Another flower that is flourishing in the neglected historical cemetery in Grahamstown is the Vinca (Catharanthus roseus).
Apparently originating from Madagascar, these tough plants seem to flourish sans care in our hot and dry conditions. Thus it is no surprise that it is known as Kanniedood (cannot die) in Afrikaans. Its toughness and ability to seed itself and flourish anywhere has also earned it the moniker of ‘graveyard flower’ in some parts of the country. Another common name is Rosy periwinkle.
These flowers were most likely introduced as a useful ornamental plant – who would turn down flowers that bloom in the drought – but, like so many ‘imports’, has escaped beyond garden borders to become particularly invasive in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. So widespread is this flower that it has become naturalised in practically all tropical countries.
I clearly recall these flowers growing ‘wild’ in our garden in Mpumalanga when I was a child. It was one of the few flowers my mother did not mind me picking to decorate the various fairy gardens I created in between the roots of some of the trees.
The flowers are pollinated by butterflies and moths. Seeds tend to be dispersed by ants, wind and water.
What a mouthful! Balloon Milkweed or Balloon Wild Cotton fall more easily from my tongue at least. There was a plethora of these interesting plants growing in the Grahamstown Historical Cemetery I featured recently – the tall plants to the left of the cross.
Looked at from closer quarters, you can clearly see the distinctive yellowish-green tones of the inflated fruits are tinged with purple.
Each fruit is covered in hair-like structures. One can see why these plants are popular in large flower arrangements.
Like all balloons, the fruits become deflated over time.
As we will be away for a while, I thought of taking stock of our garden this morning. Here is a frog rescued from the swimming pool:
We could all do with a little cheer and what better to do so than to feature a pretty intruder that has pushed its way through the fence from our neighbour’s garden. The Potato Bush (Lycianthes rantonnetii) is a popular garden shrub in this country.
These purple flowers provided great cheer during the December and January heat as they waved through the fence in the breeze.