Friday, 30 June 2017

Snippets from the Cederberg, Boland and Cape Town

We managed to combine a SANBI workshop on herbarium database management with a family gathering in Cape Town and so made side trips to the Cederberg, the Boland and places around Cape Town. This post covers just some of the interesting things encountered.

We arrived just as a monster storm hit Cape Town and managed to have a large branch fall on our hired car as we headed for our accommodation in Kirstenbosch. Unfortunately the cold, wet weather limited walks in the gardens.  It was good to make contact with representatives from other herbaria throughout the country.

After the two day workshop and our family gathering over the weekend, we headed north to Bushmanskloof in the Cederberg with our Hong Kong-based son and his wife. Leaving Cape Town in the rain we emerged from the wet weather as we passed through Malmesbury and at Citrusdal we were in sunshine and started seeing interesting plants. We stopped at the roadside just before Clanwilliam to look at some newly-sprouted Oxalis at the roadside. The Cape has many species of Oxalis which are unfamiliar to us so it will be necessary to consult the specialists to have these identified. The photos below are included to give an idea of the surprising colour emerging from the bare, sandy earth just a few days after the rain. Growing alongside these were several Tetragonia rosea.

Oxalis sp.
Oxalis sp.
Tetragonia rosea
We headed through Clanwilliam (the heart of the Rooibos tea industry) and climbed up Pakhuis pass before turning off at the Bushmanskloof entrance and driving a few kilometres through Renosterveld to the lodge. As it was still fairly early in the afternoon we grabbed the chance to stretch our legs after the long drive and set off to walk the Mountain Trail. This took us across a small stream and into the "bush" - it is an inappropriate term where most of the bush is made up of low shrubs, many spiny, and few taller than 1 metre.

We saw a tall Agathosma with old fruit capsules, along with Euphorbia loricata and Tylecodon paniculatus.

Agathosma sp. with fruit capsules

Walking through the "bush"
Tylecodon paniculatus
Euphorbia loricata
A welcome weather change - late afternoon on the Mountain Trail at Bushmanskloof
Over the following two days we were extremely well fed and guided to many interesting aspects of Bushmanskloof. Apart from the plants, the rock formations are spectacularly beautiful. We also had our first sighting of uncommon animals such as African Wild Cat, Mountain Zebra and Bontebok. We also saw many beautiful examples of rock art - a legacy left by the San people who still lived here when the area was originally being settled.
Rock art - two different pigments used, possibly at different times
Rock art - a small family group
African Wild Cat
Mountain Zebra
Mountain zebra
One of the many interesting rock formations
The temperature plummets as the sun sinks - preparing for the drive back to the lodge
We enjoyed two days in this very different environment before heading off to wine growing country where we stayed at the Jacaranda wine estate just outside Wellington. On the way we made a brief stop at the top of Pakhuis pass where we were lucky to find a splendid specimen of Dioscorea elaphantipes with an impressive "trunk".

Dioscorea elaphantipes

When we arrived at Jacaranda we were given a tour of the wine making facilities by owner, Rene, clearly someone who is passionate about the wines he makes. The next morning we set off to walk at Welvanpas estate. While much of the trail is through transformed areas, there were occasional patches of natural vegetation and there were large swathes of previously transformed land covered in a pioneer Aspalathus.

Arctopis echinatus

Aspalathus sp. 

Oxalis versicolor

Protea nerifolia 

On our walk - the Du Toit's Kloof pass traverses the mountains in the background.

Sunset from Jacaranda Wine estate
Early the next morning our Hong Kong family set off homewards. We paid a brief visit to Kirstenbosch gardens where we saw, for the first time (albeit under cultivated conditions), Caputia oribiensis, a target species which has eluded us in the field so far. 

Caputia oribiensis

We then headed for Scarborough to meet Callan Cohen and walk in the mountains above the village. Here we were fortunate to see two Gladiolus species, G. gracilis and G. maculatus as well as the Cape snowdrop, Crassula capensis

Gladiolus gracilis

Gladiolus maculatus

Crassula capensis

We also came across a many Empodium plicatum and a few Othonna quinquedentata.

Empodium plicatus

Othonna quinquedentata
As on our previous visit to these mountains, the sky was clear and the air crisp. From the vantage point of one of the mountain tops you can see all the way to Table Mountain in the north and Cape Point in the south, with the coastal village of Scarborough far below.

Part of the peninsula from a vantage point above Scarborough (Photo C Cohen)
Participants: Andrew G, Callan C, Graham G, Kate G, Pei F.

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