The brightly coloured fruits of the cobra lily, Chasmanthe aethiopica, compete with their flowers for impact. The bright orange colouring among the green of late winter grass or shrub foliage vies well for being the most conspicuous item in the vicinity. Once the outer membrane or skin of the fruit capsule dries out and splits, the small cluster of spherical yellow-orange seeds shows up as in the photo.
This vivid colour is as functional for their dispersal as the flower colour was for pollination. Starlings and other birds will eat the fruit for the sweet outer covering. The unharmed seed is later deposited in a site promising unknown chances of success in life. The fruit cover is red-purple or maroon on the inside, beige on the outside as seen here. This spike of ripening fruits was photographed in September at Vermont.
Ample quantities of C. aethiopica seeds that grow easily are released from one successful spike. Gardeners of coastal towns in the south of the country will know them: If you had one plant in the garden last season, there may be a colony this year and for returning to colour more winters to come (Manning, 2007; www.plantzafrica.com).
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