Saturday, 30 December 2017

Two sites in the Natal Midlands (24 & 26 December 2017)

Escaping the madding holiday crowds at the beach for a quieter stay in Hilton in the KwaZulu Natal midlands gave us an opportunity to explore some grasslands in the area. The first visit was to the Thurlow Game Reserve near Midmar Dam.

Our first stop was for several bright clumps of Aloe ecklonis close to the road. Exploring further we saw an impressive display of Alysicarpus rugosus, with many flowering ground-hugging shrubs dotted around. Xysmalobium undulatum were also doing well here. We made our way towards a reed-bed finding Asclepias flexuosus on the way.

Aloe ecklonis

Alisycarpus rugosus

Asclepias flexuosus

In a wet area near the stream was a single remaining Crinum bulbispermum in flower, several Epilobium salignum and a number of large shrubby Clutia katharinae. Helichrysum rugosus formed a carpet in the drier areas.

Epilobium salignum

Crinum bulbispermum

Clutia katharinae

Helichrysum rugosus

Having seen what was on offer at this spot we drove on, stopping briefly to get photos of Vernonia gerrardii before crossing a stream and heading up a hill. At the side of the track we were treated to the sight of a small Erythrina zeyheri in flower and then we stopped at the top of the first hill and started exploring again. There were several large patches of Ipomoea oblongata flowering brightly here. Growing alongside the track were some rather yellow/brown coloured Gladiolus dalenii.

Vernonia gerrardii

Erythrina zeyheri (ploegbreeker)

Ipomoea oblongata

Gladiolus dalenii

We headed out towards the rocky edge to this hill top where we found a local endemic species, Asclepias woodii, a new species for us. Draped over the rocks was Cyphostemma natalitium and Lablab purpureus spread in between the rocks. There were also clumps of Indigofera hendecaphylla, the occasional patch of Schizocarpus nervosus and a single Lantana rugosa. Low shrubs of Grewia hispida crowded around some of the rocks. Another interesting find on this hillock was Pachycarpus natalensis.

Asclepias woodii

Cyphostemma natalitium

Lablab purpureus

Lantana rugosa

Grewia hispida

Pachycarpus natalensis

Schizocarpus nervosus

Two days later we set off to visit the Mount Gilboa nature reserve, pausing briefly to pick up Isabel Johnson on the way. Along the road we found the first of several Gladiolus sericeovillosus and a little further on, Gloriosa modesta.

Gladiolus sericeovillosus

Gloriosa modesta

As we drove towards Mark's Dam on the forestry roads, we saw the first of the Midlands endemics for the day -- Dierama luteoalbidum, an impressively large-flowered species with off-white flowers. The grassland around the dam produced a good display of flowers, including the eyecatching Leobordea corymbosa. 

Dierama luteoalbidum

Leobordea eriantha

We explored the rocky ridges above the dam and fortunately Isabel was able to direct us to find some of the special species of this area. Passing some Crocosmia potsii and a few Zaluzianskya microsiphon, we came across a large flowered Indigofera  species and Wahlenbergia appressifolia.

Crocosmia pottsii

Indigofera sp

In the wetter areas near the stream we found a few Psoralea rhizotoma in flower.  Crossing a drainage line and up the next slope we started seeing clumps of the Endangered endemic Aloe neilcrouchii as well as small clumps of Delosperma sutherlandii, both new species for us. In between the rocks there were Dianthus zeyheri.

Psoralea rhizotoma

Aloe neilcrouchi

Dianthus zeyheri

Delosperma sutherlandii

On top of the ridge we found Syncolostemon parviflorus - most of these plants had finished flowering but I managed to find one with a few flowers. There were also several Xysmalobium parviflorum hunched against rocks and a patch of the tall-stemmed Gerbera kraussii.

Syncolostemon parviflorus
Xysmalobium parviflorum
Gerbera karussii

We then drove to the top of Mount Gilboa and immediately started seeing many orchids, the most prominent of which, and possibly the dominant species on this peak, was Disa pulchra. Close to the vehicle we found a Disperis cardiophora, some Drimia sphaerocephala and one or two of the shy, small-flowered Moraea trifida as well as Zaluzianskya natalensis. 

Disa pulchra

Disperis cardiophora

Drimia sphaerocephala
Moraea trifida
Zaluzianskya natalensis

We had a great time wandering among the Disa pulchra and Disa chrysostachya, finding a Teedia lucida growing between two big rocks. We stopped to examine a clump of pink Dierama and decided these were Dierama dracomontana

Teedia lucida

Disa chrysostachya
On top of Mount Gilboa

After a quick lunch looking out over the flowering Calodendrum capense trees in the indigenous forest below us, we decided to explore another nearby peak and scaled a fairly steep grassy slope to get to the top. We saw many Athrixia arachnoidea and then came across Disa saxicola in the long grass. Growing in rock crevices we found several Begonia sutherlandii proudly showing their bright orange flowers, contrasting with the white flowers of the little Streptocarpus pusilus.

Athrixia arachnoidea

Begonia sutherlandii

Disa saxicola

Geranium wakkerstroomianum

Back at the bottom of the hill there were Indigofera foliosa.

Indigofera foliosa

We have to thank Adam Shuttleworth for suggesting places to visit while we were staying in Hilton and what we might expect to see at these two sites. He also provided identification for two of the Apocynaceae we had not seen very often before.

Participants: Graham G, Isabel J, Kate G.

No comments:

Post a Comment