Saturday, 21 January 2017

Watta Jule private grassland (Thursday, 19 January 2017)

We last walked in this small patch of grassland in January 2014 when the owners were thinking of allowing the establishment of macadamia trees on a portion of the land. At that stage the grassland was re-sprouting after a fire had escaped a neighbour's control and burned across the valley. 

The area adjacent to a narrow valley seemed to have the best selection of indigenous species and the owners undertook to leave this area untouched. Since then the macadamia trees have been planted but the valley and a strip of grassland at the top have been retained in their natural state.

The first plant of interest we came across was Anthospermum streyi, a rare Pondoland endemic, growing at the edge of Msikaba sandstone rock plates. While this species is common in a small area of this grassland, we seldom see it elsewhere. Here we found it associated with Delosperma lineare. Other plants growing amongst the rocks were Senecio rhyncholaenus and Oldenlandia herbacea.

Anthospermum streyi
Delosperma lineare
Senecio rhyncholaenus
Oldenlandia  herbacea
We soon came across the first of another uncommon endemic species, Aspalathus dahlgrenii (ined.). On this visit we were to see more of these shrubs than on previous occasions and many of them were flowering particularly well.
Aspalathus dahlgrenii
Aspalathus dahlgrenii
Another plant flowering well and conspicuously was Tephrosia grandiflora.
Tephrosia grandiflora
As we walked along above the tree-lined stream we found a large Harpephyllum caffrum in flower and almost hidden in the grass was another endemic, Indigofera abbottii (ined.)

Harpephyllum caffrum
Indigofera abbottii
 While we rested in the shade of a few trees eating our lunch, we noticed that the Trimeria grandifolia above us had many clusters of fruit.

Trimeria grandifolia fruit
As we walked along the lower fence line of the Wattajule property we saw two brightly coloured Erythrina humeana shrubs and in a nearby wetland was a clump of Helichrysum cymosum.

Erythrina humeana
Helichrysum cymosum

 Below the wetland was a small dam and here we found Utricularia stellaris with its circlet of bladders just below the inflorescence, as well as Nymphoides thunbergiana.

Utricularia stellaris
Nymphoides thunbergiana
 Walking back past the dam we came across an exciting sight; a Blunt Snouted Grass Snake about to consume a large Spiny Agama.

Fast food which was not fast enough - an Agama about to be eaten by a Grass Snake
Participants: Anne S, Dorothy M, Gail B-W, Graham G, Kate G, Maggie A, Uschi T.

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