CAPE HONEYSUCKLE

Looking through my archives, I am reminded of the long flowering period of the indigenous Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) in the Eastern Cape. I have photographs of these beautiful orange tubular flowers stretching from September through to May. There is an abundance of them now, both in gardens and in the veld.

While many gardeners trim these fast-growing plants into attractive hedges, I fight a losing battle against its propensity to spread everywhere. Nonetheless, it is evergreen here and forms a usefully dense screen of glossy green leaves – and I am always grateful for its very attractive flowers.

They are rich in nectar and so attract bees and butterflies as well as a number of nectar-feeding birds. Two I have managed to photograph are the Double-collared Sunbird:

Another is a Cape White-eye:

Despite its unruly, rampant growth, the Cape Honeysuckle is drought resistant and so is a welcome inhabitant in our garden, both in the sun and in areas of semi-shade. It is always a delight to see buds forming as they are the forerunners of a blaze of colour, often when we need it most!

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish a larger view.

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MARCH 2019 GARDEN BIRDS

March is a time of change in the garden. The small amount of rain that fell during the month has revived the trees and grass, while encouraging the blooming of the Plumbago.

It is also the time when the natural grasses go to seed, providing a nutritious alternative to the seeds I put out regularly. Weavers are losing their bright breeding plumage and have suspended their nest-building activities until spring. Not so the Olive Thrushes, of which I have counted up to six visible at a time, for at least one pair is still nesting. You will have to look at this photograph very carefully for the patch of orange on top of the dark mass of the nest!

Speckled Mousebirds scour the bushes for tiny berries, leaves, flowers and nectar, while Laughing Doves peck over the recently cleared compost area as well as the masses of tiny figs from the Natal Fig tree that have dropped onto the road below that are crushed by passing vehicles. The clusters of figs also attract African Green Pigeons and Redwinged Starlings among a host of other birds.

As the Hadeda Ibises are no longer nesting, several have chosen to roost in this tree. On some mornings they wake as early as four o’clock to let the neighbourhood know they have slept well and are ready to discuss their breakfast plans. More melodious are the liquid notes of a pair of Blackheaded Orioles that waft through the garden, along with the gentle cooing of Cape Turtle Doves and the cheerful chirrup of Blackeyed Bulbuls. A pair of Forktailed Drongos regularly keep watch from either the telephone pole or the Erythrina caffra tree, ready to swoop down on anything edible that catches their eye. I have already drawn attention to the pair of Knysna Turacos that reside in the garden and recently posted a photograph of one looking at its reflection in our neighbour’s window. This is the view from the other side:

Cattle Egrets roosting in the CBD continue to experience hard times: two tall trees have recently been removed from the garden of a complex of flats because residents complained about the noise they make as well as the smell of their droppings. Several have taken to perching atop a neighbour’s tall tree in the late afternoons, but are not (yet) overnighting there.

Finally, of course my camera wasn’t at hand when we witnessed the very unusual sight of a Cardinal Woodpecker drinking and bathing in the bird bath only a short distance from where we were sitting!

My March bird list is:

African Green Pigeon
African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene)
Amethyst Sunbird
Bar-throated Apalis
Black-collared Barbet
Black-eyed Bulbul
Black-headed Oriole
Bronze Manikin
Cape Robin
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cardinal Woodpecker
Cattle Egret
Common Fiscal
Common Starling
Fork-tailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Knysna Turaco
Laughing Dove
Lesser-striped Swallow
Olive Thrush
Paradise Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Red-eyed Dove
Red-winged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Boubou
Speckled Mousebird
Speckled Pigeon
Spectacled Weaver
Streakyheaded Seedeater
Village Weaver
White-rumped Swift

Note: Click on the photographs if you want a larger view.

VERBENA ARISTIGERA

I have always known this plant as ‘wild verbena’ for it grows all over the country and bears a close resemblance to the far more lush and beautiful verbena seeds people purchase for their gardens.

This tough plant flowers next to roads, in the veld, and in disturbed soil.

It is so ubiquitous that I have been puzzled why it is not represented in the various guides I have to wild flowers in South Africa. The answer lay in my trusty Common Weeds in South Africa by Mayda Henderson and Johan G. Anderson published in 1966: this fine-leaved verbena originated in South America (as so many of our alien plants do) and was probably brought in as a garden plant. The names Verbena aristigera and Verbena tenuisecta appear to be synonymous. They are such pretty flowers that I am pleased to read that they do not, as yet, present a serious weed problem.

Note: Click on the photographs if you want a larger view.

PAINTBRUSHES AND CANDELABRAS

What do paint brushes and candelabras have in common? Both are lilies blooming in the Eastern Cape grasslands at this time of the year – doubtless spurred on by a little rain. Paintbrushes first: the Haemanthus sanguineas, commonly known as April Fool in English and Velskoenblaar in Afrikaans, are dotted about singly and in small groups. Their lovely red flowers supported by a plain red stem stand out above the short grass and are easy to see.

The candelabras, on the other hand, tend to appear in a much more isolated fashion, yet their beautiful pink blossoms stand out in the grasslands. This one is the Giant Candelabra Lily or Kandelaarblom (Brunsvigia grandiflora).

NOTE: Click on the photographs for a larger view.

OXALIS

After even a little rain parts of the Eastern Cape veld are covered with swathes of pink and white flowers growing in clusters low to the ground. These are Oxalis, commonly known as sorrel and are probably Oxalis purpurea (Grand Duchess Sorrel) which is common from as far as Namaqualand to the Eastern Cape.

These flowers, with clover-like leaves, have a long blooming period from this time of the year, extending into winter.

COASTAL FLOWERS

These flowers will have to remain nameless for the time being – any positive identifications will be welcomed. Nonetheless, I find that the presence of even tiny blossoms can lift my spirits and felt so upon seeing lovely flowers blooming on the bank while we were pitching our tent on the Tsitsikamma coast. These delicate pink flowers mingled with the blue to great effect.

I have mentioned the lovely agapanthus blossoms growing along the path leading towards the Storms River mouth.

An array of these beautiful yellow hibiscus flowers also brightened up that pathway.

Note: click on a photograph for a larger view.

DROUGHT FLOWERS

Happily, despite the drought, our indigenous garden shows pops of colour now and then. The predominant colour that has brightened the garden over the past few weeks is the light blue of the Plumbago.

Plumbago

The biggest surprise though has been the pale pink blossoms showing on our Spekboom for the first time ever, even though this particular plant has been growing in the garden for about seven years or even longer.

Spekboom

So, those of you with ‘bloomless’ Spekboom in your gardens … there is hope after all!