Saturday, 14 October 2017

Visits to three grasslands at Ngele (Thursday 12 October, 2017)

Our first objective with this visit was to assist with an assessment of the plant biodiversity of a section of grassland just on the KwaZulu-Natal side of the Umtamvuna river on the lower slopes of the Ngele mountain range. There had not been much rain prior to our visit and accordingly there was not much flowering. The grassland is also used for grazing the sheep from the local community, so the ground cover was very short. The assessment was needed as there is consideration of an application to plant Eucalyptus in the area.

We recorded as many species as we could identify - some in a non-flowering state. A few of these are shown below. We also got good views of the confluence of the Umtamvuna River with the Mafadobo River from this site.

Leobordea pulchra

Striga bilabiata

Basananthe sandersonii

Asclepias cuculata

Confluence of the Umtamvuna (right) and Mafadobo Rivers (above left)

Having completed the survey, we decided to head off to an area where we thought we could find Struthiola anomala and Dioscorea brownii as we have no recent specimens of these species. Although the flowers at this next site were far more prolific, our two target species had failed to appear this early in the season. We nevertheless had an enjoyable time scrambling around on a steep, south-facing slope while looking for them.

Instead we found a number of Geum capense and Helichrysum vernum accompanying Kniphofia baurii, Aspidoglossum flava and Diclis reptans. The wind was howling around our ears while exposed on this slope making photography very difficult so we were glad to move on into a less exposed area.

Afroaster perfoliata

Aspidoglossum flava

Geum capense

Diclis reptans

Helichrysum vernum

Around the corner were some Anemone caffra, one or two Heliophila rigidiuscula, and several of the very attractive Tulgaghia leucantha as well as a single Hypoxis parvula var. albiflora.

Heliophila rigidiuscula

Tulbaghia leucantha

Hypoxis parvula var. albiflora

Once we walked over the crest of the hill, we were shielded from the wind and could relax in the sun and have our lunch. Nearby we found Pachycarpus plicatus and a small patch of the rather imposing Berkheya macrocephala. Dotted around were several eye-catching Raphionacme hirsuta and there were imposing patches of Rhodohypoxis baurii in exposed rock sheets along with a colony of Euphorbia flanaganii.

Pachycarpus plicatus

Polygala amatymbica

Berkheya macrocephala

Raphionacme hirsuta

Rhodohypoxis baurii

Walking back to the vehicles we came across Rhynchosia villosa in flower and a single Ipomoea simplex.

Rhynchosia villosa

Ipomoea simplex

The team for the day with the Ngele range in the background

Our final stop for the day was at a small grassland near the Weza sawmill. This patch was blooming well with a swathe of Kniphofia baurii and we were also lucky to find a few of the leafless but imposing Cyrtanthus contractus.

Ajuga ophridis

Argyrolobium amplexicaule

Cyrtanthus contractus

Kniphofia baurii

Lithospermum papillosum

Kniphofia laxiflora

Eriosema distinctum

By this stage the clouds that had started building up earlier had become threatening and the wind had turned cold, so we were glad to get back to the shelter of the vehicles and head back homewards, satisfied with all we had seen.

Participants: Anne S, Graham G, Jean P, Kate G, Isabel J, Phakamani M.

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