Blue-eyed Moraea - A beauty in the verge of extinction in wild
Moraea aristata (Asparagales - Iridaceae) is a beautiful South African plant with white blooms marked with light to deep iridescent blue eyes or nectar guides. Although critically endangered in the wild, it is easily cultivated.
Endemic to clay slopes and flats of the northeastern Cape Peninsula, Moraea aristata occurs in remnant Peninsula Shale Renosterveld vegetation. The species is currently limited to a single subpopulation near the Liesbeek River in the suburb of Observatory. Despite its location within a protected area, it is on the verge of extinction there, as the limited number of individuals and low genetic diversity, poor seed production and disturbed site renders the subpopulation non-viable.
Moraea aristata is pollinated by monkey beetles (Hopliini: Scarabaeidae). The beetles are attracted to the striking blue nectar guides located near the base of the three broad outer tepals. The beetles feed on the nectar and pollen, and in so doing, pollen is deposited onto their heads and backs. When the beetles leave the flowers they brush against the stigmas and pollination takes place when they visit other flowers. The seeds are locally dispersed from the ripe capsules by the shaking action of wind.
Photo credit: ©Tiggrx | Locality: Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa (2011)