Sunday, 5 March 2017

Visits to two grasslands near Kokstad (27 and 28 February 2017)

An old friend had suggested we contact Mike and Jeanette Rennie of the farm Palmiet near Kokstad to see if we could find some grasslands in good condition near the farmed lands. We arranged to visit their farm but decided to make a repeat visit to the Mount Currie Nature Reserve on the way.

At Mount Currie, we decided to stay up in the high-lying areas as these had appeared to be more species-rich on our previous visit. On the way up the district road to the top gate we came across a tall, handsome, glossy leafed Berkheya in flower - this was a species which, on our previous visit, had yet to flower and which we thought might be a form of Berkheya binnatifida. However, when we saw it in flower, it was clear this was a different species. It turned out to be Berkheya acanthopoda, endemic to the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. Soon after that we came across several Gladiolus oppositiflorus, also flowering in the road reserve.

Berkheya acanthapoda
Gladiolus oppositiflorus

After scaling the gate we found some Helichrysum callicomum in the path and amongst the rocks were Chaenostoma floribundum. Satyrium neglectum and Satyrium sphaerocarpum were scattered in the grassland.

Helichrysum callicomum

Chaenostoma floribundum

Satyrium neglectum
Satyrium sphaerocarpum

Amongst the pink Hesperantha baurii were numbers of Kniphofia linearifolia,  interspersed with the occasional Kniphofia parviflora, although the latter were mostly already in seed.

Hesperantha baurii
Kniphofia linearifolia

We found an unusual looking tree with khaki coloured leaves and on finding another one with fruits we realised it was Kiggelaria africana.

Kiggelaria africana fruits

On a slope leading down to a wetland we found the first of many Brownleea parviflora we were to see during our visit to this reserve.

Brownleea parviflora

There were many Brunsvigia grandiflora flowering or in bud in the grassland but it was evident that baboons had been making a meal of the fleshy lower parts of the flower stalk as there were several flower heads abandoned in the grass.

Brunsvigia grandiflora

We came to a rocky knoll where we sat and had lunch. Surrounding us were dozens of Crassula obovata var. obovata and in a nearby wet patch was another small Crassula, Crassula dependens. Munching on some of these was a very brightly coloured grasshopper.

Crassula obovata var. obovata

Crassula dependens

Amongst the plants growing on the rocks were some clumps of Clematis brachiata, and nearby some yellow-flowered Senecio oxyodontus

Clematis brachiata
Senecio oxyodontus

Other residents of rocky grassland were Moraea inclinata, Monsonia grandiflora, and Helichrysum adenocarpum. At the edge of a forested section, we found Cephalaria natalensis.

Moraea inclinata
Monsonia grandiflora
Helichrysum adenocarpum

Cephalaria natalensis

Hiding in the grass were several Zaluzianskya microsiphon.

Zaluzianskya microsiphon

Turning back we found a few tall stalks of Disa chrysostachya. We were lucky to see a Secretary Bird stalking elegantly across the grass when we neared the gate.

Disa chrysostachya
Secretary Bird
We then made our way to the farm of Mike and Jeanette Rennie, and we were lucky to be shown a splendid colony of Kniphofia linearifolia at the top of a small hill, all glowing in the late afternoon sunlight while we were being serenaded from below by a pairs of Blue and Grey-crowned Cranes.

Late afternoon sunlight on Kniphofia linearifolia

The next morning Mike kindly took us to an adjacent farm (along very obscure tracks through long grass) and we set off up a rocky slope - apparently the geology of the rocks on these slopes is different to those around Kokstad and Mount Currie. Shortly after setting off up the slope we were treated to the sight of about 30 Cape Vultures soaring eastwards along the thermals rising along the ridge above us.

It did not take us long to start finding flowers, despite the fact that goats regularly cross the fence to graze here - some were watching us from the protection of a huge exposed lava flow. We found Diclis rotundifolia in sandy patches between the rocks and here and there in the grassland was Lantana rugosa, a non-invasive, indigenous member of the Lantana genus.

The steep slope down which a herd of goats descended head-first at speed
Diclis rotundifolia
Lantana rugosa
Once we reached the rocks we started finding more interesting plants. First we noticed Delosperma caespitosum  and then Pelargonium sidoides. The rocks were liberally draped with Cyphostemma natalitium and Stachys grandifolia

Delosperma caespitosum
Pelargonium sidoides
Cyphostemma natalitium

Stachys grandifolia

We forced our way further through tall and rather moribund grass to another rock outcrop where we found a number of tall, shrub-like Senecio linifolius.

Senecio linifolius

Secluded in a rock crack we found Anacampseros rufescens - a species we have previously only seen on sandstone outcrops near the Umzimkulu Gorge. Not far away was a group of Hebenstretia dura, surprisingly still in flower, as at the coast this is one of our early spring flowering species. Hiding secluded on the ground between the tall grass stalks were many Crabbea hirsuta. In a disturbed area we found Polygala serpentaria flowering well, together with Delosperma lineare and Bulbine abyssinica.

Anacampseros rufescens
Hebenstretia dura
Crabbea hirsuta
Polygala sepentaria
Bulbine abyssinica

By this stage it had become uncomfortably hot so we were glad when Mike arrived as arranged to pick us up. The hillside shows great promise for further exploration, particularly if Mike is able to burn off some of the moribund grasses as he has wanted to do for some time, but conditions have not permitted this. Thanks to Mike and Jeanette for hosting us and making this trip possible.

Participants: Graham G, Kate G.

No comments:

Post a Comment