In the aftermath of the recent rain are these examples of fungi in my garden:



Odd isn’t it … there are so many objections to various perceptions of relationships and gender in today’s society, yet no-one has given a thought to the much maligned – butt of many jokes – general name for the Sanseviera plants: mother-in-law’s tongue!

Let us leave that to the activists and focus on these tough plants that are true survivors of the drought. I think the plants in my garden are Sansevieria hyacinthoides as they look very similar to the plants I have seen growing in the shade of trees in the Addo Elephant National Park, and which are common all over the eastern part of South Africa.

Blooming in the natural thicket at Spekboom Hide in the Addo Elephant National Park

According to, the genus Sansevieria is named after Pietro Sanseverino (1724-1771), Prince of Bisignano, who grew these plants, among other rare and exotic specimens, in his garden near Naples. Further information found at reveals that the discoverer of this plant, Vincenzo Petanga, wanted this plant named after Pietro Antonio Sansevierino, but Carl Thunberg named it after Raimondo di Sangro (1710-1771) an Italian nobleman, inventor, soldier, writer and scientist. The mystery of plant naming continues.

The specific name hyacinthoides means resembling a hyacinth – referring to the large creamy-white flowers with their recurved, thread-like flower segments.

In my garden

What is most striking about these plants are their long, linear leaves, often mottled with light green contrasting horizontal markings. Their flowers do not last for very long. It is nonetheless interesting watching them develop. The following pictures were taken in the Addo Elephant National Park:

Still green and tightly bound


Opening up


When we first settled in the Eastern Cape we were struck by the beautiful yellow flowers that bloomed next to the roads and which covered many of the hills in the area. We soon discovered that they are called bitou (or tickberry), a plant I hadn’t come across before. I remain in awe of their massed beauty nearly three decades later.

I have since discovered that it is an indigenous pioneer plant that grows up to about 2 metres tall very quickly – we had two growing in our garden for about ten years, probably from seeds dropped by passing birds. During that time I noticed how thick the stems grew and that the fleshy branches became woody as the plant matured. The best thing about these ‘drop-in’ bushes was that they appeared to be drought-resistant so were always covered with leaves and the clusters of yellow, daisy-like flowers provided a show of bright colour even when the rest of the garden had shrivelled to nothing.

The flowers are particularly beautiful during late autumn and into winter. They attract bees, butterflies and several other insects as well as birds – the latter when the fruits ripen. I am hoping to find more growing in my garden in time to come.


I often mention the large Natal Fig (Ficus natalensis) that grows in our garden, but have failed to mention the much smaller Cape Fig (Ficus sur) or Broom-cluster Fig. The sur part of the name comes from an area in Ethiopia named Sur. The fruit of the Cape Fig is a draw-card for a variety of birds such as Olive Thrushes, Cape White-eyes, African Green Pigeons, Redwinged Starlings, Streakyheaded Seedeeaters, Blackcollared Barbets and Speckled Mousebirds.

This tree, though not as tall as one might expect, produces a prolific number of figs from about September to March. They appear in large clusters low down on the trunk and even at ground level.

The plump figs are often carried some distances by Redwinged Starlings. Cape White-eyes, Speckled Mousebirds and others tend to feed on or under the tree, for there is always plenty of fruit on the ground.

Fruit bats are particularly fond of the figs too and we often hear their ‘pings’ in the evenings – though have yet to find where they roost during the day – as they gather to feed greedily on the sweet bounty. We have found evidence of several ‘feeding stations’ where the bats leave their seed-laden droppings. This is one of them, next to our swimming pool.

Postscript: We have discovered that Bryan, the Angulate Tortoise, also enjoys munching the figs!


Newly greened grass stretched either side of the road I was travelling along – a glorious sight after such a long period of shades of brown. When my attention was drawn to a small splash of red – I had to stop for a closer look.

The long bracts of hooded-shaped flowers and the fan of sword-shaped leaves immediately identified it as one of our indigenous Gladiolus species. As I neared it, I was assailed by the memory of swathes of these plants growing in a patch of garden on the farm where I grew up. My mother used to collect bulbs from around the farm to plant in the garden – for which there was never enough water – and over the years these multiplied to provide a glorious show of flowers. This is the Gladiolus dalenii, also known as the Parrot Gladiolus or – a name I am unfamiliar with – the Natal Lily.

Although this was the only specimen I could see in the area, this plant generally thrives in grasslands throughout the eastern parts of South Africa.