Tag Archives: fynbos flowers

Back on the run

Just when all is going swimmingly, and I’m bouncing up the mountain with two in-laws who are both 20 years younger than me but not running any faster… then…. splat!  We went to a fabulous New Year’s Eve party and of course I can never resist wearing high heels at a party.  I’m not very tall, you see, which is a nuisance at parties.  And it was a farm party so I wore wedges which are comfortable on the gravel and in the grass.  Only you are not supposed to dance on unlevel fields in wedges.  The music started, a gorgeous if rather drunken German friend invited me to dance and off we went.  Then off I went, off the high wedge, over on my ankle and into the “ouch” zone.  Sprained ankles are the most common of atheletes injuries apparently, so I will just tell you that horrific though it was – incredibly painful, swollen and black and blue – I followed the rules: rest, ice, compression (ie bandaging) and ice.  And took the anti-inflamatories for the first couple of days when it was really sore.  And used a wonderful patch anti-inflamatory called “Transact”.  Finally I bought a tailor made magnetic bandage to wear at night to stimulate the healing further.

The splendid result of all that is that I’m back on the run only two weeks later, with an ankle that is almost completely back to normal.   AND, importantly, I danced with gusto at the wedding.  Ola, the new daughter-in-law was cross enough to lose her running companion; she’d never have forgiven me if I’d failed to dance at her wedding.

Meanwhile despite one lovely night of respite from the heat when it poured with rain for four or five hours the mountain is dry and not much thrives in the dry summer weather.  I can see the proteas preparing for the winter – new growth at the tips and the green buds of pinky white Protea Repens flowers already showing – they are the first to come through, before the rains.

Quite a few shrubs flower all year round and Erica abetiana is one that really seems to thrive when it gets properly hot.  This one lives on the driveway and gives us a glorious flash of coral red as we drive up.

Erica abietana

Erica abietana

Another perennial flower is the Salvia africana – the blue flowers are a delight all over the mountain and the flowering is prolific now. I keep posting it – I love Salvia’s and particularly this one that thrives in the heat and dust of the Cape summer.

Salvia africana

Salvia africana

We have migratory birds who visit the farm year after year and in particular one buzzard who likes to keep watch from the tall pine trees in front of the house.  He seems to tease the dogs when we run down the drive – as we pass his tree he drops of and flies down the valley along side us – calling in either outrage or amusement.  He is a magnificent bird and we always believed him to be a Steppe Buzzard.  We were having lunch after the wedding with Peter’s cousin, Yvonne, who is a devoted twitcher and when we pointed out a similar bird she said, “you know it could be a Honey buzzard, they are very special and I know they live around here.”  We go home and look it up – the Steppe buzzard hardly calls when he’s here, whereas our bird yells out all the time.  I play the call of the Honey buzzard and sure enough, that’s it.  I know Yvonne is good but how does she perfectly identify a bird she hasn’t even seen?  Birds are tricky when compared to Fynbos flowers. There are only about 800 to be seen in “Southern” Africa (and Yvonne has seen almost all of them) while there are 660 Fynbos subspecies of Erica alone.  Flowers however have one massive advantage; they don’t fly away just as you think you’ve got the salient features and might be able to identify them.

The dogs of course are thrilled to be back to running (and will equally be devastated when I get on a plane to Paris in a couple of days time).  Though the light was quite poor I cannot resist sharing this little gallery of Maebh on an evening hunt.  She is all power and muscle, a wonderfully fit and agile wolfhound.

Finally, appropriately, a sunset.  They are stunning at this time of year when fires rage in the Cape and the smoke diffuses the light in a wind-ravaged sky.

Fiery sunset

Fiery sunset

The result

Gone with the Wind

So there I was only a couple of weeks ago feeling triumphant and even rather pleased with myself.  Then it struck me.  Not a brilliant idea; a tummy bug.  At first I hoped it was a 24 hour tummy bug but then I realised it didn’t have a time frame.  It took me a few days to realise I was actually really quite ill and by then I was already bored of it so I went to see the fabulous Dr Shelley and explained that I had to be on a plane to Plettenburg Bay in the morning.  “Have to?” says the Doc.  “Well, want to” says I.  She sharpens up her needles and gives me 5 injections, or was it 6?  I lost count.  “Now you’ll be able to travel if you want to,” says she “but if you do this will just go on for longer.”  She’s better at prediction than the weatherman; it took me another full week to be over it completely and back on the mountain again.

Everyone always says that the great thing about tummy bugs is that you lose weight, and while it’s true while you’ve got the bug, I always worry about compensating afterwards.  So I got back out on the mountain as soon as I could and after two or three runs I’m feeling pretty good out there.  I know I’ve missed some flowers though, which is always a bit sad – will have to wait until next year.  Fynbos bulbs can come and go in a day, but the shrubs are amazing – they will flower for months.  One example is the Lobostemon Fruticosus which is such a friend, I posted a photo of it in August and it is still flowering now.  On a bright hot day the flowers dim but a little grey and a dash of rain and they glow on the mountain.

It’s wonderful to recognise some special flowers that I identified last year and this is one of the them.  I notice them more this year, scattered all over the place and in partiular in one small shady area where a whole clump of them grow, but where the light didn’t lend itself to a good shot of the clump and we may try for a better photo of this charming Tritonia undulata the next time we are out.

Tritonia undulata

Tritonia undulata

A rather dark photo on a bright day – it’s almost impossible to get a good shot of a blue or white flower in bright sunlight.  I was glad I caught this Walhenbergia capensis on a run just before the flu hit, they are all gone now.

Wahlenbergia capensis

Wahlenbergia capensis

And isn’t this one absolutely gorgeous?  Another one that I captured on the run just before I had to stop and I’ve completely forgotten where I saw it and of course it has disappeared now.  I think it’s Geissorhiza exscapa.

Geissorhiza exscapa

Geissorhiza exscapa

I promised a better photo of the fabulously named lily, Wachendorfia paniculata.  This one grows along the drive and I was feeling so well on Sunday that at the end of our run the dogs and I trotted all the way down to find and photograph it while the light was dappled and it was still looking good.  Look how it glows against the yellow-grey sandy wall.

The flowers are amazing and really, that’s the point of the blog yet there are so many other special things, it’s just that flowers look great in pictures.  The grasses are absolutely gorgeous and I often try to capture their whimsical or even dramatic charm.  The iPhone doesn’t usually get it, but this one was a good attempt and I think these are Willdenovia incurvata.

As we bounced up the mountain the morning before I fell ill the wind was howling and I had decided not even to try and take a photo.  Then we came across this gorgeous Gladiolus angustus.  Luckily I decided that despite the wind I’d take a photo.  When I finally passed the same way 12 days later there was not the tiniest sign of it.

And finally – there is always a sunset.  I don’t capture them every day.  This one was special.

Sunset in the Western Cape

Sunset in the Western Cape

Balmy days and foggy nights

We’ve been having exceptionally warm and sunny weather for the time of year.  Although we quite often get an early burst of spring in August, this is really warm – 28 degrees or even higher yesterday and we are still in t-shirts today.  The combination of warmth and damp in spring often means foggy patches and a favourite sight is the view from the farm on a foggy morning.  We had one breathtaking dawn moment as the full moon set behind Paarl mountain and the fog lapped at the foothills.  The moon is never as spectacular in a photo, this one was huge and round and dominated the morning sky.

Moon setting over Paarl

Moon setting over Paarl

The Lobostemon fruticosus has burst into flower.  The dull light brings out the best in it; it has a luminous glow.  And sometimes the very first rays of sun just catch the flowers so they are lit from within.   The colour ranges from pink to pale blue and the small shrubs are covered in a mass of flowers.  We have them everywhere.  I have tried to transplant them into the garden but even the small ones have a deep deep tap root that I haven’t succeeded in transplanting intact, so they shrivel and die.  Never mind, they clearly prefer the mountain.

It quite often happens that I notice something in a particular area and think of it as rare and special only to find out a few days later that it is all over the farm.  This pretty yellow shrub is one of those.  I initially didn’t recognise it, and then was quite excited to realise when I had a good look at the photos that it was probably another Hermannia, like the ones we saw last week.  Rushed to the book, looked up the Hermannias and sure enough it’s Hermannia althaeifolia, quite a common plant in the region and also used extensively in gardens.  Not surprising, it’s a lovely thing.  The photo in the reference book isn’t very good though, so I went to iSpot for some clarification and checking those images there can be no doubt.

iSpot is the place for geeks when it comes to fynbos.  They ask us to post what we see and I don’t do it enough, but if I can’t identify something, there is always a far more knowledgeable person on iSpot who will.  This little white flowering bulb for instance, which I posted a couple of blogs ago, has been identified as Ixia.  They were not sure which subspecies, and I can’t find it in any of my reference books, but reading into the more detailed description of the Ixia, I can see what they mean.

Ixia

Ixia

I don’t know what this absolutely charming white Erica is.  There are some serious Erica experts on iSpot though, so I shall post it and see what we come up with.

White Erica

White Erica

A couple of pelargoniums – the first one is not really spectacular as the photo isn’t very good – but it’s one I haven’t posted yet this year.  The other is another, pelargonium myrrhifolium varr myrrhifolium, a pelargonium I posted a couple of weeks ago, from a different plant on a different part of the farm.

 

 

The Vulnerable – Leucospermum lineare

Delicate, tumbling down the slopes beside the drive, the Vulnerable as Lucospermum lineare is known, is one of the sights of winter and early spring.  It is rare and endangered and safe with us.

What a weekend!  Why do we think: let’s do a dinner party on Thursday, and then, yes, another one on Friday, leftovers on Saturday but oh my goodness a long long Sunday lunch at the gorgeous and delicious Overture Restaurant in the Hidden Valley where we plumbed the depths, the deepest depths, of their wine cellar?  And got home at 9pm.  From lunch.  Personally I blame the wonderful and very talented Niall who has been here coaching dressage and who likes the good life just as much as we all do and is thoroughly good company, so everybody wants to spend time with him when he’s here and we like to entertain him.

So I didn’t get out on the farm this morning, but I managed to stagger out with the dogs for a lovely time on Saturday afternoon which was much more about the flowers than the running.  The Babinia fragrans are all over the place now – one of the prettiest and commonest flowering bulbs on the farm.  Once they flower everything else seems to start bursting with life.

On the drive, growing now among the Morea tripelata is a delicate little flower which I have not identified.

And talking of Morea, as we ran down the path to the waterfall I saw this, which made me stop and look twice.  It looks very like an oxalis, but the colour is darker than most, the leaf not the same and it lacks the common yellow throat.  Also, the Oxalis petals grow in an Escher-like (would that be Escherian?) spiral, where this has three top petals and three bottom petals.  As I flicked though the Encyclopedia of bulbs I suddenly recognised it – Morea veriscolor.  Lovely to find something new and learn a new flower as well.

We stopped for a drink of course and Seamus took his usual spot in the stream, peeking at us through the ferns.

Seamus peeking through the leaves

Seamus peeking through the ferns

All over the farm and probably all over the country the tickberry is in flower.  This is one of those plants that has been renamed – it used to be known as Chrysanthemoides monilifera but now has been reclassified as Osteospermum moniliferum.  It grows wild all over South Africa and is found in lots of gardens as well.

Another very common shrub is known as the climber’s friend, cliffortia ruscifolia.  Quite a stocky and strong rooted shrub, which must be why it is known as the climber’s friend, it certainly can’t be much fun to have to grab these brutal prickles.

We’ve cleared lots of lands over the winter and although I always worry about how much fynbos we take off it creates room for new growth.  The iPhone does a brilliant job of photographing flowers but not the delicate massed scattering of daisies and Babinia fragens in a field of buchu.  At the top of the field are masses of little yellow daisies.  I couldn’t find them in the book until I realised that the buttonwood daisy can have yellow petals as well as white.  This is not a great photo of this tiny flower as the light was hot and yellow.

Cotula turbinata

Cotula turbinata

Just at the top of the waterfall a single Red Hot Poker, Knophofia uvaria has emerged.

image

 

And along the road I saw this flower that I didn’t recognise at all but it was on the first page that I opened in one of my books.  It is Metalasia divergens.

Metalasia divergens

Metalasia divergens

And one last flower seen on this run.  I’ve spotted some new Pelargoniums that I don’t think I’ve documented before and we’ll be off in the morning if the light is good to see if we can get some shots of them.

Meanwhile this pretty Erica is different from all the others I’ve documented so far this year.  Pretty soft grey leaves distinguish it from others, as does the slightly different shape of the pink bells.  It’s gorgeous.

Erica with soft grey leaves

Erica with soft grey leaves

 

 

A spring morning

On Friday evening the neighbours came to dinner and arrived early for a flower safari. Wonderful to have neighbours who love the mountain as much as we do and who appreciate how special it is. I took them on the old doctors road to see the waterfall which is pounding in its winter splendor. There are hundreds of flowers at this time of year, the wildflower spring commences long before flowers come to the garden. We discovered the old doctor’s road when Peter cleared a veritable forest of wattles along the river; they had overgrown this road and below it, a small but spectacular waterfall. Now this place is a haven for the fynbos which grew back the instant the trees were cleared.

From there we walked up to the weir, a favourite spot and much photographed for this blog because of the magic of the magnificent, ancient, white trunked Ilex Mitis trees, and then on up, above the weir and close to the top of the farm. The sun was setting behind the Paarderberg mountain; a soft mist gathered in the valley below, the evening was completely still, silent, breathless.   The gentle warmth of a mild sunny winter’s day coming from the earth beneath our feet. As it grew darker the full dams in the valley gleamed the reflection of the evening sky into the stillness of the coming night. “It’s like a holy place” said Francois, “there’s something spiritual about it.”

Dinner was companionable, cheerful and as we are in wine tasting mode for Christopher’s wedding in January, a little too much drink was taken. Our guests left us late, very happy, as were we.

Perhaps a little less so the following morning when the full consequences of overindulgence emerged, but not enough to prevent me from donning the running clothes and setting off with the wolfhounds and Jemima Chew into the gloomy grey morning on a serious mission to photograph flowers for the blog. The first Babinia fragrens has appeared which is for me the harbinger of spring, and with it shrubs, little trees and tiny plants have burst into flower. I won’t post the Babinia, as there will be thousands more, I didn’t get a great photo and there is so much else to post. It rained heavily during the night, those very still evenings often indicate a change in weather and flowers were covered in raindrops. To my delight I’ve identified two new flowers that I don’t remember seeing last year and which turn out to be related.  The first is Hermannia saccifera and the second is Hermannia hyssopifolia, a pretty and sizeable shrub with an unusual flower that has a pin-hole throat and this urn shaped body, called a calyx.  Absolutely recognisable when I read the description, there is nothing quite like it.

The Hermannia hyssopifolio grows in an area that Peter cleared last year, cutting through old fynbos and finding a large flat area where we least expected it, evidence of terracing by a farmer long ago.  A stream runs through this area and shrubs and there is prolific growth along it’s banks, including this sprawling shrub with its sticky leaves and tar-like smell.  It’s known as the tar pea, Bolusafra biuminosa, and grows, appropriately enough, along mountain streams.

Bolusafra bitumenosa, the tar pea

Bolusafra bitumenosa, the tar pea

Another new identification also grows in this area, Phylica oleaefolia, with these pretty ranks of pale green, cupped flowers.  This is quite a tall elegant shrub.

Philyca oleaefolia

Philyca oleaefolia

We went down to an area where I haven’t been for a while and some of the yellow daisies are still flowering, the Athanasia trifurcata and the Osteospermum spinosum that I mentioned on a blog a couple of months ago.  I love when the flower matches the book’s comments perfectly, particularly as the photos don’t always.  The Athanasia trifucatum, says the book, has wedge shaped grey leaves, 3-5 toothed at the tips.  If you look closely at the leaves in this photo you can clearly see the three teeth.

In the same place grows a tiny pelargonium, one of my favourite flowers which grows all year round in different parts of the farm.  I think it’s Pelargonium myrrhifolium, var. myrrhifolium.

 

Along the road we walked on Friday night, which I call Erica Alley for the many varieties of Erica that make their home there, are several stunning varieties in flower.  Two beautiful examples of the common Erica plukenetii, showing the range of colour, from white with very pale pink, to coral.  And some with pretty pink bells in many shades, as well as this lovely white Erica where the bells grow in ranked series but which I have never identified.

Another pretty shrub which I have not managed to identify.  The flowers are green and tiny; so tiny that a single raindrop captures several of them.

And a small tree-like shrub flowering in several places on the farm with prolific drooping flower heads, but I can’t find it in the book.

image

More familiar friends include Stachys aethiopica, also known as woundwort with it’s mint shaped leaves and pretty little pinky-white flowers.

Stachys aethiopica

Stachys aethiopica

All over the farm the buchu is in flower.  Agthomsa, mostly crenulata, or a crenulata hybrid, though we also grow lots of Agthomsa betulina.  Buchu, the common name, loves the sandy mountain soil and especially the north facing slopes on the farm.  The flowers are mostly white but sometimes pretty shades of pink and lilac.

 

I couldn’t resist capturing Protea burchellii looking stunning in the grey morning light as well as the Leucadendron tinctum.  These yellow flower heads will soon turn the most wonderful shade of coral – they are prolific on the mountain and grow in massed groups in certain areas.

All in all we had a wonderful time, the dogs and I.  As a run it wasn’t up to much but as a morning spent together on the mountain, it was the best of times.  Maebh has boundless energy and was particularly happy to find a mongoose to chase.  He is much much cleverer than she, there was never a chance of her catching him, but she was very pleased with her morning.

Maebh hunting in the olive groves, her coat dark from running in the soaking wet fynbos

Maebh hunting in the olive groves, her coat dark from running in the soaking wet fynbos

 

Aliens and Ericas

This storm was promised; the weather forecasting in this part of the world is so good that they predicted the first drops of rain almost to the minute.  And here it is, cold, wet, miserable weather so that when I look out of the window I can’t even see the dam, never mind the lights of Paarl in the valley below.  We are holed up in the study, watching 24 with Jemima Chew curled up before the fire snuffling and squeaking and hunting in her dreams.

I am getting carried away again and the point of tonight’s blog is to catch up with some flowers that I haven’t posted yet.  First of all two different Ericas.  I’m not sure which ones they are – both have tiny tiny flowers, several would fit on my little fingernail.

 

The next is the gorgeous Moraea tripetala.  These little Iris-like flowers grow on the driveway and are a joy to see when they emerge each year.  Typical bulbs, one day there is nothing and the next, stunning flowers emerge in their full glory.

Moraea tripetala

Moraea tripetala

After the floods of rain last week we went out on a dark damp evening for fresh air and an evening run.  After so much rain a lot of flowers were ravaged and new ones hadn’t yet emerged but this rain-soaked Protea nerifolia glowed a rich red-pink in the gloom.

Protea nerifolia

Protea nerifolia

The driveway is one of the most prolific areas on the farm, or at least the one that I see the most.  Another shrub in flower at the moment is this Felicia filifolia.

Aliens!

We spend a lot of time and money taking out aliens.  Some are pines from the forest next door and here is one in flower – they might be aliens but these are pretty flowers all the same.

Another is this elegant tree.  It is a type of wattle I think – but far prettier than most.  The leaves are silvery grey and in summer I use them in flower arrangements and to decorate the house at Christmas.  At the moment it is in full flower and makes an elegant flowering tree.

Finally I can’t resist posting this particularly splendid sunset from last week.

image

 

 

Roaring waters

We had some turbulent weather last week and I lay in bed morning after morning listening to the rain battering the roof and feeling no desire whatsoever to leave my warm, wolfhound laden bed to go running in the wet coldness outside. Thus is the road to perdition paved with good intentions. Night after night I go to bed and promise myself a morning run. Morning after morning I lie in the snug warmth and don’t go anywhere. Paths go untrodden, flowers unphotographed, dogs unexercised

On Saturday the rain stopped and in the evening we finally ran up the soaking wet mountain in poor light with little to see and charming only to us. We ran via the waterfall, roaring white in the dull evening light.

Today dawned grey once more, but no rain. We were taking the young horse to a show, so there was no chance of a morning run, but after a happy day of showjumping at Noordhoek, I came home to glorious sunshine and enthusiastic dogs. The only possible answer was to go out on the mountain. I’m not sure it could entirely be described as a run. I walked most of the uphill and we made several detours into wilder bits of fynbos to examine and inspect. The dogs were delirious with happiness, noses a-quiver and constantly dashing off into the bush after wild things, real or imaginary.

There was a lot to see: first the pounding waterfall, white with pounding roaring water.

image

We stopped at the weir for a drink (for the dogs, not me) and I took a series of strangely beautiful photos of Seamus. The sun was shining through the trees and catching his coat, confusing the camera. He lay in front of the magnificent Ilex Mitus, the Cape Holly with its gleaming silvery green trunk.

 

Higher up the mountain we ran into fynbos as the light became ever more golden. The pink Protea burchellii and the first Protea nitida of the year. We had to bash through some bush to get to Protea nitida. This colony scatters an area of the mountain on top of the farm and they tend to flower quite late. This is the first of these graceful silver trees to flower.

 

We took a little detour to the stream that leads off our land to the forest and came across some Microloma tenufolia. Never easy to capture, it somehow works well against the lime green leaves of the Lucadendron salignum and you can see the tenuous climber’s twisted stem quite clearly. The colour is amazing, always pinker in a photo than its more coral reality.

 

The Buchu that we grow commercially on the farm is in full flower and on the way down the mountain we stopped and in the perfect light just after sunset caught this flower-spangled shrub by the road.

 

Agthomsa crenulata

Agthomsa crenulata

We had wonderful weather before the rains this week and there is a backlog of blog photos to post, along with splendid tales of the morning light as it hits the Simonsberg, the Paarderberg and Paarl Mountain and of the evening sun as it catches the water in the dams below us and they gleam golden, pink or red and orange. But those are tales for another day.

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