Cyclopia subternata is one of about 24 species of the genus Cyclopia that comprise the honey-bushes. They form part of the Fabaceae or legume family of pod bearing plants like peas and beans. C. subternata is known as vleitee (marshland tea), bossiestee (Afrikaans for shrublet tea), heuningbostee (Afrikaans for honey bush tea) or valley tea.
The C. subternata shrubs reach about 1 m in height. The leaves are three-foliolate, hairless, blue-green and lanceolate. The deep yellow flowers age to an orange or tan colour. Blooming happens in September.
The honey-bush tea species are all endemic in fairly small areas of the Western or Eastern Cape. About five of the species including C. subternata are used locally to make the traditional honey-bush teas that are increasingly popular among South Africans. C. subternata is distributed along coastal mountain ranges from the Langeberg to the Tsitsikamma in the southern Cape.
The habitat is full sun on sour fynbos slopes around sandstone seeps in high rainfall conditions. Overharvesting is damaging the natural populations bu commercial planting is on the increase in the region. The species does not resprout, therefore vulnerable to overharvesting. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century (Manning, 2007; Moriarty, 1982; http://redlist.sanbi.org).