Archive for the ‘Flora’ Category

Thorn trees

November 23rd, 2017, posted in Flora, Wildlife


Sometimes, at the end of the day when you are appreciating the thorn trees, gentle giants pass by, it is at these times, when i realise taking time to appreciate the thorn trees can have added benefits!

When Black-Jacks became beautiful

May 21st, 2010, posted in Flora

I gasped at their beauty.  Never before had I seen common Black-jacks so beautiful!

Bidens pilosa

I had woken early that morning, my mind buzzing with the things that had to be done in preparation for my brother’s birthday party.  It was exciting, as finally my months, weeks and days of planning would evolve from my imagination and become a creative reality!

Pieter accepted coffee from me at 05h30 and to settle my excitement, he took me for a birding walk, the air was crisp with a cool breeze blowing, we listening to the early morning bird songs and walked amongst the tall red thatching grass watching stone chats and wax bills, robins and weavers living a free life.

We turned a corner and there in front of me was the most beautiful sight, surprisingly not an animal, nor a bird, but Bidens pilosa, the common Black-jack. The fine silhouette of its burrs made this weed attractive which was also thought provoking…  I thought about how often I had grumbled to myself about these obnoxious weeds, how I had spent hours picking the black, needle-like burrs out of my socks, off my sons trousers as well as off my husband’s jersey.  The Black-jacks had often ruined a relaxing walk by making me pluck their burrs that had caught on our clothing off, taking care to throw them into the dustbin to prevent further distribution.  Now I was admiring this plant and the very part of it I had begrudged!

My thoughts turned inward a little more as I realized how narrow minded I had become – my passion for conservation and alien plant control, though important and good for our natural world in its own right, this very mindset had choked my appreciation of all creation!

Today,  I dedicate my blog to the weeds of life, each created for a purpose and all to be marveled at!

Protea, proteas

February 8th, 2010, posted in Flora

The King Protea is South Africa’s National Flower and I enjoy them. I only once saw a Protea Farm and was amazed at the way these flowers grew from week to week and then suddenly they would open, revealing the most amazing colour and patterns within the flower.

I believe a dried Protea flower is just as beautiful as when it was living, truthfully I speak only of the giant or king Protea (Protea cynaroides), even though there are a number of other Protea flowers in South Africa.

There is something to be said about flowers that don’t last too. It is as though they feast your eyes for a short season. Whilst on the plant, the Protea welwitchii is very pretty in its own way, however unlike the king Protea that will last for weeks in a vase and then make a beautiful dried arrangement, picking these flowers results in a brown wilted mess!

This is why, taking a Bush Trail can be very special, walking in the Waterberg during early summer allows you to get up close to these Proteas that only bloom for a limited time, we watch and wait for the flowers to appear and then we look, admiring the insects that take in its nectar and pollinate it. This season also allows us to reflect upon our life here on earth, we too are limited with the time we have and these flowers are a reminder to us to make an impact whilst we can

The Protea welwitschii is called the Cluster-head sugarbush or Troshofiesuikerbos and from the Book, Bushveld, Lee Gutteridge, has this to say about the flowers…

The Flower can be very messy, lacking the fine structure of many protea species. It also does not grow very tall. Root infusions are used for treating diarrhea in both humans and young cattle. The species is hybridizing with the Sugarbush protea in certain parts of the Waterberg and Magaliesberg regions.

It is stamvrug season!

January 15th, 2010, posted in Flora

The Stamvrug fruit grow directly from the branches and trunk of these 2-4m high trees. The Afrikaans name stamvrug is directly translated as stem-fruit. Not only do we enjoy them, but the baboons do too! So we have a troop at least once a week in close proximity to the house as in our garden and around the perimeter there are many of these plants growing.

Our family favourite is Stamvrug sorbet.

the stamvrug tree

Transvaal Milkplum

Stamvrug

Stamvrug

stem fruit

'stem-fruit'

There are some brave ladies in our area that make stamvrug jelly, but this is a tiresome process of skinning the fruit and de-pitting them – something you most definitely want to do because the seeds contain poison or at least that’s what the locals say – high concentrations of stricknine! But perhaps it is more like the cyanide contained in apples, either way, we do not chew or swallow the pips, just in case!

Those in the know, say only 1 in 5 buds develop into fruit! I wonder who took the time to work that out! Anyway, I looked it up and the correct English name for it is Transvaal Milkplum, Englerophytum magalismontanum.

The main stem is short, crooked, with a compact rounded crown. Its bark is grey and slightly scaly. The branches if not laden with fruit are marked with scars of fallen fruit. The young twigs have rusty hairs.

The leaves are alternate or spirally arranged, crowded towards ends of branchlets, leathery, shiny dark green above and covered with silvery hairs or even brown hairs beneath.

The flowers smell wonderful and are strongly scented especially early in the morning and bloom from June to October, depending on the climate.

My research has also found that the fruit and roots are used medicinally to treat headaches, rheumatism and epilepsy, mmmmmmm, and I thought its only use was found by the San / Bushmen to make poison from the seeds!

EDIBLE FRUIT YOU CAN ENJOY WHILST ON A BUSH WALK IN THE WATERBERG OF SOUTH AFRICA

Terminalia Fumes

November 10th, 2009, posted in Flora, Uncategorized

Flowers are generally associated with a pleasant fragrance but not always. Some flowers give off a terrible smell and we have them all around the Nyala Breeding Camp in which we live.

These trees play an important role here providing their foliage as food for browsers. Thankfully they only flower for 2-3 months of the year. This morning I had a slow run through the reserve, past a Terminalia tree and for about 500m had smell or breath in the fumes!
The smell can be described as the smell of toe-jam or that stinky shoe smell in sports changing rooms after a game and before the showers!

The species of Terminalia that occur here is the Silver Terminalia or in Afrikaans it is referred to as the Vaalboom.

Silver Terminalia trees

Silver Terminalia trees

Heavily and unpleasantly scented flowers

Heavily and unpleasantly scented flowers

Slender branchlets, Terminalia sericea

Slender branchlets, Terminalia sericea

It grows into a small or a medium sized tree of up 4 to 6m, but can reach a height of 10m; occurring in open woodland, frequently in sandy soils and often at vlei margins. The Bark is a dark grey and deeply vertically fissured; the slender branchlets are dark brown or purplish, peeling and flaking rings and strips exposing light brown underbark. Leaves are clustered towards the tips of the branchlets. The leaves are pale green covered with silvery silky hairs. The Flowers are small and cream to pale yellow colour, in auxiliary spikes up to 7cm long. The Fruit is rose-red when mature, drying to a reddish-brown but can be parasitized and develop into deformed, tangled masses of twisted, rusty-hairy structures.

Among African Tribes this tree has a wide variety of uses. A decoction of the roots is taken for diarrhoea, relieving colic and can also be applied as an eye wash, while a hot infusion of the roots’ outer layers makes a fomentation for treating pneumonia. The silky, silvery leaf hairs are used by Tswana potters for glazing their wares.

The wood is yellow and hard; it provides a useful general purpose timber and is suitable for fencing posts.

Looking up at a Silver terminalia tree

Looking up at a Silver terminalia tree

Notice the difference?

Notice the difference?

Bark of the Vaalboom, Silver Terminalia

Bark of the Vaalboom, Silver Terminalia

Wild Flowers

July 13th, 2009, posted in Flora, Uncategorized

Wild flowers are bush-girl’s best friend, they bring a new dimension to the veld, the trees come to life and it’s enough to make me smile…

 
 
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