I have not travelled down to the Western Cape, which is the natural habitat for these flowers, but photographed this beautiful Pincushion Protea (Leucospermum cordifoium) in a friend’s garden in our town, where it appears to be thriving on a steep slope.
Despite the paucity of flowers during this very dry time of the year, the shadier parts of the garden are brightened up by the scarlet seeds on the clivia plants.
Clivias are South African bush lilies and I look forward to showcasing them once they are in bloom again. Meanwhile, it is interesting to learn that the plant is named after the Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Charlotte Clive, who died in 1866.
The ones growing in my garden are the Clivia miniata that grow in partial shade in forests and along the coast of eastern South Africa. They multiply over time and so, what started as a clump beneath the fig tree when we arrived, have now been planted in various other spots in our garden, in the gardens of neighbours and have even been successfully transplanted to a Gauteng garden. Sharing plants must be one of a gardener’s greatest pleasures.
I have just enjoyed a pot of delicious Sasini tea whilst catching a wintry sun in the garden. This is a time when I can be contemplative and enjoy watching the birds in peace – and what a variety there were too!
First, the tea: this packet of very fine loose tea leaves was a gift from a friend after a visit to Kenya some years ago. Sasini is one of the major tea producers in that country, so I was pleased to try it out at the time and continue to dip into it now and again. Do not make the mistake of following the traditional recipe of one teaspoon per person and one for the pot if you are not fond of strong tea: this tea is strong, smooth and creamy to the taste. It is a perfect tea to drink slowly while watching birds, reading or enjoying good company. I like it with a splash of milk.
Then, the birds. I was outdoors for only half an hour and in that time noted twenty species of birds. First up was a Blackheaded Oriole drinking from the nectar pub. This was also visited several times by a pair of Forktailed Drongos and a number of weavers – both Cape Weavers and Village Weavers.
Laughing Doves abound as usual and this morning were joined by a pair of Redeyed Doves, a Cape Turtle Dove and the Rock Pigeons that live in our roof.
A Cape Robin cautiously inspected the apples on the feeding tray before it was ousted by a cheeky Blackeyed Bulbul and an overbearing Olive Thrush. The apples were also a drawcard for a Boubou, some Common Starlings, a Fiscal Shrike, and a Blackcollared Barbet.
A flock of Bronze Manikins feasted on the fine seed in the ‘bird house’ feeder and, as I was about to come indoors, a Knysna Lourie made its rasping call from the fig tree.
What has all of this got to do with money? A lot. You see, while I was sipping my tea and enjoying the birds, I got to thinking about how fortunate we are: even though we are in the grip of drought, the crassula is blooming,
Plumbago flowers are putting on a brave show, the air smells fresh, the garden is filled with the sound of birds, and the clear sky forms a beautiful backdrop for the emerging flowers of the Erythrina caffra. Not bad for a drought.
And then … I happened across this quotation by the filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin:
When the last tree is cut, the last fish caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.
Yes, I thought, we can’t eat money despite so many people pursuing it at all costs. We can, however, become stewards of nature – even in our own gardens.
The Great Fish Nature Reserve conserves the largest single tract of sub-tropical thicket in South Africa. A visit there during the driest part of the year in this semi-arid region does not raise any expectations of a display of indigenous flowers, and yet … prominent splashes of bright yellow draw attention to the beautiful blossoms of the Rhigozum obovatum, commonly known as Karoo Gold – at least that is the nearest identification I can find to match these lovely flowers. My sources suggest a later flowering period, but so many plants appear to be pushing the envelope these days. If you can provide a more accurate identification, please do.
Other pretty flowers observed include Jamesbrittenia microphylla
Hibuscus trionum, also known as Bladder Hibiscus
Leonatus leonuris, known as Wild Dagga
There were glimpses of Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) in the thickets too.
I had hoped to photograph aloes – there were so many in bloom along the road to the reserve – but saw only three plants, only one of which was blooming. I suspect the Black Rhinos find these succulent plants are tasty and nutritious to eat!
The road up Mountain Drive is narrow and rocky.
In places it is very rocky.
Yet, it so worth the trip for the magnificent views across town from the top!
There were butterflies aplenty skimming the top of the grass, chasing each other, or landing briefly on flowers, trees or even on the stones – where I photographed this orange beauty.
Other insects were burrowed into some of the flowers waving in the wind.
Several termite mounds show signs of repair – note the different coloured mud.
The Cussonia spicata (Cabbage) trees are in bloom, their greenish-yellow terminal double umbels of 8-12 spikes per unit dominant on the skyline.
Other interesting flowers are the bright red Burchellia bubaline (Wild pomegranate)
As well as the beautiful orange of Leonatis leonurus (Wild dagga / Lion’s tail)
The Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) is a vine that occurs naturally from tropical East Africa to eastern South Africa. It grows on forest margins and is attractive to both bees and butterflies. I have a self-sown one growing next to our swimming pool.
These flowers have also featured on South African postage stamps, which are illustrated below:
I have only now noticed – 17 years later – that the Black-eyed Susan is referred to on the stamps as Black eyed Susy (a name I am not familiar with)! These stamps were first issued in 2000 and reissued in 2003 as part of the standard postage series, which continued for a long time afterwards. In the image you can see them featured alongside a giant girdle-tailed lizard (a 5c stamp issued in 2000) and a much older stamp in a series that featured wild animals of South Africa, this one being a blue wildebeest, issued in 1998.