I was very privileged to spend some time in Hermanus over the Festive Season. A short walk up into Fernkloof Nature Reserve revealed these magnificent Feather-duster Bushes.
Aulax umbellata is one of the three species which form the genus Aulax, the other two being Aulax cancellata, the channel-leaf featherbush and Aulax pallasia, the needle-leaf featherbush. The genus name is from the Greek aulax, a furrow. This refers to the channelled leaves of Aulax cancellata. The species name umbellata refers to the umbel shaped, nearly flat female flowerheads.The plants of the genus Aulax are dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The flowers of the male plants are bright lemon yellow, arranged in small lax spikes, which open over a period of several weeks. The new leaves of some of the plants are a beautiful purplish brown from early September, slowly fading to green after the end of the flowering period. The leaves of Aulax umbellata are more or less needle shaped, but considerably wider than the other two species, and this is the main distinguishing characteristic for the species.
Aulax umbellata occurs mainly on coastal lowlands in the Western Cape province, from Kogelberg to Stilbaai, where it often forms dense stands. The plants grow in very well drained sandy soil.