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the web of life in southern Africa

Ixia superba

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Asparagales > Family: Iridaceae > Genus: Ixia

Distribution and habitat

Recorded from a small area at the foot of the Langeberg in the Little Karoo, east of Montagu, Western Cape, South Africa; growing in loamy, sandstone to light clay soils at the interface between Table Mountain Sandstone and Bokkeveld shales (Goldblatt & Manning, 2004). Moraea gawleri, Watsonia laccata and Elytropappus rhinocerotis were also growing in the area.


Flowers early to mid September, probably also in late August (Goldblatt & Manning, 2004).

Ecological interactions


The flowers have the typical properties of a monkey beetle pollination system in that the flowers are brightly coloured with dark markings on the tepals, darkly coloured stamens, relatively long anthers, and short style branches (Goldblatt & Manning, 2004). However, they also produce a sweet odour, which one associates with bee pollination. This is confirmed by the observations of both types of pollinators on these flowers (Goldblatt & Manning, 2004):

  > Coleoptera (beetles)
    > Scarabaeidae > Rutelinae > Hopliini (monkey beetles). Unspecified species including:
      > Peritrichia sp.
  > Hymenoptera
    > bees (Apoidea, part)
        Apis mellifera (Honeybee). Collecting pollen.

Related species

Ixia superba is part of a series of Ixia species in the Breede River valley (Western Cape, South Africa) with flowers adapted for pollination by monkey beetles, separated from one another by relatively short distances (Goldblatt & Manning, 2004). Listed from the top to the bottom of the valley, they are as follows: Ixia vinacea (Tulbagh), Ixia rouxii (Wolsley), Ixia mostertii (Romans River to Worcester), Ixia vanzyliae (Worcester to Robertson), Ixia atrandra  (south of Worcester to Stettyn), Ixia superba (Montagu), and Ixia gloriosa (Barrydale).

Origin of name

superba - from the Latin superbus, meaning superb or excellent. This is in reference to the attractive, large, deep pink and purple-black flowers (Goldblatt & Manning, 2004).


  • Goldblatt P, Manning JC. 2004.  New species of Ixia (Crocoideae) and Moraea (Iridoideae), and taxonomic notes on some other African Iridaceae. Novon 14: 288-298. jstor

Text by Hamish Robertson; last updated 21 March 2013