An orchid known as the Cowled Friar

I’m sitting in the back of a 737 as I write this. I should be writing reports for work but my flight was delayed and I’ve been shunted onto a different, very full plane. My work is rather confidential and there’s no room, so I might as well write about flowers as we fly over snow-tipped mountains towards hot Johannesburg.

With the bad weather behind us the mountain is finally reveling in a blast of spring weather. Birds everywhere hopefully breeding like mad, bees humming and fynbos plants doing what they do best, covering themselves in stunning flowers.

Everytime we set off in a new direction we find new things. Peter and I went for an evening walk with the dogs a couple of days ago and we took a steep path that goes up the bank behind the house. These yellow orchids were all over that piece of land, though I haven’t yet seen them anywhere else. It is Pterygodium catholicum, and its common name, very charmingly, is the Cowled friar. I particularly love the red splashes on the petals. Although these are not uncommon, to the best of my knowledge, there is always something very special about orchids and it is lovely to see them growing so close to the house.

Pterygodium catholicum

Pterygodium catholicum

There are clumps of this very pretty white shrub all over the place. I will pick some when I get home and do a more thorough analysis but it looks very much like Agthomsa capensis, a member of the buchu famlily that is quite common all over the Cape. The good thing about these plants is that the leaves have quite a distinctive smell – the book says that these are “sweet smelling”, which certainly is not the case with the pungent leaves of Agthomsa betulina and crenulata that we grow commercially on the farm. That should make identification quite easy to confirm.

Agthomsa capensis

Agthomsa capensis

This rambling and rather strange flower is not in my fynbos books – is it a weed?


Here it is again, rambling in a cultivated part of the farm among the lupins, again raising suspicions about its authentic fynbos origins.

Another pea-like flower grows in wilder parts but I can’t identify it.


Somebody please put me out of my misery and tell me what this yellow shrub is? It sprawls untidily by the woodpile at the edge of the olives. There are several of them there although I haven’t seen them anywhere else. It has been in flower for quite a few weeks but I’ve struggled to take a good photo of it – the flowers are at the tip of a long stem and it waves in the slightest breeze. That evening it was dead calm and these pale flowers are easier to capture as the light fades so I got a good shot of it.


As the light failed we walked into an area where I rarely go, it’s off the beaten track for running and we don’t visit it enough. There is an amazing view through the trees down towards the dams of Nederburg with the Paarderberg mountain in the background.


When we crossed over the dam wall to the house I stopped and captured the Carpobrotus edulis that sprawls there. A succulent that loves these conditions and is common all over the Cape, these yellow flowers fade to pink as they age and I will try to capture that.


Yesterday morning I got up early to run with the dogs. It was a busy day and I promised myself I would concentrate on running, not flowers. As we ran down the drive the first rays of sun caught the Simonsberg and the light was magical, so we stopped to capture that moment.


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