Friday, 29 September 2017

Another good spring display at the Western heights (Thursday 28 September 2017)

It was overcast and cold when we gathered at Beacon Hill but we decided to take the chance that the rain would hold off during our walk and set off to the Western Heights. We were joined on this occasion by Moraea Phillips who had learned about our walks from this blog, as well as two research students from UKZN, Miguel Castañeda-Zárate and Carolina Diller who are looking at sorting out the Satyrium longicauda species complex.

We parked near the gate and immediately noticed several large patches of yellow flowers in the distance and decided to head in that direction. These turned out to be Senscio heliopsis and were growing in a wetland. Walking through the wetland proved to be challenging as it was necessary to step from tussock to tussock to avoid getting bogged down.

Wetland patch of Senecio heliopsis

Senecio heliopsis

While there were Satyrium longicauda buds scattered around the proximity of the wetland,  these were not open. There were also many Ledebouria cooperi hiding amongst other herbs and a myriad of Eriospermum cooperi showing their white inflorescences about half a meter tall. In the wetland the fruits of Cyrtanthus breviflorus could be seen everywhere, the remnants of the flowering show covered in an earlier blog post.

Once across the wetland we were on more even ground and progress was easier. We soon came across the first of the Merwilla plumbea patches - and we were to see many on this walk, as they cast a blue haze over the grasslands.

Merwilla plumbea
Merwilla plumbea buds

The blue haze of hundreds of Merwilla plumbea
We walked on, passing several more of these Senecio and Merwilla patches. It was evident that for this area, we were about a week or so too early to get the full impact of the flowers as many of the species were in bud - a follow-up visit is certainly warranted.

We walked along the cliffs until we found a spot where we could see the view down into the Umtamvuna gorge but were sheltered from the cold wind while we had lunch. On the way back we first headed up a small hill to see if we could find any Euphorbia bupleurifolia plants, as we know that they occur in this area. After a lot of searching we found one, and then nearby, another with fruits.

Euphorbia bupleurifolia
Having confirmed that these plants were still present we walked back down to the stream where we could see Genlisea hispidula and Disa tripetaloides.  In a firebreak area which had been burned about four weeks earlier than the block burn we had walked on for most of the day, we saw most of the same species but with the flowering more advanced. We were even lucky enough to find a Brachystelma australe flowering on a rock plate.

Brachystelma australe

Here the Satyrium longicauda, Sopubia simplex, Eriosema umtamvunense and Kniphofia pauciflora were all flowering well. We even saw remnant flowers on a few Disa similis and the first of the Disa versicolor were starting to show themselves. We strolled along, enjoying this show until we came to a special find, Watsonia pondoensis, probably flowering better than we have seen them before. This narrow-endemic, Endangered species is not often found and we only know it form a few locations on the Western Heights.

Watsonia pondoensis

Watsonia pondoensis
Our luck stayed with us - although both a phone and a camera were lost during the walk, both were rather miraculously recovered.

Participants: Anne S, Carolina D, Gail B-W, Graham G, Kate G, Maggie A, Moraea P, Miguel C-Z, Sarah B-W, Uschi T.

No comments:

Post a Comment