CRASSULA MULTICAVA

I seem to mentioning the drought rather frequently still – odd this, when parts of the country have already experienced flooding and hailstorms. We have rejoiced in the little rain that has come our way in the Eastern Cape: mostly in the form of drizzle so light that one wouldn’t bother to reach for an umbrella, yet enough to green up the grass and to encourage the trees to put out leaves. Our landscape has been transformed by the different hues of green as well as a few wild flowers here and there. One of our main water storage dams is completely empty; another I drive past regularly probably only has enough water to fill an average home swimming pool; while an aerial view of yet another shows only a thin stream of water. The latter dam used to be so full that the local rowers would use it for regattas! Alas, no more …

Hence the joy I take in drought-resistant blossoms that either grow in my garden or in the veld within easy walking distance. Our garden has always been blessed with a generous sprinkling of Crassula multicava, also known as Fairy Crassula. It was many years before I discovered what it was called: even though it can be found in many gardens in this town, no-one seemed to have a name for it. A common response I would get is “I don’t know, it seems to grow wild here.”

A ‘wild’ plant it is too for it grows all over the garden and forms a good ground cover even in the deep shade, whilst appearing to be equally happy in the sunshine. Their leaves are flat and roundish. If you look closely you might notice the tiny spots on them. These are what might have given rise to another common name for this plant, Pitted Crassula.

The colour of the leaves vary from light to dark green depending on whether the plants are growing in the sun or the shade. They contain hydathodes (which are water-secreting pores), which serve for rapid absorption of water from the leaf surface – making them ideal ‘drought’ plants. Dainty white, or pale pink, star-shaped flowers appear in sparse clusters from about May to November.

These are best appreciated when seen in a mass and attract a variety of insects, including bees and butterflies.

Crassula multicava occurs naturally from the southern Cape, through the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, into Mpumalanga. They multiply rapidly – if they can do that in my drought-stricken garden, then imagine what they can do under ideal conditions. This is because, apart from the expected dispersal of seeds, these plants root easily and spread from leaves that fall or break off from the mother plant. Another form of self-propagation is that the Crassula multicava produces plantlets on the flower-head that drop off and develop into independent plants.

They seem to have all bases covered!

SEPTEMBER BUSH

Apart from the beautiful yellow Bitou bushes, another very pretty flower blossoming at this time of the year is the Polygala myrtifolia, commonly known as the September Bush, as it starts blooming in early spring and is most prolific in September. Another common name for it is the Butterfly-Bush.

These pretty, nectar-rich mauve flowers can be seen blooming on and off throughout the year and are offset by glossy, evergreen leaves. To the untrained eye, the clusters of flowers at the end of the branches resemble pea flowers.

A closer look reveals that the flowers consist of three petals, made up of two wings and a distinctive keel with a feathery white crest.

While the flowers surely attract a variety of bees, birds and butterflies, I have seen them being visited fairly regularly by carpenter bees.

These delightful indigenous bushes can be found in a variety of habitats, from moist evergreen forest to open grassy hillsides, along streams and on dunes in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and in KwaZulu-Natal.

I SPY A LITTLE FLY

At this time of the year we get an influx of a type of fly – different from an ordinary house fly in that they behave in a rather languid manner. They seldom seem to be in a hurry to get out of the way and tend to sit on the edge of one’s tea cup or on a work surface in the kitchen, on the page of one’s book or – as you will see – even on one’s computer screen. They are small and look yellowish; they appear for a period and then disappear for a while. This is where a cell phone camera comes in handy: I wanted to have a good look at such a fly to see it more clearly.

I had no idea of its colouring or the hairs on its body until I saw the results on my phone. Then, a day or two later, my cell phone came in handy again when I saw a pair of house flies mating on the window of my car!

STRANGE VISITOR

Hand in hand with warmer evenings come strange visitors fluttering around the bedside lamp. These more usually come in the form of unidentified moths of different sizes, katydids, the odd praying mantid, and even a few beetles. I have not seen this one before.

I used my cell phone sans flash for the above photograph. Below shows the visitor in the full glare of the flash.