Saturday, 21 October 2017

A gale-force trek to Anemone Falls (Thursday 19 October, 2017)

We set off to the Western Heights in a strong south-westerly wind, aiming to head for Anemone Falls to collect a specimen of the Vulnerable Anemone bracteata, as it has been some time since a specimen was last collected. This is a very popular traditional medicinal plant and has been heavily collected in unprotected areas, so it is important to keep track of the state of known populations.

As we reached the gate of the reserve leading on to the Western Heights, a vista of white and yellow opened up before us, even more impressive than it had been on our previous visit three weeks ago. It is unfortunate that while the floral displays of the Western Cape are world-renown, few people, even those living in close proximity to reserves like Umtamvuna Nature Reserve, are aware that we have similarly impressive displays on our doorstep.

A panorama in white and yellow
We drove on along the track stopping frequently to take more photos. Bundled up against the cold wind, we set off into a valley in an attempt to get away from the full force of the wind. 

We collected material from a small Apodytes abbottii, another of our target species for new collections.
Apodytes abbottii

Alberta magna flowers caught the eye, as did a display of Acridocarpus natalitius adorning the top of the stream-side forest canopy. Amongst the more common trees in this strip of forest we saw Eugenia erythrophyllum, E. natalitia, Clutia sp. nov., Dahlgrenodendron natalense and Rhynchocalyx lawsonoides.

We followed the tree line for a while but then had to mount a small rise and brave the wind again before descending into the next valley, across a slope covered with sweet-smelling flowering Leucadendron spissifolium subsp. oribinum. This was another of our target species so we were doing better than expected.

A slope covered in flowering Leucadendron spissifolium subsp. oribinum shrubs
We walked along the forest straddling the stream leading to Anemone Falls and this time we found a less precarious way into the stream bed than climbing down to the lip of the falls and walking upstream - particularly so today as the strong wind was blowing the waterfall back into the forest.

As we reached the stream we came across the first of the Anemone brevistylis plants and we were delighted to see that they were flowering. Unfoirtunately we were later to find out this is the much more common Anemone brevistylis. Alongside these on a steep bank in deep shade was a cluster of the Rare endemic Crassula streyi. Overhanging the Anemone was another Rare endemic, Rinorea domatiosa in flower. It was very rewarding to find so many special plants in a small area.

Anemone brevistylis

Anemone brevistylis

Rinorea domatiosa

Looking down Anemone Falls

Anemone Falls
We had our lunch a short distance upstream from the falls to get away from the spray.  Our return trip was aided by the strong wind at our backs. At the edge of the forest we found several Harveya pauciflora in bud.

Harveya pauciflora

We made our way through another small forest patch to check on a population of Clivia robusta (no flowers) and came across an Excoecaria simii in fruit. Then on up the slope encountering Watsonia densiflora on the exposed slope and a single Disa saggitalis secreted in a small south-east facing rock outcrop.

Disa saggitalis
Watsonia densiflora

Wind-blown near Anemone Falls
For much of the day we had been walking through rather tall, unburned grassland, so on the way back we decided to treat ourselves with a brief stop in the burned section we had seen from the gate. Apart from the eye-catching feast of Berkheya speciosa with a wash of white Helichrysum ecklonis in the background, there were many other flowers hidden away, such as Leobordea pulchra, Sopubia simplex, Satyrium longicauda and the odd Lotononis bachmanniana.

A feast of flowers

Helichrysum spiralepis

Leobordea pulchra
While we were glad to get out of the wind, we were privileged to have been treated to a rare floral spectacle.

Participants: Anne S, Gail B-W, Graham G, Jean P, Kate G, Maggie A.

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