Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A visit to the Osabeni grassland at Sodwana Bay

Sodwana Bay is in the north-east corner of KwaZulu Natal, not far from the border with Mozambique but is part of the Maputaland Centre of Endemism and falls, as does the Pondoland Centre of Endemism, within the Maputaland-Pondoland Region. Last week we accompanied Kevin Balkwill, curator of the Moss Herbarium at Wits University, and some of the Durban CREW team to explore the Osabeni grasslands just south of the Sodwana Bay campsite. This is a relatively poorly collected area and this was the second visit to the grassland aimed at assessing the species diversity there.

As we heard that Kevin Balkwill was expected to arrive late, along with Hlengi and Sachin we organised access to the Osabeni grassland and drove a short way down the sandy track where we stopped to look at some white flowers. These turned out to be a suffrutex form of Ancylobotrys petersiana. These proved to be a regular sight over the next day or so - growing in scattered colonies.
Ancylobotrys petersiana - suffrutex form
On the shady side of a small clump of trees we were lucky to find the vulnerable species Freesia laxa subsp. azurea. Near by we saw the first of many of the small suffrutex Gymnosporia markwardii, this one in fruit. One of the trees in this clump proved to be Mystroxylon aethiopicum with abundant flowers in the leaf axils.
Freesia laxa subsp. azurea
Gymnosporia markwardii fruits
Mystroxylon aethiopicum
A colourful Tricliceras mossambicense glowed next to the sandy track and a short distance further a dung beetle was trundling along an enormous (about 80 mm diameter) dung-ball.
Tricliceras mossambicense 
Ambitious dung beetle
With the sun setting behind us we headed back to our chalet where Maerua nervosa,  Erythroxylum emarginatum  and Tricalysia junodii were in flower and a robust Commiphora neglecta had fruit on display.

Maerua nervosa
Erythroxylum emarginatum
Commpihora neglecta in fruit
Tricalysia junodii
The next morning Kevin and his daughter Lindsay joined us for an early start and we agreed to follow the route of the previous visit in order to collect more material of certain species found. Progress was slow, as can be expected, as there were many stops in the grassland. One of the first flowers to be seen was an Astripomoea malvaceae.

Astripomoea malvaceae
One of the target species for the trip was Raphionacme lucens and we found several exposed tubers of this species in an old track as well as others in bud and one in flower.
Raphionacme lucens tuber and shoot
Raphionacme lucens flower
In the partial shade of some trees we found a few Manulea parviflora and showing in the canopy were clusters of flowers on the climbing form of Ancyloborys petersiana. Also in this forest patch, the large fruits of 
Landolphia kirkii climbing in a Hymenocardia ulmoides caught the eye, as well as Maerua caffra in flower. Kate was lucky to find an Aspidoglossum delagoense in the grassland
Manulea parviflora
Ancylobotrys petersiana
Landolphia kirkii in Hymenocardia ulmoides
Maerua caffra
Aspidoglossum delagoense
We headed off to the shores of Lake Bhangazi where we had lunch after discovering Phyllanthus reticulatus in flower and Bridelia cathartica full of attractive fruits. Sheltering from the wind, Kevin took the opportunity to catch up with his pressing while the rest of the party explored, finding a beautiful and very patient Painted Reed Frog, as well as Phaulopsis imbricata and Vigna luteola.
Phyllanthus reticulatus
Bridelia cathartica fruits
Painted Reed Frog
Phaulopsis imbricata
Vigna luteola
The team at Lake Bhangazi
The return trip proved to be a little more challenging working our way up steep tracks in soft sand. We were rewarded with a sighting of Crested Guineafowl near the offices.

Crested guineafowl

Participants: Graham G, Hlengiwe M, Kate G, Kevin B, Lindsay B, Sachi D.


  1. We are grateful and appreciate your willingness to join our A-Team outings. This was a successful trip. Nice pictures!

  2. Thanks Hlengi - it was a good learning curve for us as well as being an opportunity to meet Kevin Balkwil. I believe you have had a successful visit since then.