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Published In: Annals of the Bolus Herbarium 1: 20. 1914. (Ann. Bolus Herb.) Name publication detail

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 6/6/2016)
Acceptance : Accepted
Taxon Profile     (Last Modified On 6/15/2016)
Description: Evergreen geophyte. Corm depressed-globose, axillary in origin, past season's corms not resorbed; tunics coarsely fibrous. Cataphylls 2 or 3, leathery and brownish. Stem aerial, erect, repeatedly branched above, 2-angled or narrowly winged below, inflorescence axis often sparsely warty. Leaves several, unifacial, leathery and closely fibrotic, without evident main vein, lowermost leaf longest, linear, twisted, sometimes trailing, with 3 or 4 progressively smaller ± sheathing cauline leaves, dry and brown; margins simple, without vascular bundle, epidermis unspecialized. Inflorescence panicle-like, much-branched, with a solitary, sessile flower terminal on each axis; bracts leathery, green with reddish-brown margins, glutinous inside, inner ± as long as outer and similar in texture, clasping ovary, multinerved and acute. Flowers actinomorphic, long-lived, cup-shaped, orange, unscented, not closing at night, with traces of nectar from septal nectaries; perianth tube short, funnel-shaped; tepals subequal, spreading, obovate. Stamens symmetrically arranged; filaments inserted just below mouth of perianth tube; anthers suberect or apically incurved, yellow. Ovary covered in mucilage from bracts; style filiform, 3-branched distally, branches slender, bifid or divided apically for 1/4–1/3 their length, longitudinally folded. Capsules subglobose, woody. Seeds 1–3 per locule, large, angular with chalazal crest, smooth and shiny, testal cells finely reticulate-foveate. Pollen monosulcate-operculate, operculum 2-banded, exine perforate-scabrate. Basic chromosome number x = 20.
Etymology: honouring the South African botanist, N. S. Pillans (1884–1964), who collected the species and drew the plant to the attention of H.M.L. Bolus.
General Notes: Species 1, coastal mountains of the Caledon District in Western Cape, South Africa, mostly on wetter slopes, flowering after fire.

Readily recognized by the multi-branched, panicle-like inflorescence of bright orange, radially symmetric flowers and the fibrous, strap-like leaves without a main vein. The mucilaginous secretion from the inner epidermis of the bracts is unique. Although collected in 1827 by C.F. Ecklon who called it Wredowia but without formal description, the species was only described by J.G. Baker, who placed it in the genus Tritonia due to its radially symmetric, orange flowers. The multibranched inflorescence, leathery floral bracts and divided style branches are anomalous in that genus and it was accordingly removed to the monotypic genus Pillansia by H.M.L. Bolus (1914), who considered it to be closely allied to Watsonia.

The main vein of the leaves is poorly developed and the species is also highly unusual in Crocoideae in having both a marginal bundle and columnar marginal epidermal cells in the leaf blade, one or other of which typically occur in other genera of the subfamily. The basic chromosome number, x = 20, is polyploid. Pillansia templemannii has been regarded as an ancient relict polyploid surviving in local equable sites in the southwestern Cape coastal mountains, and was considered to be close to the ancestral type of Crocoideae and assigned it to its own tribe, Pillansieae by Goldblatt in 1990. Recent molecular analyses place it within tribe Watsonieae, as sister to Watsonia, confirming Bolus’s (1914) early hypothesis.The axillary corm development accords with other genera in the tribe and the unusual leaves, inflorescence and flowers are best viewed as specializations, not primitive in the subfamily, as has sometimes been suggested.


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