Plasticfruits, part 2: Polygalaceae

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...continued from

In part 1, I described how evolutionarily plastic the fruits are in a mainly southern African genus (Osteospermum) of daisies (Asteraceae).

(Also, please see

The genus Muraltia (Polygalaceae) is geographically and ecologically similar to Osteospermum, despite belonging to an unrelated family (

Like Osteospermum, Muraltia ( and and and contains wind-dispersed, ant-dispersed ( and and vertebrate-dispersed species.

Although in both genera the seeds have food-bodies attached to them to attract ants, these take different forms.

In Osteospermum the food-body is the mesocarp that envelops the seed. By contrast, in Muraltia it is a handle-like edible attachment called an elaiosome ( and

The bright-hued fleshy fruits of Muraltia spinosa and Muraltia scoparia seem adapted for dispersal and sowing mainly by tortoises such as Chersina angulata ( Unlike those of Osteospermum moniliferum, they remain crisp when ripe, and tend to fall to the ground.

Muraltia spinosa

Muraltia scoparia

In the case of both Muraltia and Osteospermum, the species dispersed and sown by vertebrates were, for several decades, classified as separate genera, based on the form of the fruits ( This has since been corrected, with the taxonomic realisation that fruits are too adaptable to be reliable indicators of phylogenetic affinity.

Muraltia spinosa ( is ecologically unusual, within the context of the Cape Floristic Region ( and the Fynbos biome (

(Also see

This is because M. spinosa shows an odd combination of

  • succeeding in at least four different situations, viz. certain forms of renosterveld (on clay-rich soils on both shale and dolerite), marginally on certain forms of nama karoo (on dolerite), certain forms of fynbos (on coarse, deep sand), and certain forms of strandveld (on calcareous coastal sand),
  • aphyllousness and retention of leaves,
  • sclerophylly (in the form of photosynthetic stems) and fleshy fruits,
  • semi-spinescence (in the form of the same photosynthetic stems) and tolerance of nutrient-poor soils with more-or-less flammable vegetation,
  • semi-spinescence and evergreenness,
  • succulent fruits and some tolerance to wildfire, and
  • endozoochory and reptilian (rather than avian) agents of dispersal and sowing.

to be continued in

Publicado el febrero 19, 2022 02:09 MAÑANA por milewski milewski


Bietou is bird dispersed is it not? Certainly Bulbuls love it.

Publicado por tonyrebelo hace 9 meses

Dont forget Chironia baccifera. Fruit similar looking to Nylandtia (Muraltia) spinosa, and also produced in quantity, and also a "Tortoise Berry."

Publicado por tonyrebelo hace 9 meses

Columba arquatrix is also very fond of Bietou berries. See

Publicado por ludwig_muller hace 9 meses

In 2001, I visited the Silhouette Hiking Trail ( and, near Sutherland (,_South_Africa).

The landform was boulder-outcrops of dolerite.

The vegetation was Nama Karoo with scattered Dicerothamnus rhinocerotis, and was devoid of succulents other than geophytes.

In this situation, Muraltia spinosa occurred as scattered individuals, shaped by browsing - albeit differently from the above legume.

Publicado por milewski hace 8 meses

Muraltia spinosa (not spinescens) - I had no idea it occurred on the escarpment. (despite recording it there!!).

Publicado por tonyrebelo hace 8 meses


Many thanks for the correction.

Publicado por milewski hace 8 meses

I have seen Chacma Baboon faeces around the Cape Peninsula which consist of almost 100% Bitoubos seeds. Various birds swarm the bushes in the garden at fruiting.

Publicado por jeremygilmore hace 8 meses
Publicado por milewski hace 8 meses

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