Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Weza Conservation area visit

The months of October through to end of December are our busy season and this year proved to be no exception, with almost no gaps between field trips to allow some catch-up and posting on this blog. Thursday 23rd of November saw Anne and I heading to Weza as members of the Advisory Committee for a relatively recently promulgated Stewardship project. Two main topics were discussed at the meeting; the issues of management of grazing and collection of medicinal plants in the protected area.

After these discussions, the committee set off for a field trip to assess the relative species richness in different grasslands.  In two patches of grassland there has been no agricultural activity apart from cattle grazing and these were compared with an area previously planted with Popular trees but allowed to revert to grassland for the last decade or so. Even to the untrained eye, the differences would have been readily apparent.

All of the areas visited are burned annually as fire-breaks. The pristine grasslands seemed to be in good condition despite these regular fires and sporadic grazing. It was great to see Sandersonia aurantiaca (Christmas Bells) flowering amongst the Ornithogalum princeps and not far away Disa crassicornis and Rhynchosia cooperii in flower.
Sandersonia aurantiaca
Disa crassicornis
Rhynchosia cooperii
However, the most important plant in one of these patches is Dioscorea brownii and this was also in flower - males and female flowers on separate plants. This patch has probably the largest and most accessible population of this Endangered species known to us.
Dioscorea brownii
Surprisingly, on the grassland under recovery, there were two substantial patches of the medicinal plant, Gunnera perpensa, many flowering well.

Gunnera perpensa
At the other pristine patch we found Ranunculus multifidis and Asclepias cultriformis.

Ranunculus multifidis
Asclepias cultriformis

Merensky and KZN Wildlife committee members in the field
It is very gratifying to those of us who know the Ngele area well, that these grasslands and forests will be enjoying active conservation management in future.

Participants: Anne S, Graham G, KZN Wildlife representatives Piet M and Derrek R and several of the Merensky forest managers.

No comments:

Post a Comment