Monday, 20 February 2017

Msikaba south - plant survey of the road reserve (13 & 14 February 2017)

We returned to Pondoland through Lusikisiki to complete the plant survey of the full road reserve of the southern approach to the Msikaba bridge site. When we arrived at the contractor's site encampment, we spent some time going through the nursery where those plants already removed from the works area have been established - most appear to be doing well but we were able to make suggestions for further improvements.

Leaving the vehicles at the contractor's camp, we proceeded to walk along the first half of the road reserve. In the initial section of about 500 metres there were many outcrops of Msikaba sandstone and these provided niches for several interesting plants.

Clearing for construction of the haul road - note Msikaba sandstone scarp on left

One of the first plants we found was a small Erica - very reminiscent of the Vulnerable endemic Erica abbottii, although the morphology of these plants was a little more robust than is the case for the E. abbottii we know from the Umtamvuna and Mkhambathi Nature Reserves. (We subsequently consulted with an Erica specialist who confirmed the identity of these plants). 
Erica abbottii

Other plants of note along this section were several orchid species, both epiphytic (Tridactyle bicaudata and Polystachya pubescens) and terrestrial (Satyrium trinerve and old stems of Habenaria and Disa species) together with a number of Crassula species, most of which are fairly common. We also found a solitary Aloe linearifolia (Near Threatened, endemic).

Crassula obovata subsp. obovata
Crassula nudicaulis
Aloe linearifolia

Another plant we found growing amongst the rocks was a Kniphofia laxiflora. Nearby were several Dierama reynoldsii and in rock crevices there were some Delosperma tradescantioides.

Kniphofia laxiflora
Dierama reynoldsii
Delosperma tradescantioides

We then traversed the grassland where there was little to see until we reached a small hill that is destined to disappear when the road is built. Here we found Tephrosia capensis var. capensis and a very substantial subpopulation of the vulnerable, cycad-like Stangeria eriopus, the latter being one of the species listed for rescue.

Tephrosia capensis var. capensis
Stangeria eriopus

We reached the vehicles just as it started drizzling and drove in the rain most of the way to Drifter's Camp at the mouth of the Msikaba River but fortunately the rain stopped as we arrived and started unpacking the vehicles. We had just enough time before dark to have a short walk to the beach where we saw a pair of Black Oystercatchers.

Black Oystercatchers

The next morning allowed a little time to take photos of some interesting plants around the camp before we set off to survey the remainder of the road reserve on the south approach to the Msikaba bridge.

Pavetta revoluta
Tricalysia africana fruit
Tricalysia africana flower

Shortly after we set off to walk this last section it started raining and it continued to rain steadily for the rest of the morning, setting in more substantially just after we reached the vehicles on the return trip.

On a bank of a small stream we found Kniphofia linearifolia and Cliffortia odorata, both in flower.

Kniphofia linearifolia
Cliffortia odorata

After this there was relatively little to see until we reached a small forest patch where there was an Apodytes dimidiata covered in pale pink flowers. Also in this patch were Zanthoxylum capense as well as one or two Zanthoxylum davyi, several Afrocanthium mundianum and some Harpephyllum caffrum.

Apodytes dimidiata

We trudged on through the rain and once again, in a forested gully, we found a few of the Near Threatened Alberta magna, some in flower.

After a brief stop at the impressive but rain-swept, Msikaba gorge at the bridge site, we walked back as fast as we could in the slippery conditions.

Looking into the gorge at the Msikaba bridge site

A rain-swept and misty Msikaba gorge at the Msikaba bridge site
Participants: Anne S, Bjorn W(SE JV), Gail B-W(SE JV), Graham G, Kate G, Lyn M, Ndimphiwe M (SE JV), Tapiwa M (SE JV).

No comments:

Post a Comment