On the 5th May 1989, the South African Post Office issued a series of stamps to highlight the National Grazing Strategy. Internal postage for ordinary letters at the time was 18 cents and the image, designed by Denis Murphy, is a frightening one titled Mensgemaakte woestyn (Man-made desert).

The 30 cent one is titled Die aarde breek (The earth breaks) and depicts the same scene some years later, when most of the earth has been eroded away to form a deep donga (a steep-sided gully formed by soil erosion – an Afrikaans word that originated in the nineteenth century from Nguni donga, meaning washed out gully).

Here is an example of such a donga in the Addo Elephant National Park.

Before you blame the National Parks for negligence, bear in mind that this donga would have been on one of the original farms purchased to create this park.

Much is being done on farms, nature reserves and in national parks to curb the adverse effects of soil erosion. Examples include:

Planting Spekboom in the Great Fish River Nature Reserve:

The provision of gabions on top of and next to culverts under the road in the Great Fish River nature Reserve:

Breaking the flow of storm water run-off from the roads in the Mountain Zebra National Park:

A land rehabilitation project in the Mountain Zebra National Park:

Getting back to the stamps: I do not have copies at hand, but the 40 cent stamp, titled The helping hand, depicts a dam that has been built in that deep donga. The 50 cent stamp moves on by several years, by which time the dam is full and the area is grassed over – there is even a leafy tree growing in the foreground – I can’t help thinking this is wishful thinking combined with artistic licence! This one is aptly titled The land rejoices.

Let us all take care of the soil and the vegetation that covers it!



Erythros is the Greek word for red. The genus Erythrina is derived from this word – an allusion to the colour of the flowers, such as this Erythrina lysistemon, photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park.

I have often mentioned the Erythrina caffra that towers over our back garden. Collectively, Erythrinas are known as coral trees these days, although some also refer to them as ‘lucky bean trees’. This is a reference to the bright red seeds that split from the black pods. These can be found scattered on the ground below the trees and are often collected simply to look pretty in jars, or to be made into necklaces or bracelets.

Combine erythros with phobia to form erythrophobia and you have the word to describe an extreme fear of blushing, or a hypersensitivity to the colour red. My dictionary also gives me erythrocyte, which is a blood cell of vertebrates that transports oxygen and carbon dioxide combined with haemoglobin.

Given all this information, could we then (just for fun) describe a particularly red sunset as an ‘erythrostic’ sunset? I present two examples, both taken in the Kruger National Park, for you to look at while you decide.


While I was growing up, most cryptically-coloured ‘chicken-like’ birds were erroneously known colloquially as ‘pheasants’ and later as ‘francolin’. Some still are francolin, but the Red-necked Francolin has became known as the Red-necked Spurfowl (Pternistis afer). Thanks to that marvellous book, Beat about the Bush: Birds by Trevor Carnaby, I learned that Spurfowl differ from Francolins both by being more robust and usually having a maximum of two spurs on each leg.

This is the only spurfowl in southern Africa with a red bill, red around the eyes, a red throat and red legs. While their colouring is similar, the females are tend to be smaller and lack the spurs.

I have seen these distinctive terrestrial birds in riverine scrub, savanna and grassland areas. These ones were photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park.


I had the pleasure of seeing two species of Brunsvigia (named for the House of Brunswick) during March. The first was Brunsvigia orientalis growing in the sandy surrounds of Arniston.

The other was Brunsvigia grandiflora blooming in the grasslands of the Addo Elephant National Park.

Both bloom at the end of summer and, when dry, form tumbleweeds that roll across the veld, dispersing seeds as they go.