Although I posted a couple of pictures of Gladiolus maculate, the Brown Afrikaner, the other day, I was not sure I had done full justice to this exquisite and delicate flower, with its lovely flowers perched atop a long stem and somehow withstanding the most violent wind and rain. And although I’ve only ever seen one I thought it might be worth exploring if there were not more in the same area. So on Friday the dogs and I walked up in the evening light to see if we could find them. And we did, one other, a little less bedraggled looking. I don’t know if these are rare but they are special indeed.
Monthly Archives: June 2014
As I labored up the mountain preceded by faithful yet enthusiastic hounds this morning I thought ‘but surely if we’ve seen a Gladiolus watsonius, we should have seen a Gladiolus Maculatus by now’. As we trotted past the precise place where we saw it last year I swiveled my head left and Lo! There she was. Upright and unravaged despite overnight rains verging on monsoon. We will capture a better photo, I am sure; this one shows the indomitable nature of this winter flowering, sweetly scented gladiolus.
This stunning red flower emerges early in the winter season and as I was out with the dogs at the top of the farm this morning, there it was, standing like a glorious scarlet sentinal. Last year I worked hard to identify this and what a joy to welcome it back. Good Morning my friend, nice to see you again.
When I got home from Nairobi last week little Jemima Chew was not looking her usual self. She’s what the South African’s call a ‘pavement special’, an SPCA rescue dog who arrived in our lives shortly after Seamus. Although quieter than the attention seeking wolfhounds, she’s a lovely dog and often ends up a favourite with guests. She also gets bullied by Maebh as a result of which she now sleeps on our bed at night while the hounds sleep in the kitchen. A perfect outcome from her point of view.
Jemima Chew (named for the Jimmy Choo boots she very nearly destroyed as a puppy) is always alert, always ready for action and always hungry. So when she was down in the dumps, refusing food and clearly off colour we were quite worried. Especially when Peter told me she’d been that way for a couple of days. She didn’t have a temperature, but in our part of the world you worry about biliary and I found a couple of ticks on her. We rushed her to the vet and although she didn’t have biliary she did end up on a drip for 24 hours. Poor girl, she’s so tough that in six years its’s the first time she’s ever had to go to the vet. By Sunday she was home, feeling much better, wagging her tail and demanding dinner.
Here she is in the misty afternoon light a week later. It poured with rain all last weekend but stopped early enough on Sunday afternoon for us to go for a quick run before I had to leave for the airport. This blog is being written on a plane between London and Frankfurt.
The light was fantastic and made the grove of Ilex Mitis by the weir look like a scene from The Hobbit. Seamus and Maebh put on their best performances for this photo.
The waterfall, which I posted only a few days ago, is now white with pounding water – we must have had 30mm of rain at least and the farm is soaking wet.
One lovely result of a few days of rain is all the bird activity when it stops, especially as this is the mating season for most of our birds. We took a different route through the fynbos today and saw lots of Cape Sugarbirds having battles over the girls. The iphone which I used for all my flower photos is much less good at caputuring fauna but I did manage to get one image of the sugarbird inspecting his territory from the top of a Protea repens.
Not so many flowers on this run – the rain, followed by some sun, means there should be some new things to see next weekend when I get home. This is a new protea gleaming in the soft winter light. I have promised myself I will be stricter on identity this year, but I’m not sure what this subspecies is.
No problem identifying Chasmanthe aethiopica which we have posted before. This group grows higher on the mountain on a different part of the farm – a damp shady area just below the weir. Such a lovely flowering bulb and reliably reminds me of the damp sweet smelling Irish spring where it grows wild on the verges and in the hedgerows.
We woke up full of good running intentions this morning and the first sound was the pattering rain on the roof. News from Cape Town to the west of us that the rain is pouring down and a look at yr.no (the excellent Norwegian weather service if there is anyone alive who still doesn’t know about it) confirmed our worst fears. If we can’t run, we can at least blog about running.
I spend the hot months of summer thinking how much I like the Cape Winter – yes it rains but it never, in my imagination at least, gets truly cold. And it is true that here on the mountain the temperature very rarely slips below 5 degrees. This was a rare week. It was freezing, almost literally, and 4 degrees on Wednesday morning and reminded me exactly why I like living in warm countries. Being the Cape it was a short snap and on Thursday a benign sun smiled on us. Now it’s raining hard but still mild.
Deilighted to be reunited the dogs and I had some splendid runs. I’m travelling too much to keep a proper level of fitness, but even at a plod there is nothing more joyous than time spent on the mountain with the dogs.
The first Erica plukenetii has come into flower and will continue flowering all over the farm from now until December. They come in many colours and well post lots of them. I love the way the evening sun gleams on the clustered pink tubes.
The Protea nerifolia is one of the most magnificent shrubs on the farm and the bannerhead of The Fynbos Blog. Most commonly seen in pink, sometimes the flowers are cream or white and the soft velvety lushness is irresistible, to me as a photographer and apparently also to the tiny beetles you can see on the petals.
The Oxalis are out now, studding the lands like tiny jewels. I worry when it rains for days on end – the flowers only open in the sunlight, so how can they survive without it? But survive they do. There are dozens of varieties, these three are found everywhere on the farm. Oxalis veriscolor is particularly exquisite with it’s shrublike form and tiny pink edged white flowers.
Yellow daisy like flowers can be hard to identify and I was happy to see this Haplocapha lanata again. When I started the blog it was one of the first that I did manage to name and if you look closely at this photo you can just see the pink edges on the petals that indicate the distinguishing red undersides.
The water is pouring down the rivers and streams and our waterfall is back to its full glory.
This tiny flower grows on a shrub that looks like Chaenostoma hispidum or Sutera hispida (both the same, a victim of renaming again). We are right on the edge of its territory but it does look right.
Seamus absolutely loves this cooler weather. He is exceptionally fit and well at the moment and bounds all over the farm with us. Here he is in one of his favourite poses, he’s just had a drink and a lie down in Fox Pan and now he’s letting the breeze ruffle through his coat as he looks out over the mountains and waits for me to catch up.
One last flower that I have been meaning to post. It flowers very briefly and I missed it last year although we have lots of these pretty green shrubs on the farm. I caught one in the act a few weeks ago. The common name is wild asparagus, Asparagus rubicundus.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog and I think I may be struggling with a little writer’s block. There has been so much travel, work, report writing, negotiating still more work, over the last few weeks, to say nothing of trying to keep a semblance of normal life, that the runs and the flowers have faded to the background. Back on a plane now, headed to Nairobi, not a destination that’s particularly attractive at the moment, Time to write a blog. The lovely thing about this time of year is that every day is so different.
Unlike most of the continent we do have four proper seasons and now we are headed from autumn to winter. I’ve talked before about how our autumn is more like spring in the Irish world I come from. Here it is the relentless heat that stifles growth and shrivels the landscape. So once the rains fall and the temperature is mild, the landscape becomes green, birds start courting and building nests and though winter is cold and damp, it is also fecund and bears the promise of life to come.
One silly Cape Francolin (a partridge-like bird) decided to build her nest on the shores of the dam, where the undergrowth is thick and a willow tree grows overhead. Jemima Chew found her, of course, and she flew into the willow tree and refused to budge; presumably reluctant to leave her eggs (it is a little too early for chicks). Jemima spent the entire day barking at her, running around the willow tree, ferreting in the damp waters and generally causing havoc. The bird still didn’t budge. At one point, when Peter and I went to inspect the cause of all this commotion, Jemima Chew had actually managed to climb onto the lower branches of this willow tree, defying both gravity and the limitations of her portly figure. I had left my iphone in the house so we have no evidence of this unlikely event. Luckily night brought the irresistible temptations of a warm fire and a good dinner and the by next morning the francolin had learned some sense and was gone. Birds are not stupid.
While we were there we saw the first arum lilies of the season. These lovely lilies are indigenous here and will grow all winter long anywhere damp, the wetter the better. Roadside verges are covered in them, a joy to behold. The gleaming whiteness is quite hard to photograph, but these are the first.
Another fynbos bulb that likes damp places is Chasmanthe floribunda. I grew up knowing this as Montbrecia – it grows wild in the hedgerows of Ireland (a damp, mild climate if ever there was one). Oddly in Ireland it also flowers in May and June, justifying my claim that the Cape autumn is a kind of spring. Botannical names get changed to bring more global consistency and perhaps this is one that has been changed. When I look up Montbrecia it shows up as Crocosmia and looks exactly the same, so I’m a bit confused. Not an uncommon feeling when it comes to naming fynbos with pinpoint accuracy.
There is a particular light we see here in winter that charms me most of all. It happens when the sun is setting in the West/North West and a mist comes off the river down in the Paarl valley on a perfectly still evening. At a certain moment the setting sunlight catches the mist and turns the whole valley into gold. I only ever see it once or twice a year and it is enthralling. Last week we had such an evening and this photo is taken from the balcony. Hard to catch the magical glimmering golden light in a photograph, yet there is something of it captured here.
The next morning greeted us with cool cloudy weather pierced by the odd shaft of sunlight and a double rainbow.
As we ran up the mountain we saw the first wild rosemary – Eriocephalus africanus. This stunning herb grows commonly all over the farm and soon the air will be scented with its flowering. The tiny while flowers are a delight to behold and we’ll see many more of them in the months to come.
The Phylica is now in full flower everywhere and I noticed that the tiny flower heads have opened, each one a little flower in its own right. So pretty.