Monday, 6 November 2017

UWC students visit Umtamvuna

This week we were joined by a group of postgraduate botany students from the University of the Western Cape who were on a field trip.  On a cool overcast morning we set off across the grassland towards the beacon, keeping a look out for their species of interest. Unfortunately we do not have Cotula species, Aarifa's research subject, in the reserve so she supported the others in their sampling efforts.

The group exploring the grassland at Beacon Hill

Liada's focus was Chamaecrista and immediately we found groups of C. comosa but without flowers.  However, it wasn't long before the attractive yellow flowers caught our eye.  There was much excitement as Liada had not seen C. comosa in flower before and he set about collecting specimens.  New stems of C. mimosoides were scattered here and but we were too early for flowers.

Chamaecrista comosa at last.
Chamaecrista comosa

Lasiosiphon was Refilwe's target and there were plenty of L. triplinervis on the rock outcrops.  L. kraussianus is one of the first species to flower after fire so although there were many plants, the flowering was long over.  It seems that there is always a L. anthylloides in flower but we could not find one and checking in the herbarium, realised that although there is a long flowering period, we had just missed it.  However, Refilwe was kept busy with several Gnidia species as well as a splendid display of Struthiola pondoensis.

Lasiosiphon triplinervis
Struthiola pondoensis

Rangani's target species was Anthospermum and we knew we had to move beyond the grassland to find them. Exploring the rocks around the beacon, Rangani found two bushy species that he identified as A. spathulatum and A. aethiopicum.  These are apparently widespread species.  At the edge of the forested stream there were plenty of A. galpinii in flower, the species we see most often in forest margins.  We were also able to show him a locality for A. herbaceum, a common species here but one which he had not seen before, so he was very happy with his haul.

In general the diversity of flowers was the same as on the previous outing to this area two weeks ago, with the notable exception of Dianthus mooiensis brightening up the landscape.

Dianthus mooiensis

By lunch time it was very hot so we were all happy to return to the shaded shelter at the office.  The students spent time pressing their specimens and later were taken to the Mpenjati Nature Reserve in the hope of finding Lasiosiphon macropetalus for Refilwe.  The area where this species occurs had been burnt and all that remained amongst the new grass, was a few blackened twigs. 

Despite the disappointments, the group had a good day and their experience confirmed that a repeat visit in January was necessary.  We look forward to seeing them again.

Participants: Aarifa J., Anne S., Jean P., Kate G., Liada M., Phakamani M, Rangani N. and Refilwe K.

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