On the way up Kokstad we took the time to stop off along the route to check the status of the Nerine at Ngeli. The roadside sub-population of the more common N. appendiculata was doing well despite signs of work to be completed on a roadside cable through the wetland there. As we headed to the location of the N. bowdenii population, mist descended on us making it difficult to find our way on a poorly-defined track. Here too the Nerine bowdenii subsp. bowdenii plants were doing well with their pink inflorescences poking out over the shrubbery. On the way back we stopped to take some photographs of a magnificent display of Hebenstretia oatesii and Leonotis leonurus, even though they were a little hidden by the low cloud.
|Nerine bowdenii subsp. bowdenii|
|Hebenstretia and Leonotis emerging from the mist.|
The next morning we set off on a road constructed by the farmer up to a small weir - time and nature have had an impact with grass and pioneer plants growing chest high in some places in the track, concealing boulders, small and large, that have rolled down into the track making progress very slow. The track zig-zags steeply up the foothills of Nolangeni mountain with several hairpin bends on the corners until a gate is reached leading into the Eastern Cape and around onto the south-east facing slope where the Nerine were reported to be.
|Our destination - near the top of the peak in the middle right|
We were in luck - informed by our records of the flowering times of the Nerine at Ngeli we had timed our visit perfectly. Spread out before us on a wooded south-east facing slope was a great display of pink Nerine. We scaled the slope and could immediately see from the glabrous pedicel and lack of appendage that these were not N. appendiculata. However these plants were much more robust than those seen the day before at Ngeli, at a first glance seeming to more closely resemble the Nerine bowdenii subsp. wellsii which occur near the Sentinel in the northern Drakensberg. However, Nerine experts have now confirmed that these are indeed Nerine bowdenii ssp bowdenii.
|Nerine bowdenii subsp. bowdenii|
|Showing the dense nature of this sub-population of Nerine bowdenii|
We made an estimate of the extent of this sub-population - there were between 2000 and 2500 plants visible but it looked like there were more dormant bulbs at the base of many clumps. Although there are signs of some high-altitude Invasive Alien Species on this slope, the numbers are currently low and the sub-population of Nerine and the surrounding vegetation seem to be in good condition.
Other plants we saw flowering in the area were a rather late flowering Brownleea parviflora, a healthy population of an impressively large-flowered pink Hesperantha grandiflora, an interesting Cineraria, Crassula dependens, Glumicalyx goseloides, a pink Heliophila, Printzia pyrifolia and a few Zaluzianskya microsiphon.
We persevered along the track, passing a very lazy nightadder, eventually arriving at the weir where we stopped for lunch. At the weir we saw Limosella longiflora growing in a seep, and rounded clumps of Helichrysum sutherlandii growing just above a large dolerite outcrop. Here we also saw some Protea subvestita with old seed heads.
|Lunch time at the weir at 1830 m (Photo Jeanette Rennie)|
After lunch we climbed a short distance to inspect the wetland higher up, which is the source of the water feeding the weir. And then we tackled the bumpy journey back down the track homewards.
|The wetland which is the source of the water at the weir|
A big word of thanks first to Margie Shaw for mentioning to presence of these Nerines and especially to Mike Rennie for organising access to the site and having the fortitude to press on driving along the rough track where many others - myself included - might have considered turning back.
Participants: Graham G, Jeanette R, Kate G, Kim R, Mike R.