Friday, 24 November 2017

Hunting for Memecylon at Gogosa (Thursday 23 November 2017)

 Doug Stone from UKZN and Sri Lankan postgrad student Brabha Amarasinghe asked if they could join us on a visit to the Gogosa Outpost area of the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve so we could show them possible locations for the two Memecylon species, M. bachmannii and M. natalense. After meeting at Beacon hill, we drove up and parked at Gogosa Outpost, admiring the new tarred road past the water works on the way. While it was heavily overcast and cool, rain was only predicted for the afternoon so we set off towards the first of the forested gullies. Shortly after entering the grassland we came across a few Satyrium cristatum  and several Indigofera gogosae (ined) just starting to flower. Another prominent grassland flowering species was Pachycarpus asperifolius.

Satyrium cristatum

Indigofera gogosae (ined.)

Pachycarpus asperifolius

Skirting the forest we noticed a cluster of flowers on a branch and closer inspection revealed them to be a small colony of Polystachya ottoniana with their delicate pink flowers.

Polystachya ottoniana

After we found a possible entry point we made our way into the forest and down the steep slope towards the stream.

It was not long before we were all pretty wet and muddy as the leaves on the trees above us were wet from the previous night's rain and any movement of a branch or trunk brought a shower of drops down on us. On our way down we found the first small Memecylon natalense. We struggled along the streambed, climbing over or under fallen trees and avoiding the deepest pools and slippery rocks. Here we found an interesting fungus growing on the dead wood of a fallen trunk.

Semi-transparent fungus
Walking down the river (Photo Gail B-W)

Protorhus leaves and interesting reflection (Photo Gail B-W)
Anne admiring one of the large forest trees

A little bit further on we came across Memecylon bachmannii, fortunately, one with buds.

Memecylon bachmannii buds

We searched up and down this part of the stream but failed to find more Memecylon. We did however see a patch of Plectranthus zuluensis and as we clambered back up the slope, we found several flowering Liparis remota in the leaf litter. At the forest edge there were Cyphostemma rubroglandulosa (Rare), some in flower.

Plectranthus zuluensis

Liparis remota

Cyphostemma rubroglandulosa

Once back in the grassland we crossed another small stream and then descended along the reserve fence line back into the bigger stream. At the edge of this forest we found another M. bachmannii, and next to it was Maytenus cordata in flower. Protruding from the foliage below them was an inflorescense of a small, leafless Cussonia sphaerocephala, an unusual sight as generally the flowers are at the top of very tall, upright trees.

Cussonia sphaerocephala

Maytenus cordata

Along the forested stream banks we found another M. bachmannii and when Doug indicated that they had enough material, we climbed out of the forest and ascended to a rocky outcrop in the grassland where we had lunch.  Motivated by a chilly wind, we walked further to another wooded gulley. This proved to have an easier descent and we soon found several more Memecylon bachmannii, some with fruit.

Memecylon bachmannii fruit

Satisfied with the day's haul we headed back to the vehicles, seeing a few Eucomis autumnalis on the way. Doug took the time to point out field characteristics for identifying Memecylong species, particularly useful for distinguishing M. natalense from similar looking Eugenia species. Light rain started falling just as we drove off, some of us to do more labeling in the herbarium before going home.

Eucomis autumnalis

Doug doing some on-the-job training

Participants: Anne S, Brabha A, Doug S, Gail B-W, Graham G, Kate G, Maggie A.

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