Arum Lilies, a dedication and 11 new species/subspecies

On the 19th of May I think of my brother Mark, who’s birthday this is, and this blog is dedicated to him.  Peonies are my favourite flowers because they bloomed in our garden the day he was born and I picked some to bring to the hospital the first day I met him.

Yesterday I took the dogs for a walk in the evening and as we crossed the dam wall I saw the first Arum Lily of the year.  I’ve seen them on the roadside already; all winter the roadsides and fields are covered in them – amazing that something so rare and precious in Europe should be a common winter wildflower here.  They thrive in watery places and the streams and banks on the farm are covered in them, hence this first sighting.  Before our run this morning I took this photograph – the flower shimmered against the brown dam water – its perfection needs no embelishment.

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Then off we went for our favourite weekend run.  The northern boundry of the farm abutts the nature reserve and the lower slopes of the reserve are covered by a commercial pine forest.  Crazy in this environment where the fynbos needs to burn every seven years or so in order to regenerate but if the forest goes up it will be a disaster, not least because there is a village in the middle of it.  That said, we love it.  On hot days it’s a joy to run through the forest’s dappled light and today was an unusually hot autumn day.  Once we leave the property both wolfhounds go on the lead.  I probably look a bit ridiculous running along with these two huge dogs, one of which weighs more than I do, but even with baboon sightings they are too polite to pull me over or the lead out of my hand.  A passing cyclist generates no more than an enthusiast tug from the dogs, and pedals all the faster when he sees them.  They are gentle giants but look quite fierce; this may be Africa, but I feel perfectly safe.
As we set off I was thinking that surely I wouldn’t find anything new on the farm – after all a few days ago I photographed everything I could see.  Now I’m curious to see how the year goes, because in one day I’ve identified 11 new species and subspecies, not all of which I’ll talk about yet but still; 11.  And as I think about it 12 because I saw the buds of one of very favourite flowers about to bloom and didn’t take a picture as the months to come will offer splendid opportunities to capture it at its best.  Out I went thinking, probably won’t see anything new today and 11 new things pop up.  This bodes well for our blogging year.
We ran later than usual so the Oxalis, mentioned in a previous blog, are all showing off in the glorious autumn sunlight and as soon as we left the house I notice this lovely yellow version, on the banks of the roadside and also in the lands, this in the last couple of days.  There are 120 Oxalis fynbos subspecies so forgive me if I dont’ try and identify this one which doesn’t have a perfect match in my book.
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While on the subject of Oxalis, I published a picture of one from the southern part of the farm which I described as unusual.  Clearly I shall be humbled by this blog; this flower may be unusual on the southern boundry, but in the north of the farm these jewel-like flowers are everywhere.  There is one road in particular which always has the best display of flowers and of course it is littered with these lovely pinky white stars.  On closer study I believe it may be Oxalis Argyrophylla.
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While photograhing those I noticed this creeping pink Oxalis with finer leaves and a creeping or rambling disposition.  I can’t identify it but it is most certainly a different and very charming sub-species.
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Ericas or heathers are one of the great marvels of fynbos and the flowers take many forms, often bells or trumpets, others less musical.  The trumpets are to my mind the most beautiful of all – and this coral version has started to flower in the past week or so.  The morning light was not good enough to capture it and I had a busy Sunday afternoon in the garden so I asked Peter to take me up to the top of the farm this afternoon to capture it in the southwestern sunlight.
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This expedition led to several more sightings which I’ll share during the course of the week – too much for one blog.  One thing I saw late last night, photographed this morning and again this afternoon is this tiny, delicate flower, of which I could find only one example in the middle of a fertile piece of road.  Initially I thought it must be yet another of the 120 sub-species of Oxalis but on looking at this photo that’s clearly not the case; the leaves are all wrong. I think it must be Chaenostoma, yet those in my book are all shrubs and this is somewhat standalone. Perhaps this plant will develop over the years, or I shall find others that permit a more accurate identification.  Delicate, delightful, terribly discrete and utterly charming.
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Finally – what on earth is this?  It looks like it belongs in a very smart herbaceous border, yet here it is, casually on the roadside, red berries glistening in the afternoon sun.  Further investigation is clearly required and we need to see what the flowers look like.  What a beauty.  And if you look closely you will note the little violet wild lobelia flowers growing through it.
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