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!

THE DISTINCTIVE ZEBRA

There is no doubt that zebra are photogenic – I have a great number of photographs of them – for they are strikingly beautiful animals. I am particularly fascinated by the patterns on their faces as one can tell from these that, even though they might ‘all look the same’, there are indeed unique features about them. Zebra are often described as having patterns similar to our fingerprints; that no two zebra are exactly alike. I commented on a blog the other day that apparently the stripes on either side of a zebra are different. This is an observation I have read about but, as we usually only see one side of a zebra at a time, it is difficult to verify. Hunting through my collection, I came across a photograph of this zebra drinking at the Domkrag waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park – an opportunity to see one from above.

The more I look at these two photographs, the more I appreciate how similar the stripe pattern is on both sides – until you actually follow the pattern closely. We seldom get the opportunity to do just that when we see zebra in the wild.

Zebras are distinctive. Their stripe patterns are an indication of just how distinctive they are – each one slightly different from the other.

FOR MY GRANDCHILDREN

Once you cross the suspension bridge across the Storms River, you come to a very small boulder-strewn beach that boasts a variety of rocks that have been tumbled and smoothed by the action of the waves.

Over the years our four grandchildren have visited this beach and been fascinated by the size, shapes and colours of these rocks – and experienced the thrill of escaping the odd wave that is closer than they had thought.

We have listened to the magical rumble as the rocks roll over and clink together when drawn back by the sea, only to be pushed up the gentle slope by the next wave.

The magic of this beautiful place is best shared with the joy of watching my children, and in recent years, my grandchildren exploring the rocks, laughing as they too tumble over or calling out with glee when an especially beautiful rock / stick / piece of sponge is discovered. They built towers too – choosing their rocks with care. It was not the same without them this time. Instead, I sat on the warm rocks for a while and let my memories float about me, listening to the echoes of their voices and the all too distant sounds of their joy mingle with the splashes of the waves … And so it was, my dear, dear grandchildren, that I set about making a tower for all of you.

Every stone I used came with a memory of each of you – over and over. The tower will have been knocked over with the next high tide that brings waves strong enough and high enough to smooth out and level the rocks again. That does not matter for memories and love are much stronger than those natural forces. So, it was with each of you in my heart that I left this small tower behind – for all of you!

 

A FRAME WITH A HISTORY

This hardwood hand-carved picture frame from India used to house a photograph of my paternal grandmother. I never met her as she died while my Dad was still at school. My grandmother worked for a time as a governess on the Andaman Islands and married a Scottish tea planter – it would be interesting to know how they met! My father was born in the then Calcutta – his father died a few months later from the “Spanish ‘flu”, the pandemic that spread around the world with horrific consequences much as we face today with COVID-19.

I have replaced the image of my grandmother with a photograph of my parents on their wedding day on 9th August 1942.

My father is wearing his army uniform and my mother carries a bouquet of freesias – always one of her favourite flowers. Apparently my maternal grandfather was concerned about this young couple getting married during the war and so, the story goes, he consulted an old friend of his. According to my mother, this woman’s response was “Henry, look at me. I waited and my young man never came back” (from the First World War). Thus it was that he gave them his blessing.

The intricately carved frame must have been purchased in India by his parents – or received as a gift – and has travelled from India to Britain to South Africa. It serves as an interesting reminder of part of my ancestral roots.