Dendrology is the study of trees. The term has the same root as dendrite which comes from the Greek dendron, meaning tree. Who would have thought that having to wait for a while outside the local electrical shop would yield such a beautiful source of dendritic patterns in the stone cladding of the building – one I have either walked past or have parked outside many times:

Although they look like fossilised imprints of ferns or minute trees, they are actually the result of manganese oxides that have crystallised on the surface and are fairly commonly found on sedimentary rocks.


Despite the ongoing heat, nature has its own way of signalling the approach of autumn: in our garden the Erythrina caffra leaves are turning brown and swirl about in the breezes to land in layers on the lawn and bank up on the sides of the driveway; many of the weavers are starting to lose their breeding sartorial sharpness and look tatty and unkempt; and then there is the appearance of the butterflies.

The appearance of the velvety brown Cape Autumn Widow (Dira clytus) is a sure sign of the impending autumn as these butterflies only appear during March and April. True to form, they tend to fly very low and are not as easy to photograph as one might think. I ‘captured’ this one in the long kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) growing at the fort in Post Retief, in the Eastern Cape. I think this one is a female, but cannot be sure – images I have seen of males show more orange than yellow – and it may well have been laying eggs in the thick grass.

Cape Autumn Widow

The wing pattern shows prominent yellow circles surrounding the black dots with blue centres. There is generally a reason for the specific colouring and patterns that appear in nature and so I assume this dramatic pattern must serve the purpose of repelling the birds that would otherwise eat them.


It has rained a little in the Eastern Cape – enough to transform the countryside into a verdant green dotted with some magnificent wild flowers. During a recent trip to Fort Beaufort and Post Retief, I couldn’t resist the beauty of these Common Gazanias growing next to the road:

common gazania

The Gazania krebsiana has an attractive centre pattern:

Gazania krebsiana

These pretty white flowers are blooming all over the veld – I haven’t been able to identify them:

white flowers

Purple patches of Wild Verbena (Pentanisia prunelloides) hug the road verges and are scattered throughout the veld.

wild verbena

This Plumbago is growing against the shoulder of Victoria Bridge in Fort Beaufort:


Lastly, the lovely Acacia karroo (now known as Vachellia karroo) or sweethorn brightens the countryside with its yellow puffball-like flowers.

Cachellia karroo