Tag Archives: Farm

Lilies and peacocks: prolific flowering on the mountain

When you wake up morning after morning and the first thing you hear is the thudding of rain on the zinc roof it is not really conducive to getting out on the farm to run and photograph flowers. Even the dogs stand at the doorway and barely want to get their feet wet.

The weather finally improved on Sunday and late in the day we finally got out onto the mountain. There is so much out there, the rain has made flowering prolific and the frustration is that we must have missed so many flowers that have had their brief moment of glory and disappeared.

There is something about this mountain at the end of the day, as the light fades to the east and the last glow of sunlight flares in a spectacular display of light and colour. There is one huge tree, a bluegum or Eucalyptus that stands in splendid isolation high on the mountain. An alien, it doesn’t belong here and I cannot imagine how it came to survive so high; it must have found a spot where it is slightly sheltered from the howling winds. This evening it made a frame for the setting sun.

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As we descended I caught this shot of the mountains behind us caught in spectacular orange.

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Before us the sun was just about to go down behind Paarl mountain and you can see the mist gathering over the Berg River at the bottom of the valley.

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The light was perfect as we ran up the mountain and captured flowers. There are many that flower like this, at the top of a spike of needle or threadlike leaves and this is a lovely one that we found right at the top of the farm. I couldn’t find it in the book and generally these are hard to identify.

Unidentified spike

Unidentified spike

Another beautiful spikey thing is this white one. Again I haven’t identified it yet – it’s gone into the unidentified folder for when I have some more books and helps.

White spikes unidentified

White spikes unidentified

While on the theme of unidentified shrubs, here’s another one. In one damp and quite shady place there are lots of these, little shrubs covered in white flowers, pretty enough to be cultivated in any garden. And indeed they probably are – so if any reader knows what they are please do let me know.

White flowering shrub

White flowering shrub

The waterfall is pounding away and my theory that at some point it will be flooded with evening sunshine seems likely to come true as the sun needs to be just a little higher and a little further to the south and the whole fall will be lit up for a few weeks.

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I had a lot more luck identifying the flowering bulbs and there are lots of them. Just behind the house the bank is full of these brilliant blue flowers, Geissorhiza aspera.

Geissorhiza aspera

Geissorhiza aspera

And just above it the bank and many roads on the farm are littered with these white stars. I think it might be Strumaria spiralis but I do need to check as the identification is not 100 % confirmed.

Identity uncertain

Identity uncertain

I am completely sure of this one however. It is Baeometra uniflora, known as the Beetle Lily and there are plenty of them in damp areas at the top of the farm.

Baeometra uniflora - the Beetle LIly

Baeometra uniflora – the Beetle LIly

This was a busy run, a lot of flowers needing recording and worrying about more weather to come, and a lot more flowers, I wanted to be sure we’d capture them. One I saw during a quick morning run in the week, in between the showers, is this lovely little pink spike and I was worried that it might have disappeared by the time I got back to that part of the farm again with good light and time to do a long run. But no, here it is and it is known as a Spike Lily, Wurmbea punctata. I love it when we get a really clear identification of something new and there is no doubt about this one.

Wurmbea punctata - the Spike Lily

Wurmbea punctata – the Spike Lily

Another absolutely unmistakable flower and always a treat when they appear, as if out of nowhere, is the lovely Spiloxene Capensis, one of the Cape stars and known as the Peacock flower. We were rewarded by this sight at the very top of yesterday’s climb and before the light abandoned us.

Spiloxene capensis - the Peacock flower

Spiloxene capensis – the Peacock flower

This was much harder to identify and I think it must be the Grass Lily, Chlorophytum rigidum perhaps? It has a very localised habitat and this is exactly the right area. But the picture in the book isn’t great so I would be happy to be corrected.

Chlorophytum rigidum?

Chlorophytum rigidum?

Babinia Fragrens, the Harbinger of Spring

I got home on Tuesday morning and of course my first thought was to get up on the mountain and see new flowers though I didn’t achieve it until late in the day.

Every year as we reach the end of July, the coldest and wettest six weeks of the Cape year, a flower emerges that is for me the harbinger of spring.  Like hearing the first cuckoo, I always note where and when I see the first Babinia fragrens.  These crocus-like flowers cover the farm, they are everywhere – and the bulbs are particularly loved by porcupines.  Last year I was running up a steep hill on the farm when I came across a 300 metre stretch of road where a happy porcupine had wandered up and dug up every single plant to munch on the bulbs.  There are plenty to share and it was fun to think of him happily crunching not far from the house in the night as we slept.

Babinia Fragens, the first of the year

Babinia Fragens, the first of the year

Next up was this delicate white flower.  I didn’t get a great picture of it – I think it’s a Cape Snowflake, to give it it’s common name, but will pop it into the research folder and see if we can get a better shot.  These are quite common so I’m sure we’ll see more.

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Opposite the Cape Snowflake, the water was tumbling in huge volumes down the waterfall in the evening sunlight – there’s been a lot of rain while I’ve been away.

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One of the other wonderful sights of late winter and early spring is the Lebostemum.  Another very common flowering shrub which flowers now and for several months.  I have tried several times to transplant these to the garden, but they have a long fragile tap root and even very young ones invariably die.  They are magnificent shrubs and flower in blue, pink or anything inbetween.

Lobostemon fructicosus

Lobostemon fructicosus

We wanted a good view of the sunset and went to the highest point of the farm on a road we don’t often run.  This wonderful combination of Protea nerifolia and Protea nitida blocked our route at one point and forced a detour.

Protea nerifolia and Protea nitida in the evening light

Protea nerifolia and Protea nitida in the evening light

On the detour we came across this stunning Erica with little pink bell-like flowers in full bloom.  Pink ericas with bell-like or urn-like flowers are like yellow daisies, there are an aweful lot of them and they are hard to tell apart.  Thanks due to Jemima Chew who stood behind them, making them much easier to photograph!

One of the many ericas that flowers with a tiny pink bell-like flower

One of the many ericas that flowers with a tiny pink bell-like flower

The Cape Sugarbirds are in full mating feathers at the moment and they are having a lovely time in areas where the proteas are thickest.  Their tails are so long they can hardly fly – that’s the males of course, the females look drab and take their pick.  I haven’t yet managed to get a really good shot of one but hopefully it’s a matter of time.

I don’t believe we have posted and recorded this protea which is now in full flower.

Protea - indentification will be confirmed in a further posting

Protea – indentification will be confirmed in a further posting

Finally – another sunset.  As dusk gathers and the sun sets you can see the mist from the Berg River gathering on the valley floor.  No wind, the light is stunning and in the far distance table mountain and the whole of Cape Town is covered by a dark wall of cloud.  The rain is coming.

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