A short walk in Tokai revealed a treasure trove of indigenous flowers, starting with the familiar Crane Flower:
Ursula K. Le Guin tells us that it is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end. We had an end in mind for our journey south that was particularly good to have – a celebration that was worth travelling all that way for. So far I have shown you glimpses of various things along both ways of our journey that made those passing kilometers interesting and the journey feel like a holiday in itself.
Join me in the feast that lay ahead: a selection of sweet and savoury eats to enjoy on a sunny afternoon in the garden of a home with beautiful views and in the company of delightful people. The proteas on the paper serviettes are an apt motif in this area where they grow in abundance.
These arum lilies were picked locally, where fields of them are blooming next to the road, in ditches and damp hollows.
Take your pick.
Who can resist these?
The children made a bee-line for these luscious strawberries.
While grapes in both this and the bubbly form went down well with the adults.
Of course there was cake too!
Finally, after much talking and laughter; congratulations and enjoying each other’s company, the afternoon light took on a softer hue; the clouds gathered over the mountain tops; inside lights were switched on; and the guests began to take their leave.
Many alien plants that have become such a nuisance that they have to be actively eradicated in places are pretty. Doubtless it is their attractiveness that encouraged people to import them for their gardens in the first place. Yet, most of our common garden flowers have originated from elsewhere and no-one turns a hair, so what makes an ‘alien’ an ‘alien’ that becomes known as a ‘noxious weed’ or an ‘alien invasive’? When the rate at which they spread, the harm they do to natural vegetation, and the potential risk they hold for animals and humans become a problem.
Common lantana (Lantana camara) is one such pretty alien.
It originated in tropical America and has spread alarmingly all over the world. In South Africa, both the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal are particularly affected by the infestation of these plants which were originally imported as an ornamental garden shrub. There is no denying the beauty of their multi-coloured yellow-orange flowers.
Birds eat the fruits and in this way the plants have moved from gardens to the veld. Therein lies the problem: this plant is one of the most common causes of livestock poisoning in this country and is thus classified as a Category 1b invasive alien species in the South African National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act of 2004. This means that they have to be removed and destroyed as part of an invasive species control programme.
Common lantana spreads and grows so rapidly that it out-competes indigenous plants by forming dense thickets. These reduce natural pasturage – which obviously affects the amount of grazing available, access to water supplies and severely reduces biodiversity.
Henderson Mayda and Anderson Johan G. Common Weeds in South Africa. Department of Agricultural Technical Services 1966.
Van Wyk Ben-Erik, van Heerden Fanie and van Oudtshoorn Bosch. Poisonous Plants of South Africa. Briza Publications 2005.
The Giant Honey Flower or Cape Honey Flower, Melianthus major, is an indigenous perennial shrub with fascinating – almost pre-historic-looking – foliage.
One needs to treat it with care for its attractive blue-green leaves exude a strong, and unpleasant odour when bruised or broken and the sap is toxic.
Apart from the attractive foliage, the tall, dark rusty-red flower heads are also eye-catching.
The flowers spikes appear above the leaves in spring.
These maroon to rusty reddish coloured flowers produce an abundance of nectar and are pollinated by birds.
These buds hold the promise of considerable beauty that I was too early to catch.
Melianthus major is indigenous to the drier areas of the southwestern and eastern Cape, although the attractiveness of this plant has assured its introduction to many other parts of the world.
The genus Melianthus means ‘honey flower’, from the Greek meli, meaning ‘honey’ and anthos, ‘flower’, referring to the nectar-rich flowers. The species name major, is Latin for ‘larger’ as it is the largest of the species.
What a joy it is to see so many beautiful flowering plants this spring! The Bontebok National Park did not disappoint. There were many examples of the strangely shaped leaves of the Melianthus major (Cape honey flower). I will feature this plant and its flowers in a later post:
The Cape Sweetpeas (Podalyria myrtillifolia) nodded in the breeze all over the park:
One cannot help admiring the eye-catching Heliophila africana (Sunflax) growing close to the roads:
Then there are the beautiful purple patches of this Erics spp.:
There are swathes of the bright common sunshine conebush (Leucadendron salignum):
I will leave you with this carpet of attractive white African daisies: