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.

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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.

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:

COMMON CORAL TREE

At this time of the year the brilliant scarlet flowers of the coral trees are giving way to the bright green of new leaves. Soon black pods will form that will, in time, pop open to reveal the hard scarlet seeds. The trees in our garden are all Erythrina caffra, which has a fairly limited distribution along the coastal regions of the Eastern Cape and Kwa Zulu Natal – which is why it is sometimes called the Coast Coral Tree. Their vermillion flowers are the most common variety, which you can see in combination with the new leaves in our back garden.

Some trees bear flowers that are more orange and others cream-coloured flowers, such as this specimen photographed in Port Elizabeth.

The tree I grew up with in Mpumalanga, is the widely distributed Erythrina lysistemon. Because it grows over much of the country, it is known as the Common Coral Tree. It is a particularly spectacular tree as the flowers are usually a bright scarlet. They produce abundant nectar that attracts many birds and insects.

Several of these trees have been blooming in and around Grahamstown.

 

FIG TREES AND BUILDINGS

Historical buildings, commercial buildings and private homes alike need constant maintenance. One of the threats to look out for are fig trees establishing themselves in the tiniest of cracks. If you look carefully at the picture below, you will see a fig tree growing on the wall of a commercial building in Port Elizabeth.

This one is growing at the base of the Martello Tower in Fort Beaufort.

An innocuous looking plant such as this one, growing next to a cannon on the walls of Fort Frederick in Port Elizabeth, has already established a long network of roots by the time it is noticed.

Before long it will look like this

Look at the roots emanating from this specimen growing on another wall of Fort Frederick.

Note the damage being caused to the roof of the former officer’s quarters at Post Retief.

This is how those threads of roots can swell with time to push brickwork asunder.

Here is an example of how a tiny seedling, such as we saw in the first photograph, can destroy a building unless something is done to curb its rampant growth.