flower’

How a chance encounter with a ‘weird plant’ in the Drakensberg mountains led to a startling discovery

Towards the end of 2017, PhD candidate Ruth Cozien and her husband Dr Timo van der Niet were attending a citizen science workshop high up in South Africa’s Drakensberg mountains when they stumbled across “this weird plant with green flowers hidden beneath its leaves, a really strong scent and enough nectar to drown an insect”, Cozien recalls.

While many people might have admired the plant and walked away the couple, both members of the Pollination Ecology Research Group at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, were intrigued.

Most plants have brightly coloured flowers that act as a beacon for would-be pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies. But in this case, with its green flowers well camouflaged and very low to the ground, the couple surmised that the Guthriea capensis (commonly known as “the hidden flower”) must belong to the few species ...  Read more


fellow researchers

ARU launches SA component of global project towards understanding the future of alpine systems


What impact has global change had on alpine vegetation in our own mountains and those around the world, and why are certain plants in mountains around the world rapidly expanding their ranges?

This is the question on which the Afromontane Research Unit (ARU) on the Qwaqwa Campus will be shining the research lens over the next three years, through Project ‘RangeX’, a multi-institutional research consortium under the Mountain Invasive Research Network (MIREN), with ETH Zurich (Switzerland) leading the research project. The project is underway in the Witsieshoek area of the Free State component of the Maloti-Drakensberg, as part of a global consortium to better understand the ecological drivers of range-expanding plant species in mountains around the world.
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Contact us

Sithando Jwara

Administrator: Afromontane Research Unit
Private Bag X13, Phuthaditjhaba, 9866, Republic of South Africa
T: +27 58 718 5271
C: +27 73 512 7671