The Guernsey Lily and other stories –

Writing this blog involves a lot of leafing through books trying to identify the flowers.  My favourite and the best that I’ve found so far is called Field Guide to Fynbos by John Manning.  It seems remarkably comprehensive, very detailed and I’m very grateful for it.

One thing I have learned is that small, daisy like purple and yellow flowers are quite hard to identify with pinpoint accuracy.  The devil, as always, is in the detail.  One has to note leaves, shape, colour, and plenty of tiny details involving the language of the botanist.  The purpose of this blog is not to bore a reader with the science; at the same time reasonably accurate identification of the plants means I must learn something of it myself.  As time goes on I should get better at it.
This has been a busy week and included some travel which means I’ve been out on the farm less than I like.  Luckily here were a few flowers I found last Sunday that I hadn’t taken the time to identify and it’s a rainy Sunday today, the mountain unphotogenically covered in dense cloud, so it’s a good day to spend leafing through the reference books.
This stunning purple daisy-like flower looks like a Felicia, of which we have lots on the farm, though they are not quite in flower yet.  Closer study reveals a white circle at the base of the petals which, combined with the shape of the petals (I really must take care not to become too much of a geek about this) makes me think it must be a subspecies of Senecio.  It looks quite like Senecio Sophioides which is not due to flower until July but it could be a close relation.  There are 80 fynbos subspecies of Senecio and not all are in the book.
I am a little more confident with the next identification despite the fact that the yellow daisy-like flower is the commonest of all, seen on lots of different shrubs.  Still, this one is quite distinct so I’m going to identify it as Ursinia.  Again it’s not flowering at quite the same time of year as the sub-species in the books, but it is quite distinctive for a yellow daisy-ish thing.

The day after I saw the Brown Afrikaner I saw another gorgeous bulb.  When it comes to bulbs there are two exceptionally prolific areas (that I’ve identified) on the farm and luckily one of them is the bank along the drive.  Running down the drive the other morning I caught a flash of red and stopped to see this; high on the bank above us.  It’s a south facing bank which doesn’t get much sunlight at this time of year.  I stopped several times as I drove up and down the drive and managed to catch one shot late in the day with the sun behind it.   I’ll go and have a look this week if the weather improves but I don’t know if I’ll find more of these so although the photo isn’t great, I decided to publish it in any case. I couldn’t get close enough to identify it with pinpoint accuracy – I can’t believe I’m going to have to bring field glasses with me to identify flowers. I’m pretty sure it’s a Nerine though. It is a lovely thing.


Nerine Sarniensis or Guernsey Lily

There is a multitude of shrubs on the farm with shapes that are unique and rather strange; not familiar to anyone who grew up in the herbaceous gardens of Europe, even those filled with exotic flora.  A feature of these, and we’ll have lots of examples over the coming months, is that the leaves grow close to the stem, all the way up a long stalk, with the flower heads clustered at the top.  One of these is Metalasia Densa, coming into flower now, – a prolific flowering which will last for the next six months.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these shrubs on the farm.


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