Tag Archives: King Protea

The Polecat and the Porcupine

We were having dinner with my stepdaughter Robyn in Johannesburg earlier this week and she said “we can always tell when you are busy, Sarah, because you don’t write your blog.”  She’s right, it’s been a busy few weeks.  The runs continue but the blog has been neglected as I’ve travelled all over the place, and now a ton of reports need writing and people, horses and dogs have taken priority over the calm pursuit of blog writing.  So this blog is a bit of a mixed one, with several runs and bits of farm life all mixed up.

We share the mountain with many creatures that we never see, none more nocturnal and furtive than the African Striped Polecat.  Sadly we met one the other day, sad because she was deceased, Peter found her on the road and brought him home for a respectable burial.  I didn’t have the heart to take a photo of her, so I have taken this one from google images, with apologies to the photographer for the lack of a credit.  Of interest is that of all mammals, this is the stinkiest, stinkier even than a skunk.  Perhaps it’s a good thing that they are secretive and nocturnal.

 

African Striped Polecat

African Striped Polecat

We saw evidence as we ran up the mountain a week or so ago of another, less rare, nocturnal resident:  a porcupine quill on the road.  We quite often see the quills, and very occassionally the porcupines themselves and we love to think of them, snuffling around in the dark, happily digging up fynbos bulbs, of which we have plenty on the mountain.  Apparently this is the biggest porcupine in the world.  The photo of the quill is mine, the one of the porcupine also downloaded from google images.

Cape Porcupine

Cape Porcupine

 

Porcupine Quill

Porcupine Quill found on our morning run

The weather has been all over the place in the last few weeks.  We’ve had a wet but mild winter so far and now, suddenly, the temperature has dropped.  The water has been magnificent – as you can see from this photo: the mountain in the background is the Paarderberg and the full dams and the Berg River gleam in the last light of the setting sun.

The sun sets behind the Paaderberg

The sun sets behind the Paaderberg

On the same evening I went deeper into the thick fynbos above the house to see if there was anything new or exciting flowering   There was but I need to do a bit of research before I post it.  Meanwhile I took this charming evening view of the farm buildings.

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Another evening found us higher up the moutain and Jemima Chew is clearly enjoying being out on the mountain.

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Runs have also been early in the day when the light is poor, or at sunset.  I love how the Leucodendrum salignum glows in the gloom, a yellow-lime green colour, they shine on the mountain when nothing else stands out.

Leucadendron salignum Male

Leucadendron salignum Male

Leucadendron salignum Female, shining in the gloomy morning

Leucadendron salignum Female, shining in the gloomy morning

And the magnificant King Protea, Protea cynaroides, is in flower at the moment.  This is the South African national flower.

Protea cynaroides, The King Protea

Protea cynaroides, The King Protea

At the top of the farm, close to where we found the Gladiolus watsonius, is a flowering white shrub.  It looks like a Selago, but not any of the ones I find in my book, so identification is uncertain.

Selago

Selago

Finally a morning shot – with the Leucodendron salignum luminescent in the foreground, Paarl Mountain with the morning sun on it in the mid-distance and the Paaderberg in the background, covered in cloud.  This is a magical time of year in this part of the world, the soaking rain promises a great spring flowering season and good crops for us on the farm.  The light is magnificant, the days are getting longer and spring is getting closer.

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Salvias, Gazanias and other interesting things

We had a fabulous weekend of running, the dogs and I.  First of all because as it was the weekend we could set off later in the day and have better light for photos.  All this running has helped with fitness so I’ve been bounding up the mountain and really enjoying running.  It’s a great feeling.  And then we STILL see something new every time. I can never believe that we will – especially if I’ve seen two or three really interesting new flowers the previous day.  Suddenly to see half a dozen more because we take a slightly different route, or I just open my eyes or look left rather than right and there it is, something completely new.

Like this Salvia africana-caerulea – I really love this photo, because it is a perfect record of the shrub which makes it very easy to identify correctly.  And then you can see Seamus in the distance, making his way up the mountain while I stop for yet another picture.

Salvia africana-caerulea

Salvia africana-caerulea

It was windy on Saturday and Seamus loves the wind – here he is standing in his very favourite spot on the farm, holding his face up to the wind blowing off the mountain.

Seamus enjoying the wind

Seamus enjoying the wind

Then we came across this which I think is a Gazania rigida – again the leaves are right and the description of the dark and hairy involucre fits.  That’s the dark splashes at the bottom of the petals in layman’s terms.  Stunning flowers.

Gazania rigida

Gazania rigida

This little lilac and white flower isn’t a bulb but grows on a shrub, I haven’t found it at all in the books so it’s gone in the “unidentified folder” in the hopes that further research will reward us with some names.  Very pretty and the little shrub is covered in them, so I imagine it’s quite a common garden plant – if anyone knows it, please comment.

Unknown flowering shrub

Unknown flowering shrub

I thought the Oxalis had done their thing.  They are still with us – their flowering season is wonderfully long.  Then suddenly the whole farm is covered in these peach coloured Oxalis which are absolutely charming.  I think it might be Oxalis obtusa though it is hard to be certain.

Oxalis obtusa?

Oxalis obtusa?

The magnificent King Protea is in flower and I’ve already posted it as “Flower of the Day”.  Here’s a different photo – note the bee – the absolutely love the proteas.  We have a wonderful relationship with a local beekeeper who puts hives on the farm and makes fynbos honey.  That’s what he pays us in and we have a constant supply of delicious honey from the farm.

Protea cynaroides - The Kind Protea

Protea cynaroides – The Kind Protea

When I saw this pink shrub I thought it was an Erica with particularly profuse flowers.  But it looks very like Muraltia scoparia, a purple gorse that grows on the West Coast.  That makes it very unlikely that it grows here.  When I get out next I shall investigate and verify.  It is amazing.

Muraltia scoparia

Muraltia scoparia

As I came back from looking at the pink shrub, I came across this pea-like flower with distinctive white tufts.  It’s quite low growing and discrete and grows in an area where Peter has cleared the alien trees from the riverbed above the waterfall.  I think it is probably a little Polygala though I’m not sure which one. It is very distinctive so when I do find it we’ll be able to identify it clearly.

Polygala?

Polygala?