Sunday, 25 September 2016

Visiting a new corner of the Western Heights

While undoubtedly former Thursday Group stalwarts like Hugh Nicholson and Tony Abbott explored these areas of the Western Heights, for most of us participating in the walk this Thursday we were venturing into terra incognita. While we wanted to head in a generally southerly direction towards the confluence of the Bulolo and Umtamvuna Rivers, we allowed ourselves to be diverted by interesting attractions. The first of these was a Rhynchocalyx lawsonioides in full flower.
Rhynchocalyx lawsonioides
Rhynchocalyx lawsonioides
Below this on a wet slope were several 
Scilla kraussii in flower, a well-lit Drosera madagascariensis and a rather attractive fruiting moss. Clustered on the same slope was a colony of Leucadendron spissifolium subsp. oribinum with both male and female flowers

Drosera madascariensis
Moss
Leucadendron spissifolium subsp. oribinum - female flower
Leucadendron spissifolium subsp. oribinum - male flower
We then headed towards a stream to look at the forested edges and found Alberta magna in flower and Eugenia natalitia with a flush of new red leaves.


Alberta magna
Eugenia natalitia
Determined to get back to our original heading, we worked our way over a rise, past a striking stunted Psychotria capensis and into some old unburned grassland - unfortunately there were relatively few flowers in these grasslands so we headed towards some interesting pools in a stream below us. We found a solitary Utricularia livida at the side of the stream as we moved down towards a small cascade.


Psychotria capensis
Utricularia livida
The cascade looked inviting so we found a way down into the streambed below where we could enjoy our lunch in the shade, accompanied by the sound of the waterfall. While it was too dark to get a photo of the falls, there was light at the opposite end of the tunnel of forest trees.  On investigation we were delighted to find that this was a further cascade down a steep slope into the Umtamvuna River some 300 meters below us. As we found several of Anemone brevistylis (formerly Knowltonia brevistylis) in flower near the edge of the falls, we named these Anemone Falls.  

The view from the top of Anemone Falls

Anemone brevistylis
Looking upstream into the Umtamvuna River gorge with Anemone falls on the right
Climbing out of the gully we skirted the forest on the way back and found the well known to us but as yet undescribed species of Clutia in flower and fruit, and a little further along saw what we think is two stalks of the parasitic Harveya huttonii.

Clutia sp. nov.
Harveya huttonii
Walking back along the stream we found yellow-flowered Ludwigia octovalvis and small mounds of Geranium flanaganii with their delicate deep pink flowers.
Ludwigia octovalvis
We then entered a small forested patch where we found Dietes butcheriana flowering in the shade and a big colony of Clivia robusta, some bearing clusters of red fruits.
Dietes butcheriana
Back in the grasslands we found a Disa brevicornis in flower.


Disa brevicornis
Looking amongst the rocks near the vehicle, we found wonderful clusters of Polystachya pubescens and Merwilla (Scilla) krausii. By now the weather had turned much cooler with a cold wind blowing so we were glad to get back into the shelter of the vehicle.


Polystachya pubescens
Participants:  Anne S, Dorothy M, Graham G, Kate G, Maggie A, Uschi T.


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