DROUGHT FLOWERS

Happily, despite the drought, our indigenous garden shows pops of colour now and then. The predominant colour that has brightened the garden over the past few weeks is the light blue of the Plumbago.

Plumbago

The biggest surprise though has been the pale pink blossoms showing on our Spekboom for the first time ever, even though this particular plant has been growing in the garden for about seven years or even longer.

Spekboom

So, those of you with ‘bloomless’ Spekboom in your gardens … there is hope after all!

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GROUND LILY (Ammocharis coranica)

My first introduction to this very pretty, though in this case rather weather-worn, flower was in the garden surrounding the reception building at the Mountain Zebra National Park.

This Ground Lily – also known as Karoo Lily, Berglelie or Seeroogblom – must have looked beautiful in its prime, I thought, and it was a pity that we had missed that. In fact, I was to discover that this summer-flowering bulb blooms from about September to March and was fortunate to see several more blooming in the veld.

Ammocharis coranica is a perennial bulb that grows in summer rainfall areas where its habitat is characterised by lengthy dry periods and severe droughts. The leaves usually lie flat on the surface of the soil and the rounded inflorescence of pink or reddish pink, trumpet-shaped, sweetly scented flowers protrudes above ground after the leaves have appeared.

The genus name is derived from the Latin ammo, meaning ‘sand’ and charis, meaning ‘grace’, referring to the locality where the plants occur, as well as the beauty of the plant. The species name coranica is derived from the Korana Bushmen tribe, which used to live in the dry areas this plant inhabits. The profusion of beautiful deep pink, sweetly-scented flowers attract night-flying moths, which serve as pollinators.

Two interesting sources to consult should you wish to find out more:

http://pza.sanbi.org/ammocharis-coranica

http://www.llifle.com/Encyclopedia/BULBS/Family/Amaryllidaceae/32896/Ammocharis_coranica

NOTE: Click on the photographs if you wish to view a larger image.

ROCKY LANDSCAPE

There are no soft, rolling green hills here, instead this part of the Karoo is noted for its rocky landscape.

A White-browed Sparrow Weaver blends into the stony environment as it looks for seeds to eat.

These tiny grains of sand have been used to build an entrance to an ant nest.

Enormous smooth boulders swell out from some of the hills.

As barren as this might seem, a Cussonia has found a foothold between the cracks of the rock.

Survival is everything here. On the valley floor a tree has a tenuous hold.

For, as you can see, the rocky substrata is friable.

SCHOTIA BRACHYPETALA

I recently mentioned the Pied Crows perched on a stunted (or severely browsed) Schotia brachypetala. Given that my original post on this tree has been accessed regularly since it was published in 2015 – see https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/huil-boer-boon-weeping-boer-bean/ – I thought I should provide an updated photograph of a particularly attractive example of these blossoms, which overflow with nectar – hence the ‘weeping’ part of its name. Not surprisingly, these scarlet flowers attract a wide variety of insects, birds and butterflies.

You can see a cluster of green pods on the right-hand side of the picture. This is what the more mature pods look like. They too have an attractive quality about them.

The tree, also known as a Tree Fuschia, has been named in honour of Richard van der Schot (1730-1790), the Dutch Head Gardener at the imperial Gardens at Schönbrunn in Hietzing, Vienna.

Note: Click on the photographs for a larger image.

BLOOMING SPEKBOOM

Drive through the semi-arid sections of the Eastern Cape at this time of the year and, despite the drought, you might be puzzled at first by the pinky-mauve blush of colour to be seen on the bush-covered hillsides. A closer look will reveal the very pretty flowers of the Spekboom (Portulacaria afra).

These tiny star-shaped flowers look particularly beautiful when appearing en masse.

The Spekboom tolerates poor soil and is a drought survivor, making it an ideal garden plant. Although I have had Spekboom growing (from slips) in my garden for some years now, they have yet to blossom. Perhaps it takes the plant a while to ‘settle in’, but I am looking forward to the day when they sprout some pink!

VACHELLIA KARROO

This is the time of the year when the Vachellia (formerly Acacia) karroo comes into its own. Also known as the sweet thorn (soetdoring in Afrikaans), this beautiful tree brightens the drought-stricken environment in the early summer with its bright show of fragrant yellow flowers shaped like tiny pompons which attract numerous insects.

The common name, sweet thorn, comes from the gum which is exuded from wounds in the bark. Although I have not tried it, the gum is reputed to taste pleasant enough to be eaten both by people and animals.

The trees are characterised by sharp white thorns that can grow to considerable lengths.

Here an Ant-eating Chat uses a Vachellia karroo as a handy perch.

A Vachellia karroo (which will always be an Acacia to many of us!) in its glory: