The small winter flowers of Orthopterum coegana, the Coega vygie, grow solitary and stalkless from stem tops. There are five fleshy sepals of unequal size subtending the flower. The golden yellow petals grow in three or four whorls, a little red of the lower petal surfaces showing in the photo. Erect, yellow stamens are clustered in the centre around five greenish brown nectar glands and among five or six stigmas per flower.
Flowering starts in late autumn, continuing to midwinter. Flowers open in the afternoon and close after sunset. The fruit capsules have five or six locules. Seeds are pear-shaped with small spines on their surfaces.
Efforts of planting O. coegana to at least preserve the species in cultivation since its habitat has almost been destroyed, have mostly failed. This makes the sighting of this plant flowering in the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Johannesburg all the more rewarding.
The plant can, however, readily be grown from seed and cuttings. This gives the species a survival chance, similar to what some people are fantasising about for humans on Mars.
The living universally prefers survival to the alternative, existing as aliens in all weird worlds devoid of their familiar environmental comforts, if given the chance. Humans, capable of conscious decisions, may no longer always adhere to this notion. They sometimes project their deviation to lemmings and the occasional whale that dies on the beach.
Vygies don’t dwell on such notions (Smith, et al, 1998; iSpot; www.redlist.sanbi.org).