Tag Archives: Erica

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.

A spell of good weather and a burst of new flowers

It has been a gorgeous week on the mountain, with new flowers popping up all over the place.  We had a damp start and one morning when it was too wet to run but the dogs and I have had several stunning runs all over the farm and this morning’s weather is glorious so as soon as this blog is finished we’ll be out there again.  Next week we are expecting a big storm and our running might be curtailed, so this weekend we are keen to do as much as possible.  Poor Jemima Chew is limping and on anti-inflammatories so she can’t come and howls in outrage when we leave.  They would go in any weather; for my part I don’t mind the damp mist at all but the pouring rain is not my thing.
Talking of being rained under I’m deluged with work at the moment so haven’t had much time for research.  Luckily some things just jump out of the book – instantly and clearly recognisable and this is one of them.   Oftia africana, widely dispersed throughout the Cape and apparently flowers all year round though seems to prefer the spring flowering here on the mountain.  it is coming out all over the place.
Oftia

Oftia

Pelargoniums and Babinias are also everywhere, the latter flowering decorously in groups under trees and the former peeping out from thick undergrowth along the roads.
 image
image
As we climbed up the mountain we saw this Erica with tiny white bells on it, despite my best efforts you can only just see them in this picture.  The same variety seems to come with pink bells as well and sometimes they grow side by side
Erica with tiny white bell-like flowers

Erica with tiny white bell-like flowers

I can’t find this shrub with a yellow flower in the book so its gone to the unknown album and I’m hoping to get to Kirstenbosch Botannical Gardens this week or next to get some help with these and possibly some additional reference books in preparation for the continued spring explosion.
Unidentified yellow flowering fynbos shrub

Unidentified yellow flowering fynbos shrub

There is no difficulty recognising the Microloma tenuifolium, it’s tiny bright coral flowers jump out of the tangled thickets at you.  Normally you see them like this one curling and creeping around a wild helichrysum.
Microloma tenuifolia

Microloma tenuifolia

But yesterday we saw this unusual sight, the Microloma has gone and wound itself round and round this bit of bush and is flowering as a massive head of colour.  Amazing!
Microloma tenuiffolia

Microloma tenuiffolia

The Lobostemum continues to blossom all over the mountain, often they are pink, or pinky-blue.  In this particular area at the top of the farm they are all blue.
Lebostemum with blue flowers

Lebostemum with blue flowers

Finally as we ran down the mountain we came across this magnificent Lucodendrum.  Later in the spring these yellow flowers will turn the most beautiful shade of coral.  There are masses of them and we look forward to their arrival at the height of spring.
Leucodendrum

Leucodendrum

A spring weekend

I have been away too much over the past few weeks and am overjoyed to be back on the farm for a few weeks before I have to do any serious travel again. The last post talked about the Bulbinia fragens, the harbinger of spring. Spring here does not arrive over many weeks as it does in Europe. Within one unseasonably warm week I have returned to find the farm full of new flowers. This is building up to the height of the flowering season for Fynbos and the next few months are going to see an explosion of life. I’m already struggling to keep up – this blog will be quite long and I’ll be trying to keep regular posts so that we capture as much as possible of what’s happening on the mountain.

I’ve been looking out for this flower – it’s a dear friend, one of the first that made me realise the special nature of our fynbos bulbs. This photo is quite deceptive as this is a tiny iris-like flower – each petal not much bigger than my fingernail. This is Moraea tripelata and it has started to flower all over the farm. I spotted it first thing when I went running with the dogs on Saturday morning.

Moraea tripetala

Moraea tripetala

Peter then took us up to see the work he’s been doing clearing alien vegetation, especially the Port Jackson trees that choke the river. Every winter when the planting on the farm is done he attached this for a few weeks. Two winters ago we cleared around the waterfall and what was a chocked up watercourse that you couldn’t see is now full of vibrant fynbos life. He has just opened up this area, so dense with trees that you couldn’t get into it and has found the spot where the two rivers that run through the farm meet, before tumbling down the mountain to add their waters to the mighty Berg River that runs through the Paarl valley below us.

Clearing alien trees along the river

Clearing alien trees along the river

The place where the two rivers meet

The place where the two rivers meet

In the late afternoon I took some guests on our first “Flower safari” of the year. All we did was walk down the front drive and we were enchanted with the profusion of flowers we came across, many old friends that we have posted before, and quite a few new ones.

First of all we came across this tiny white gladiolus. I first saw it at the top of the bank, which gives an idea of scale.

Unknown gladiolus

Unknown gladiolus

Then I realised they are growing along the side of the road. I cannot find this one in my book at all – not even in the bulb encyclopedia. I’ve done this before, failed to identify a flower and then realised I’m not looking properly at the description, so if I do realise what it is, I’ll post it. It is quite enchanting, with a delicate fragrance, like so many of the gladioli.

Gladiolus unidentified

Gladiolus unidentified

Then we came across another example of the bell like pink Erica that I posted last week, this time a lot closer to home.

Erica with pink bells

Erica with pink bells

There are masses of these on the drive, and masses of what I guess to be Erica daphniflora, in colours of green, white, red and a particularly vibrant pink.

Erica, probably daphniflora

Erica, probably daphniflora

Erica, probably daphniflora

Erica, probably daphniflora

The Oxalis are still flowering away, these ones in white and pink profuse along the bank and the lands still covered in the yellow ones.

Oxalis

Oxalis

The next new find was this Erica – you can see it’s quite distinctive in the way it grow and flowers and the little white bells have the brown anthers exposed at the end. This was very attractive in the late evening light.

Erica, unidentified

Erica, unidentified

Another new find is this flowering shrub which is common all over the farm. I have always assumed it to be Cape Confetti, but with my evolving botannical eye I think it is more likely to be Adenandra villas, possily . I’m sure I will have many more occassions to photograph this stunning shrub.

Cape confetti - coleonem album or adenandra villas?

Cape confetti – coleonem album or adenandra villas?

As I was showing our guests one of the Protea nerifolias along the road we saw this little bud. We were delighted as it means these glorious proteas are going to continue to flower for some time.

The bud of a Protea nerifolia

The bud of a Protea nerifolia

The Felicia is such a wonderful flower. This is the first one I have seen this year and it will flower from now until the summer, along with the Lobostemum it is one of our commonest shrubs. That makes the first sighting of these pretty lilac flowers with their yellow centres no less exciting, both for their own sake and the promise of more spring flowers to come.

Felicia filifolia

Felicia filifolia

This warm weather won’t be with us for long, with temperatures expected to plummet during the week. Luckily up here on the mountain we almost never go below 5 degrees, so the flowers will be safe. In the valley below it can freeze, but the moutain seems to hold the heat of summer and protects us from the coldest weather.

We are coming into the best season for sunsets. Yet another amazing sunset this evening as I was finishing some more traditional gardening and the mountains behind turned a glorious orangey-pink.

image

 

imagein

Flowing Water and Fowers – 28 June 2013

Home.  The desert sands of Qatar behind me at last.  It was a shock to return to glorious green after the thick humid sandy air of Doha.  It seems it’s done nothing but rain since we left home three weeks ago and the farm has a rich sodden feel to it, with water roaring through the river and tumbling down the waterfall.  The roads are in need of maintenance, full of rivulets and potholes but the seeds I planted in the garden before we left have all sprouted into healthy young plants and the fynbos is settling into a winter burst of life.   Seamus, the senior wolfhound, is joyous at my return and cannot bear to leave my side.
The dogs and I went for an evening walk, inspecting some of our usual routes, the dogs looking for new smells, and me looking for new flowers.  We started down in the stream below the house that leads to the damn.  The banks are lined with Arum Lilies at this time of year.  Just as the luminous grasses have disappeared the lilies flower along the rivers and roads all winter and their beauty speaks for itself.  We have a few months of them ahead, and there will be a lot more pictures to come.
Image
Arum Lilies
The great thing about this blog is that it focuses the mind on home, on the magnificence of this land and the plants that grow here.  I’ve seen Chasmathe all over the Cape, they remind me of the Montbretia that grown wild in Ireland, another South African wild flower that grows all over Ireland’s verges and banks in the summer.  At first I thought it was the same flower but Montbretia doesn’t grow in this part of the world, it belongs further north in a summer rainfall area.  This Chasmanthe is lovely, another of the anchors of a certain time of year, this winter time, when growth is rich and lush and yet only a herald of things to come.
 
image
Chasmanthe, most likely floribunda, but to be verified

When we moved to the farm eight years ago this little red creeper was one of the first flowers to awake my interest in fynbos. The flowers are tiny, smaller than my little fingernail and they appear suddenly in midwinter, winding around the stems of thicker fynbos. Despite their tiny size the jewel-like coral jumps out of the greenery and draws the eye. We will have them until mid-spring or later, all over the farm.

Microloma tenuifolium

Microloma tenuifolium

We could hear the waterfall long before we saw it – with the rainfall we’ve had in June the rivers on the farm are roaring and the land feels replenished.

The Waterfall

As we walked along the new road that leads to the waterfall this enchanting sight greeted us.  I don’t know what to say or even think about the
pelargoniums; though are stunning, charming, and endlessly delightful the sub-species seem impossible to identify.  Our new road is a pelargonium nursery and they thrive here all year round.  At least this one allowed me to take a good picture – gracefully gleaming in the evening light.
Pelargonium - subspecies unknown

Pelargonium – subspecies unknown

Pelargonium

Pelargonium

 

The books have a few pelargoniums but they don’t seem to flower at the right time of the year.  We have dozens and the best I can do is document them and find a real expert.  Some of those that I’ve transplanted to the garden are doing really well, perhaps that will help.  They are endlessly endearing.  My grandmother grew them, pelargoniums and geraniums, nursing them through the Irish winters.  She would have loved this place; not lush like Ireland with it’s dense choking green; more selective; intense; dramatic – she would most definitely have appreciated the drama.  It was her birthday on 22nd June, just after midsummer.   I was in Doha, so missed the shortest day of the year on the farm.  Today is the shortest day we will see this year, and this is the most north-westerly sunset, far over the Paarderberg.
Sunset over the Paaderberg  28 June 2013

By mid-summer this sun will set far to the South of Table Mountain.

My love of botany is definitely inspired by her, and by my stepgrandmother, both of whom were dedicated and knowledgable horticulturalists.  I thought of them both this evening as we descended in the gloom.  Two women, one Irish, one English, both Catholic, both of whom were born in one world war and raised their children through the next.   Gracious women, much loved, characters, who instilled in us both values and manners. They loved their gardens and gardening brought them together, unexpectedly and into a lifelong friendship.  They admired one another and both of them would like to know they are remembered and that they continue to inspire us.  

The Ericas are coming out all over the farm and I have not yet identified this one – a detailed book on Ericas as we as Pelargoniums is most definitely called for. The Erica family runs to 660 subspecies in the fynbos region, so we can’t expect to identify them all, but it will be fun to see how many we have on the farm and I will start a library page on them soon.

image

Pink and Golden Morning 29th May 2013

A week ago we’d had only 10% of the average rainfall for May and I really worried that I’d be blogging about the dry winter and all the flowers we might be missing because of it.  That may still be the case, but probably not because of the lack of rainfall in May, and if the predictions for the first two days in June are accurate, June should be accounted for almost before it starts.
I am learning to be grateful for the rain in Africa, though it doesn’t come easily to an Irish woman. Good rain here comes in 7 – 10 day waves and after a few days a break and a glorious pink and gold morning is truely welcome.  This morning was such a one – blue sky with pink and gold tipped clouds, fresh air and dampness in the scent and on the ground.  Happy dogs released from the contraints of the wet (largely spent on my bed) cavorting in the early light.
On our way up the mountain I saw this lovely pelargonium.  It is quite distinctive though not one I can identify.  We’ll call it the May Pelargonium as date of flowering is very relevant to ID.  It is hard to convey the delicate charm of these flowering shrubs – they flower all winter, spring and summer and I have successfully transplanted a few to the garden.  The flowers tend to be tiny and hard to photograph, in situ they charm completely, epitomising all that is delicate, fragrant and fragile.
Image
The flowers on the mountain seem destined to confuse me and I have been worried about the Neirine I thought I’d seen.  The petals of the Nerine turn back on themselves and I couldn’t see that in the flowers I posted the other day.  As usual the flowers themselves came to my rescue.  At the top of the farm, beside a path we take almost every time we go out, the same coral petals greeted me this morning, waving in the dawn light and the gentle breeze.  Clearly, so very clearly, a member of the Gladiolus family, although this subspecies is not in my book.  What an amazing colour.  I’m glad it pops up in a couple of different places, it means there are probably a lot more of them on the farm, even if we don’t see them.
Image
In my attempt to confirm the sighting I tried to climb down this afternoon to get a closer look at the flower on the bank – but failed, the bank got too steep and my nerve failed me.   Heading up the farm in the afternoon light reminded me that at this time of year I miss a lot in the early mornings when these flowers are tightly furled, the colours invisible. During the day they unfurl and show themselves to the light.  The Oxalis stud the entire farm in yellow, white, pink and blue, like stars everwhere.  Their perfection is hard to photograph, the blues and pinks are easier than the white.
Image
There are friends that enchant every day, and in the increasingly gloomy afternoon light as more rain swept in across the Western Cape, this shining golden yellow Leucodendron with a wild rosemary behind it makes me think again that our wild garden could not be bettered by the work of the best landscape artists.  The shrubs find a harmony of their own.  It is fun to find new things of course, but often the best pleasure is in this greeting of old friends in a new light.
Image
The dogs gamely followed me down the slope as I tried to find our nerine/gladiolus and I was quite impressed at their tenancity.  Climbing up was easier than climbing down and as we climbed we came across this Erica.  It could be one of several tubular Ericas and I see that the need to acquire more detail reference books is becoming urgent.  This captures it perfectly – it is not the most lovely example of these fascinating flowers, but I like it’s fleshy abundance and they are prolific and will be everywhere soon.
Image

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.

 Image
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.
Image
 Image
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.
Image
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.
 Image
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.
 Image
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.
 Image
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.
image
image

13 May 2013

There are days when I bound up the mountain followed by happy dogs, fully of the joys of, not spring as it’s autumn here, but certainly the joys of life and the beauty of this place in the morning light.  And there are other days, probably far more frequent, when the run is more of a plod, as the busy life we lead catches up, sleep is never enough and despite the glories to be found on the mountain it’s an effort to drag myself out there.  Yesterday was one of those other days.

Luckily there was lots to photograph so I had plenty of excuses to stop and to take my time and the usual morning run took much longer than it should have.

The first excitement is that the wild rosemary is in flower.  Like the buchu that we farm it is cultivated for the perfume industry.  The shrub is a little nondescript thing, a few grey tendrils coming out of the ground, until it flowers and then these exquisite flowers emerge at the top of each branch.  Very common, they are all over the place at the moment.

image
Eriocephalus africanus or Wild Rosemary
Many of the flowering fynbos have a long season – one of them is the fynbos version of salvia.  It starts to flower in late November or early December and it’s still flowering prolifically now.  There are several of these bordering the roads where we run and they are like friends we great every day for half the year.  Coming towards the end of their season now and flowering as vigorously as ever.

image
Salvia chamelaeagnea

As we run, or should I say plod, up the path that goes through the olive groves to the top of the farm, we pass this fearsome, stunning shrub.  I showed this photo to Peter, my husband and he wryly acknowledged that he knows it all too well.  Like many South African farmers he likes to wear shorts and sometimes comes home with his legs ripped to shreds.  This chap is one of the culprits.  But look at what a stunning chap he is.  I actually managed to get a shot of the small thorn-head in focus, grey with tiny spikes of gold set in little balls.  A bigger version could be a medieval weapon of war.  I don’t know what this is, there’s lots of it about and it must be pretty common and I will identify it sooner or later and post the name.

image

One of the most varied and most prolific fynbos varieties we have are the Ericas.  You know this species as heather.  The amazing thing about Ericas is that they grow all over Africa and Europe but 80% of the species grow in Southern Africa and there are 660 fynbos sub-species.  Quite a few of these grow on this farm, so there will be plenty of Ericas in the blog.  Here’s the first one, another long standing friend who flowers throughout the hot months, giving us lovely purple-mauve flashes on the mountain when all else is hiding deep underground away from the relentless sun.  I don’t know which of the 660 this one is.  Will have to get a book or two on Ericas – there are plenty more to come.

image

One of the 660 subspecies of Erica resident in the region

Finally, there I was, puffing along, when I saw a little group of tiny pink whorls.  Pulled up and investigated.  A little flower head with flowers tightly furled waiting for more daylight.  I drove up later to catch them open.  I haven’t identified it but it looks and behaves like Oxalis so that’s what we’ll call it.  Completely different to the Oxalis I photographed a few days ago with their clover-like leaves, and that is the enduring joy of fynbos.

image

image

Oxalis?

Recent Entries »