FLOWERS OF THE GREAT FISH NATURE RESERVE

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!

MOUNTAIN DRIVE

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)

 

BLACK-EYED SUSAN

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.

T IS FOR TECOMA CAPENSIS

Commonly known as Cape Honeysuckle and formerly named Tecomaria capensis, this plant was recommended to us by a nursery as an ornamental screen for our garden in a newly established suburb in Pietermaritzburg. Years later, we purchased some plants at considerable expense at a nursery in Lichtenburg for our fledging garden in Mafikeng – and nurtured it. Imagine our surprise to find it indigenous to this part of the Eastern Cape, where we now live.

It grows rampantly in our garden: wherever a bit of its stem touches the ground it forms new roots and another shoot of vigorous growth clambers through the trees or weaves it way through the undergrowth. Over years it forms a hard woody stem that is difficult to cut. I prune it abundantly, yet never stem the tide. This makes it sound like a monster. It is far from that.

The flowers of the Tecoma capensis provide bright colouring during the change of season from warm to cold (we do not have clearly defined seasons here) and attract a variety of birds such as the Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape white-eyes, Black-eyed Bulbuls, and Bar-throated Apalis. The tubular flowers also attract bees and butterflies.

S IS FOR STRELITZIA REGINAE

The Strelitzia reginae is commonly known as the Crane Flower and I have heard it called the Bird of Paradise Flower (what a cumbersome name that is!). I prefer Crane Flower as, from a distance in the veld, they bear a strong resemblance to the Crowned Cranes – which we do not see often enough in the wild.

These flowers occur naturally in our part of the Eastern Cape. The picture above was taken in the Ecca Pass Nature Reserve near Grahamstown. A lovely clump of them grow on a bank opposite our driveway and I derive a lot of pleasure from seeing them in bloom.

How interesting it must have been to name plants as they were found, examined and identified. The Strelitzia part of the name of this plant honours Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), wife of George III, from the house of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She was apparently a keen amateur botanist who became involved with the development of the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens.

FLOWERS AFTER THE RAIN

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:

plumbago

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

Cachellia karroo

SUNDAY SURPPRISES

This morning a blanket of thick grey cloud casts a pall over our town, brightened only by the determination of the sun to backlight it. A strong, cool breeze has set the summer greenery aflutter in the garden while the persistent ‘pot, pot, pot’ refrain of the Red-fronted Tinkerbird echoes in competition with the cheerful calls of the weavers and the rather plaintive ‘I’m so sick’ complaint of a Black Cuckoo deeply hidden among the foliage of the trees nearby. On such a dull morning it was an uncommon delight to see three Knysna Louries (Turacos) growling as they chased each other through the spreading limbs of the Tipuana clearly visible from my study window.

Croissants and the Sunday paper called. On the drive to secure these and ingredients for a lunch befitting the early start to the festive season, two other surprises awaited me. The first was the totally unexpected view of a large fresh-water crab crossing the road. With no camera at hand, I used my Samsung cell phone to record this bizarre sight.

crab

I assure you, it looked rather scary from the front as it reared up to face me, all its defensive senses alert. Unfortunately, it scuttled off sideways each time I bent closer to capture it on screen, until only its beady eyes-on-stalks peered at me suspiciously from behind the cover of the damp grass fringing the road.

The next surprise is the overwhelming beauty of the Jacarandas in full bloom all over town. Not only are the trees so attractive at this time of the year, but they cover the lawns and pavements beneath them with an exquisite mauve carpet, still unsullied by road- or foot traffic so early on a Sunday morning!

jacaranda1

jacaranda2

jacaranda3