Monthly Archives: August 2013

Wet weather finds in the fynbos

The weather and our travel arrangements have played against the Fynbos Blog for the last couple of weeks.  We are in Ireland for a short holiday visiting friends and family.  The Cape may seem green in winter but nothing compares to the overwhelming lush greenness of the Irish countryside.  

Meanwhile in the Cape everything flowering and especially the bulbs seems to thrive in the wet wet weather. At this time of year the Arum lilies line the roads whereever there is a bit of damp or water. I have never seen them more prolific than this year – the verges are shining with white trumpets set in the glossy greenness of their leaves. Extraordinary that this magnificent flower should be so very common here.

Before we left I did manage to go up to the top of the farm between the torrents of rain and of course were new and exciting flowers to photograph, even though we only had a few minutes.  The Babinia fragrens is everwhere, like all the bulbs it is loving this wet spring and the blue flashes are everywhere.
Babinia fragrens

Babinia fragrens

I haven’t been able to identify this rather tatty yellow flower – it may not be looking its best after the rain but the honeybee doesn’t seem to mind.  The leaf shape is very distinctive but I can’t make a certain identification in the books anything that looks similar seems to belong in sandy flats while we have sandstone and granite slopes so it is the wrong habitat.
Unidentified yellow flower

Unidentified yellow flower

Meanwhile this lovely white flower is scattered all over the lower lands.  This is a very common garden flower and I always thought it was Osteospermum but the book calls it Dimorphoteca nudicalus.
Dimorphoteca nudicalis

Dimorphoteca nudicalis

It’s exciting when we make a clear identification of an old and frequently seen friend and this one is Geissorhiza ovata – we see it all over the farm, it’s a stunning fynbos bulb that puts out this little white stars.  There are 80 fynbos subspecies of Geissorhize so I hope we find more of these charming flowers.
Geissorhiza ovata

Geissorhiza ovata

Another very summer flower is this Cyphia volubilis, a twining perennial creeper which is very common all over the farm.  The delicate pretty white flowers are everywhere at the moment, often woven in to the depths of shrubby fynbos, so although they are common, they are not so easy to photograph and this was a lucky shot in good light.  The flowers themselves are quite small, about the size of my thumbnail, or just a little bigger.
Cyphia volubilis

Cyphia volubilis

We ran out of time and had to get back to pack for Ireland.  The weather has been appalling since we left, so we wouldn’t have much to photograph and I’m hoping that some warmth and sunshine might arrive which will cause a profusion of flowering in perfect time for our return next week.  Meanwhile I am hoping to put up some new pages with collections of some of the larger groups of subspecies.

Flower of the Day: Leucospermum lineare, known as “The Vulnerable”

Published on yesterday’s blog, and a flower I am sure I won’t be able to resist photographing many more times.  This delicate pincushion is on the fynbos red list and we are very happy to see it thriving here.  It is not the only one; I wouldn’t quite call it a colony, but we do have a few of them.  Luckily they are largely inaccessible to flower hunters and enthusiastic photographers.

Leucospermum lineare

Leucospermum lineare

A farm awash with rain and flowers

The torrents of rain have played havoc with our internet with is normally very good at the farm. On Thursday last week it poured all day and the dams in the Cape are now officially full.  But the storm hit the “tower” on the farm which wasn’t repaired until Monday and we have only just acquired enough bandwidth for blogging and uploading, which is all very frustrating for The Fynbos Blog.

It’s raining heavily again today but in between we’ve had some glorious weather and today’s blog includes photos from several runs and a “flower safari” that we did for friends over the weekend. Luckily they were knowledgeable friends and identified some plants that I was not sure about.

The first glimpse of sunlight in at least 10 days came on Friday morning and floodlit the moutain through the clouds on our morning run. What a joy to anticipate some warmth and light over the weekend.

Dawn sunshine floods through the clouds

Dawn sunshine floods through the clouds

One new flower that I’m very happy to see is the Leucospermum that climbs down the bank on the driveway – aesthetically positioned on a bend in the road it is one of the few of this variety that we have on the farm and faithfully flowers every year.  This is Leucospermum lineare, touchingly known as the Vulnerable and on the Red List of South African fynbos plants.  It should be safe with us.   (with thanks to Rupert Koopman for the ID).

Leucospermum - the pincushion flower

Leucospermum lineare – the Vulnerable

This Protea is one that I’ve photographed before but I don’t think we’ve identified it correctly.  I suspect that it could be Protea speciosa but we need to see if those petals have the right kind of hairy beards when it flowers fully.  It is loving the rain and throwing lots of new buds.

Protea speciosa-esque?

Protea speciosa-esque?

Rain is also wonderful for flowering bulbs once they get a bit of sunshine and on our Sunday walk we saw this Spiloxene Capensis, the Cape Star on the point of flowering. We will definitely post a picture of this beauty in full flower if we get enough of a break in this week’s rain to get up the mountain.

Spiloxene capensis about to flower

Spiloxene capensis about to flower

Most of the flowering bulbs are a bit tattered but this Babinia Fragrens was clearly happy to see the sun and possibly emerged just after the rains as its petals are in perfect condition.

Babinia fragrens

Babinia fragrens

On the road down from the waterfall to the farm stands this curiosity, a protea with a strange but apparently very happy parasite growing on it. I have no idea what it is and am posting a photo of it for curiosity value.

image

I have not yet quite identified this fabulous fynbos shrub.  Notice the way the flowers seem to grow out of the fruit. When we first came here I was fascinated by the shapes and strange habits of some of the fynbos.

Unidentified shrub

Unidentified shrub

There is so much going on that it is quite hard to choose what to post after an empty week. I cannot resist another photo of the Erica with it’s lovely pink bells – Ericas of all types are rampant at the moment, loving the damp cool winter air.

Erica nudiflora?

Erica nudiflora?

We had an exceptionally dry and mild June this year, followed by a wet and mild July and a very wet and quite mild August. This combination has made for an early spring flowering season and we can see life exploding all over the place, at least we can when we get out there in between the rains!

The final flower from our weekend is the Lobostemum Fruticosa. I won’t be able to resist taking photos of this shrub for the rest of the springtime, it is spectacular and flowers all over the moutain. These delicate trumpets shine both in sunshine and on gloomy days and bring joy to the soul of the weary runner and frustrated blogger.

Lobostemon fruticosus

Lobostemon fruticosus

On Monday evening after a beautiful crystal clear day I drove home in the early evening just as the sun was setting and the moon rising behind the mountains. This photo was taken from the bottom of the long dirt road that leads through the vineyards to our farm. By yesterday the clouds were back and with night came that sound of rain hammering on the roof again. Enough! Time for some sunshine!

The last of the sunlight and a rising moon over the Hawequas Mountains

The last of the sunlight and a rising moon over the Hawequas Mountains

Water!

As Capetonians know every day this week we’ve woken up to the thud of rain on the roof which is a huge disincentive to go up the mountain. Somehow I have become an African and the sound of rain is welcome, although I will never get over my Irish dislike of getting wet and don’t stand happily in the rain like some of my South African friends. I’m certainly not keen enough to go running in the heavy rain.

This morning the rain was not merely thudding; we had a warning of big storms today and during the night it started hammering and it didn’t let up until around 2pm and picked up again a couple of hours later. When it rains like this our thoughts immediately go out to those who have to cope in informal settlements all over the Cape. It must be hell for them.

Here in Paarl the rivers all look set to flood, any low areas of roads are flooding, and our mountains are disgorging water everywhere. It’s wet, but it’s also stunning and these long winter rains feed the Cape all year and make its fabulous wines and harvests possible. Dams are finally full and the winter is fulfilling its promise.

When the weather cleared for a while at 2pm, perhaps the eye of the storm or the bad rains finally wearing out I put on my running shoes and set off with the dogs to look at the rivers on the farm. The waterfall is amazing, gallons of water a second pouring down, white with fury and pressure. In the interest of a good picture I clambered down to the bottom of the fall to capture this photo. At the top of it you can see a pink flowering shrub – it’s the one I had identified as “purple gorse” but I went back to check and it is an Erica – Erica multumbelliferia.

The waterfall after heavy rain

The waterfall after heavy rain

Erica multumbelliferia

Erica multumbelliferia

The poor old fynbos bulbs are a bit tattered after a week of rain but the same rain that flattens then will only produce more flowers. Meanwhile the Lobostemum seems to glow in the grey light and definitely took the slot of Flower of the Day. Here it is again.

Lobostemum fruticosus

Lobostemum fruticosus

I’ve noticed over the years that after heavy rain the birds are always very active and it was true today with birds calling and flitting all over the place. Best of all was an outraged Malachite Sunbird who had clearly decided the weir belonged to him and and him alone; he called furiously while flitting from branch to branch. There is another who loves the scented flowers by the house and who sits on a high branch outside the backdoor shrieking with rage on spring mornings when we emerge. One day I must capture him on film and post him on the blog, the emerald green colour is extraordinary and fully merits the name.

Higher up the weir is also pouring water and upstream from the weir the pools look amazing. You can see the gathering water and the magnificent trunk of this beautiful Ilex Mitis, the Cape Holly, with its foot in the stream.

Ilex Mitis, the Cape Holly with his feet in this permanent stream

Ilex Mitis, the Cape Holly with his feet in this permanent stream

While I was running merrily around the farm Peter was far more concerned with the dam, which looked like it might overflow and possible breach the dam wall which would be a disaster. He had sent the farm staff home – not much they can do in this weather, and spent the afternoon digging out above the wall to make sure we’d be safe. Fires a stiff drink and comfort food all needed at the farm this evening.

Flower of the Day: Gazania rigida

Gazania rigida, found growing along the road right at the top of the farm.  This is very easy to identify unlike so many yellow daisy-like flowers because of the black marks at the base of the petals and the distinctive leaves and petals.  Note the helichrysum growing with it – helichrysum is flourishing all over the place at the moment.  It flowers in summer and we’ll see lots of it then.

Thanks to everyone who viewed the blog as a result of hearing about the blog on 567 Cape Talk.  It was exciting to have such an huge reaction to a few seconds on air and wonderful to see so much interest in our fynbos heritage.  Very motivating to keep getting up that mountain and photographing these wonderful flowers.

Gazania rigida; with Helichrysum growing alongside

Gazania rigida; with Helichrysum growing alongside

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