Jackie Chambers continues to submit photographs from her recent trip to South Africa. Thanks again for an image and write-up! Jackie writes:
Augea capensis has the distinction of being the only member of the genus Augea. This interesting plant can be found growing in disturbed soils of Namaqualand, as well as the drier parts of the Northern Cape province. It can also be found in arid regions of South Africa’s Western Cape province and Namibia. A tough plant, it can tolerate not only hot and dry conditions, but also high levels of salt. This trait is shared by other members of the Zygophyllaceae.
A low growing shrub, Augea capensis can reach up to 50 cm in height, and has pale yellow swollen stems. The yellow-green leaves are succulent, cylindrical and smooth, measuring about 3-4cm long. The white flowers have 5 petals.
At first glance, the immature fruits can easily be mistaken for leaves. Fruits are cylindrical, about 2cm long and turn yellow when ripe. They produce a large amount of seed, which can be a valuable food source for many animals during periods of prolonged drought. Some reports state that the leaves may also be eaten, and they are said to have a salty flavour. Augea capensis is also a favourite food of southern African whistling rats, Parotomys brantsii and Parotomys littledalei.
The plant is named after a German gardener and plant collector, Johannes Andreas Auge (1711-1805). Auge was an employee of the Botanical Garden at Leiden; in 1747 he moved to South Africa and worked in the garden of the Dutch East India Company in Cape Town. He traveled the country and collected plants with Carl Peter Thunberg, a Swedish naturalist and student of Linnaeus. It was Thunberg who named Augea capensis in honour of Johannes Auge. Read more about the life of Auge via Aluka.