Friday, 14 April 2017

A search for Cyperaceae while walking along the cliffs to Craterostigma Point (Thursday 13 April 2017)

We received a request from Prof. Muthama Muasya at UCT to see what Cyperaceae we might find in a location along the cliffs above the Umtamvuna River where in 1971 Roddy Ward collected a Tetraria, identified as Tetraria cuspidata. Closer examination of the voucher of this specimen led to the suspicion that it might be an as-yet-undescribed species. Using the coordinates provided on the copy of the voucher we had been sent, we set off to the Western Heights to see what we could find in that area, intending to work our way along the cliffs in a coastward direction towards Vulture Nek.

Once we entered the Western Heights we saw great swathes of Watsonia densiflora. Just inside the gate we noticed a single Disa polygonoides like a small red candle in the grass.

We had a great clifftop view of the confluence of the Umtamvuna and Hlolobeni Rivers where we started our botanising.

The confluence of the Hlolobeni River (top left) with the Umtamvuna River
(hidden to the right of the green flat area just left of centre)
It was not long before we found several Cyperaceae on a fairly wet west facing grassy slope - we are hoping one of these might prove to be the new species but field identification of Cyperaceae is never easy so we will have to wait for confirmation. Also found in this wet area were Habenaria woodii, a Vulnerable endemic, and Monopsis unidentata, the latter growing amongst several Utricularia subulata.

Habenaria woodii

Monopsis unidentata
Nearby in the grass we found an Ipomoea crassipes.

Ipomoea crassipes
We worked our way along the cliffs which offered us a sheer drop of about 300m down to the Umtamvuna River and we could hear the roar as the river rushed through rapids below us. We started encountering rock plates and on many of these we found small sub-populations of Craterostigma sp. nov.

Craterostigma sp. nov.
On a rocky outcrop there were several species of Crassula, including Crassula obovata subsp. obovata and Crassula sarmentosa var. integrifolia (Rare) as well as Caputia medley-woodii. Nearby were Psoralea glabra, Lotononis eriocarpa and Aspalathus dahlgrenii. There was a wonderful weathered and gnarled trunk of a Tarchonanthus trilobus.

Anne peering over the edge into the forested gorge below

Crassula obovata subsp. obovata

Crassula sarmentosa var. integrifolia

A bud on Caputia medley-woodii

Lotononis eriocarpa

Kate perched on a weather-worn rock just realising she had a lizard up her trouser leg

A weathered trunk of Tarchonanthus trilobus
Just within reach over the edge of the cliff was a small Robsonodendron eucleiforme flowering profusely.

Robsonodendron eucleiforme

We walked on past several more patches of Craterostigma sp. nov until we reached the last point above Vulture Nek. With the weather starting to threaten we headed back and had a brief lunch stop on the rocks near the old vulture restaurant site before we were chased back to the vehicle by rain. We stopped on the way out to take photos of a small patch of Moraea spathulata

Anne and Uschi walking through a Watsonia patch

Moraea spathulata
Participants: Anne S, Dorothy M, Graham G, Kate G, Uschi T.

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