Tag Archives: Running

A good fire and some snoring wolfhounds

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.

 

Erica plukenetii

Erica plukenetii

 

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.

Protea nerifolia

Protea nerifolia

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.

Oxalis veriscolor

Oxalis veriscolor

Oxalis purpurea in pale lilac

Oxalis purpurea in pale lilac

Oxalis purpurea in bright pink

Oxalis purpurea in bright pink

 

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.

Haplocapha lanata

Haplocapha lanata

The water is pouring down the rivers and streams and our waterfall is back to its full glory.

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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.

Chaenostoma hispidum

Chaenostoma hispidum

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.

Seamus enjoying a sunny afternoon

Seamus enjoying a sunny afternoon

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.

Asaparagus rubicundus

Asaparagus rubicundus

Jemima Chew and the francolin

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.

The first Aurm Lily of the year

The first Aurm Lily of the year

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.

Chasmanthe floribunda, or Montbrecia or Crocosmia

Chasmanthe floribunda, or Montbrecia or Crocosmia

 

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.

A golden evening

A golden evening

The next morning greeted us with cool cloudy weather pierced by the odd shaft of sunlight and a double rainbow.

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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.

Eriocephalus africanus, wild african rosemary

Eriocephalus africanus, wild african rosemary

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.

Phylica eriocoides

Phylica eriocoides

The Banting Wars

It’s been a busy time at work and most of the time I’ve been chugging back and forth to Europe instead of spending this marvellous month of May on the farm.  Last Saturday I took a day off and went with Liz to the Franschhoek Literary Festival where we saw a splendid debate between Prof Tim Noakes and Prof Lionel Opie, entertainly chaired by Dennis Davis.

South Africans will need no introduction to Prof Noakes but for the benefit of everyone else, he advocates a way of eating that is very low carb, medium protein and very high fat.  He’s written a couple of entertaining bestsellers; it is the hot topic here and the large hall was overflowing.   It was particularly fun to go with Liz as we sit firmly on opposite sits of the debate.  I don’t agree with that way of eating at all (a serial dieter I’ve been through all them all, Montingnac, Atkins, Dukan and many variations thereof) and none of them help me to lose weight.  I haven’t tried the “Banting” way, as Prof Noakes calls it, but as is the case with so many diets I don’t know anyone who has lost weight on it after the first couple of weeks or so.  Some people claim to feel marvellous on it though and it may be true that it is a good diet for people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.   Perhaps also for people who eat seriously bad diets full of sugar and fast food in the first place.  Noakes is highly persuasive and passionate and Liz thought he won the debate.  I heard a lot of theories and a lot of conclusions but the facts didn’t seem to justify the conclusions.  Proof once more that you hear what you want to hear!  Noakes uses himself as an example all the time, so perhaps the only safe conclusion is that it may suit insulin resistance high performance atheletes like him.  Opie pointed out that the ONLY comparative research on the high fat approach that has been done was recently in Cambridge.  The conclusion was that a low-carb high-fat diet didn’t help the participants to lose weight, but in a group of talented Cambridge students, there was a noticable decrease in brain function, particularly memory.

So what has all this got to do with fynbos flowers?  Well the flowers and the run go together, and all that goes with a healthy lifestyle, hence our interest in the debate.  Liz and I followed all this talk of diet with a splendid lunch where she stuck to her Banting and I ate a smoked salmon rosti with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce.  And we shared a divine bottle of Chenin Blanc.

On the way home the light was amazing and I stopped on the dirt road to take this photo of the shining grasses in the autumn vines which are at their most beautiful at this time of year.  A golden highway in the winelands.

The shining grasses in May

The shining grasses in May

Back on the farm I took the dogs for a long walk on the mountain as the sun started to set.  Maebh and Jemima Chew set about hunting every last gerbil, full of glee and joy as they bounced around the place.

Jemima Chew and Maebh enjoying the evening hunt

Jemima Chew and Maebh enjoying the evening hunt

We are moving in to the serious season for fynbos now that we’ve had good rain.  One is another tiny lobelia – I didn’t have room to fit my fynbos book in my bag on this trip, but it is different from the one we posted a couple of weeks ago.

Lobelia

Lobelia

The Protea nerifolia is now in flower all over the farm and will continue to flower for months now.  Quite a hairy chap, it’s always particularly handsome when it catches the light, as in this photo in the very last rays of the sun.

Protea nerifolia

Protea nerifolia

I can be silly in my joy when my favourites emerge and I see them for the first time in the season.  One of these is Microloma tenuifolia which has emerged winding its tentacles around a protea.  This tiny flower is as smaller or smaller than the nail on my little finger, little flashes of pinky coral in the lush green fynbos.

Microloma tenuifolia

Microloma tenuifolia

Rupert Koopman from Kirstenbosch kindly sent a comment to let me know that this daisy that I posted last week is Anthanasia trifurcata – thank you!

Anthanasia trifurcata

Anthanasia trifurcata

 

May Day, home, sunset and the warmth of the mountain

Peter and I both agree that although we both hate leaving the farm to travel, usually for work, the best part is coming home. I’ve been in Europe for a couple of days. One night and two days in London; two nights on planes. I arrived home this morning feeling pretty horrible.  This evening in anticipation of a gorgeous sunset, I took the dogs for a walk and the sky lit up with pink and orange out towards the Paaderberg as we walked on the most northern parts of the farm.

A painted sunset, 1 May 2014

A painted sunset, 1 May 2014

 

I took a different path from our running routes and the slower pace of a walk meant that I saw much more than I do on the morning run.  I must do these leisurely walk more often. Three separate daisy-like yellow flowers; always the most frustrating to identify, and a tiny little pelargonium, one of my favourite plants. The mountain was amazing tonight – the days are still warm, but the evenings cool and at dusk you can feel the mountain giving out the warmth it has absorbed during the day into the cool evening air, sending out blasts of heat that I walked through as I returned to the house. The dogs were joyous and Maebh’s pale coat glows in the evening light.

 

Seamus and Maebh in the fynbos

Seamus and Maebh in the fynbos

The Pelargoniums flower here all year round; different plants in different months. Identifying the subspecies is hopeless, but each one gives me great joy.

 

Autumn Pelargonium

Autumn Pelargonium

As for the yellow daisy-like flowers. There are three, all on the same road, within 100 metres of one another. The first is an Osteospermum spinosum I think.

Osteospermum spinosum?

Osteospermum spinosum?

The needle-like leaves could be telltale

The needle-like leaves could be telltale

 

The second has these splendid clustered flowerheads with gorgeous curly stamens on the tips, with a soft grey-green hairy leaf. You would think that would suffice to identify – but no.

 

Clustered yellow flowers

Clustered yellow flowers

 

Something about the flower makes me think Helichrysum but the leaf says not

Something about the flower makes me think Helichrysum but this thick hairy leaf says not

And the last is a perfect yellow daisy, with clustered spiny leaves. I love the way that these three plants tell me how far I’ve come on my fynbos journey. A year ago they would have looked the same to me; the way your friends’ two dogs both look the same to you, but are completely different to them. Now the differences jump out at me, yet I still can’t identify them. I love that too – that the fynbos journey is without end.  I’ll probably never be able to identify every single plant on the farm, a mere pinprick within the Cape Floral Kingdom. But I won’t stop trying.

 

A perfect daisy, but which perfect daisy?

A perfect daisy, but which perfect daisy?

It's a small shrub with little needly clustered leaves

It’s a small plant with little needly clustered leaves

Protea Repens, the iconic Sugarbush

If there is an iconic flower on this mountain, indeed in much of the Cape, it is Protea Repens.  The book says it flowers all year round but on these mountains this flower is the precursor of autumn and as the days shorten and a damp chill scents the air, these creamy, sometimes pink tipped flowers open all over the farm.  The common name is sugarbush and very often they are full of bees feasting themselves on the nectar.  I like to think that our honey at this time of year must come mostly from from this source.

This morning was spectacular, blue, green and golden, and the dogs and I set off for a gorgeous run with the objective of capturing some images of Protea Repens as it dominates this flowering moment.  With the rain we’ve had there will be more to see before long.

The national flower of South Africa is Protea cynaroides, the King Protea and with it’s huge and gorgeous flowers one can understand why.  I was interested to read in my research that until 1976 the national flower was in fact Protea repens.  It makes sense, it is stunningly beautiful, ubiquitous here in the Cape and there is something glorious about this shrub that chooses to flower in the arid season of the year when all is dried and shrivelled, all colour gone and which continues to flower all through the winter.  We will see more of these in the blog, I can’t resist how they catch the endlessly different light on the mountain and in the months to come we’ll see great banks of them flowering all over the farm.

 

Protea Repens - if you look closely you can see the feasting bees

Protea Repens – if you look closely you can see the feasting bees

 

 A pink and white Protea repens catches the morning light

A pink and cream Protea repens catches the morning light

 

Light shining through a large Protea repens sighted at the top of the olive groves

Light shining through a large Protea repens sighted at the top of the olive groves

 

The same shrub covered with creamy white flowers

The same shrub covered with creamy white flowers

Helichrysum Days

I try to write this blog at least once a week, sometimes more, with the aim of staying  current with  the flowering cycle on the mountain.  For some reason the past 10 days have been particularly busy.  We had a series of guests, family and friends, which is wonderful although it puts paid to quiet nights when we can watch TV and write blogs.  Then horses and dogs have needed trips to the vet.  The magnificent Seamus has had a bad time.  He got a tummy bug, received treatment and then had a frightening adverse reaction to the treatment.  It is a well documented allergy, but so rare that our vet had never seen it.  Two days of worry later he is much better although his back legs are not working perfectly and we don’t know if he hurt himself, or if it’s a consequence of the neurological reaction he suffered from.  He’s not in pain; he would tell us if he was, but it will be at least a few more days before he’s allowed running on the mountain again.

The horses were just getting all their routine annual innoculations, check-ups, dentistry and so on. All of which needs doing but is rather time consuming along with work and the guests.  I must remember next year how busy this time of year can be and plan a little bit better.

Peter’s business has picked up and while we wouldn’t say orders are flooding in, the painful trickle has certainly become a steady trickle.  Which should be wonderful except that labour protests are growing in South Africa and he had a sit in strike at the factory today.  Fortunately it was resolved quite quickly.  How frustrating finally to have some business, so that we can potentially pay more and afford bigger bonuses and instead be dealing with strikes and knowing our overseas customers are watching this and wondering whether SA is the right place to do business.  That’s not to be negative, just realistic.  Peter is brilliant at managing these situations and he will sort it out.

To my delight there are all sorts of happenings on the mountain which make running a pleasure.  In particular several different Helicrysums are in flower.  Plants that flower at this time of year tend to have dry looking or tiny flowers that can cope with the potential heatwave as you can see from these pictures.

Helichrysum Flowers

Helichrysum Flowers

Helichrysum flowers - a different sub-species

Helichrysum flowers – a different sub-species

 

Yet another variety to be found here on the mountain: Helichrysum flowers

Yet another variety to be found here on the mountain: Helichrysum flowers

A cloud of Helichrysum in the morning light, this one situated in the heart of the olive groves; they grow all over the farm

A cloud of Helichrysum in the morning light, this one situated in the heart of the olive groves; they grow all over the farm

I started this blog last year in March when the first of the proteas came into bloom.  So it is exciting to witness the burgeoning of protea life as the shrubs of Protea repens are covered in buds and will flower in the next few weeks.  That, for me, is the start of our flowering year and I cannot wait.

The Protea repens is budding, a harbinger of summer's end.  The first flowers will emerge well before the autumn rains

The Protea repens is budding and heralds the end of summer. The first flowers will emerge well before the autumn rains

 

We have exceptional sunsets at this time of year.  Almost every night and it is a lovely time to walk around the farm.  With Seamus on the sick list we haven’t gone far and last night I took this picture of the farmhouse with the pink mountains behind us.

 

Pink sunset on the mountains

Pink sunset on the mountains

Sometimes we can get strange effects of the light as the sun goes down, like this photo of the sun just dropping behind Paarl mountain.  Taken a moment later than the one above there is a circular glow around the setting sun that was  distinctive and I was surprised it was captured so easily by the iPhone camera.   

Sunset over Paarl rock

Sunset over Paarl rock

The Morning Run

The unseasonal weather continued all last week with pours of rain thundering down for much of it.  Yesterday morning it was dry at last and we woke up early to go running.  At this time of year we are normally sweltering in the heat so it was a joy to be splashing through puddles and smelling the sweet damp morning air.  I was working in Johannesburg for much of the week, missing the rain, but also the dogs and the run, so they were full of joy as we bounded along.  Yes, I did say bounded.  Fewer flowers mean fewer photos so I’ve been running a bit harder and slowly getting fitter.  

I count my blessing every day that we spend on this farm.  We’ve been a bit slow about transforming the garden and today the fabulous Henk Scholz came to give us some advice.  He is incredible, one starts with an idea of course and he’s very kind so he takes it on board, but then comes up with his own idea that is so audacious and splendid it’s completely irresistible.  Peter then came up with a couple of stunning ideas which, if he really is prepared to do the work, will transform the place and make it even more beautiful.  I described the farm to someone the other day as the most beautiful farm in the Cape, which was stupid because there are many amazing farms here.  Ours is unusual and unexpected which gives it a special beauty.

Henk admired elements of the vegetable garden, principally the fact that I’ve managed to get anything to grow at all.  I may love plants and gardens but whatever shade my fingers are, it’s definitely not green.  He gently explained that the reason my plants are not fruiting is because they are completely smothered by weeds.  Oh I can make all the excuses I want, the rain, the fact that I fertilised everything before the rain, which of course the weeds love even more than the plants.  The time, or rather the lack of it that dominates my life.  In the end, after he left, with the earth still soft and yielding after all the rain I dug and weeded for hours and have cleared all those pesky monsters away.  Maebh loves it when I garden, she sniffs around and tries to help, then lies down and observes all the work with great interest.  Finally she curls up in the cool shadow of an orange tree and happily falls asleep. 

Back to the run.  As we bounded up the mountain I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this Protea repens.  What?  Now?  It’s far too early!  And indeed the season doesn’t really start until March.  This one clearly decided to get ahead.  It has just opened, perhaps the season starts much earlier than I’d realised and this is the first.  

An early flowering Protea repens

An early flowering Protea repens

One of the joys of the mountain is the magnificent Salvia africana-caerulea.  It flowers prolifically for eight months of the year and particularly seems to thrive at this time of year.  

Salvia africana-caerulea

Salvia africana-caerulea

Another flower that is glorious at this time of the year is this stunning Erica.  I’m pretty sure it’s Erica abietina, simply called Red heath which flowers all year round but seems to relish the dry most of all.  The coral flowers are stunning along the drive and although the strong midday sun was almost too much for this photo I couldn’t resist the way it reflects the flight and glows from within.

Erica abietina

Erica abietina

Despite the cooler weather Seamus still took a dip and a drink in Fox Pan as we climbed higher up the mountain.  Then, graciously deigning to wait for me, he stood and admired the view with the water cascading off his flanks and shining in the morning light.

Seamus after his dip admiring the view

Seamus after his dip admiring the view

I rushed to identify the last blog’s flowering bulb as Watsonia, possibly because it gave me a great title.  But I was a bit bothered by that and not entirely convinced.  The flowering season is wrong, and although that sometimes happens you have to be certain.  So back to the books I went and in fact it is Tritoniopsis, most likely triticea, although burchellii is almost identical and grows in the same places.  The brown leaves, which you can see in this photo, are distinctive and make me confident of this identification.

Tritoniopsis tritecea

Tritoniopsis tritecea

Christmas Fynbos

Travel at Christmas is always fraught with risk. We left for a short trip to Ireland to spend the weekend before Christmas with a very dear friend, celebrating his 50th birthday. Thereby infuriating a whole series of family members, who believed that if we were in Ireland that close to Christmas, we should see them, not friends. Sorry. We then braved a lot of stormy flooding roads and wild bouncing skies, along with a Heathrow made worse than ever by the despairing passengers whose flights were cancelled two days before Christmas. Our plane, thank goodness, slipped through the weather and flung itself southwards and even managed to land in Cape Town without crashing, unlike another flight at O R Tambo in Johannesburg which walloped its wing by crashing into a building on the ground causing a mighty row between air traffic control and the British Airways pilot. You can imagine. No-one got hurt.

We arrived home on the 24th, back to the farm, the dogs and our gorgeous friends who came for Christmas. The fabulous David in Paarl did all the catering for us, so we had a wonderful self-indulgent break. Hubert sat beside me at dinner and explained that he doesn’t really love this blog because it’s too academic for him. He’s one of the cleverest people I know, so I think that, as a friend who lives most of the year far away, he’d rather more gossip and fewer flowers. Those last two paragraphs were for you, Hubert.

Meanwhile out on the mountain the dogs and I have been running regularly and loving it. Summer runs take in lots of water breaks. You hear of big dogs dehydrating so I’m careful about that and make sure the dogs are always in sight so that I can spot if anyone gets distressed.

Seamus and Maebh enjoying the water at Fox Pan

Seamus and Maebh enjoying the water at Fox Pan on a very dry sunny windy morning

Lots of things enjoy the summer weather and the Christmas collection includes a snake nearly trodden on by Noella, who was remarkably calm about it. Also a red lipped tortoise, charming creatures and we see them quite often. This morning a scorpion ran across our path, minding his own business. I love seeing these things, but it’s another good reason to keep the dogs in sight, just in case they get too inquisitive about something nasty.

The flowers may not be profuse, but there are still plenty of things out there to interest us. Some choose to flower in the hottest driest of weather, like the helichrysum that covers the mountain.

Helichrysum

Helichrysum

There are plenty of Pelargoniums that don’t mind the heat and choose the hottest months for their flowering. I’ve taken a lesson from the mountain and planted lots more of these in the garden.

One of the many subspecies of wild Pelargonium that grows on the mountain

One of the many subspecies of wild Pelargonium that grows on the mountain

I have only seen these orange spikes in one particularly damp spot on the road that leads up to the pine forest. They are known as wild dagga and the dried leaves traditionally have been used medicinally but are not a narcotic or tobacco substitute, contrary to what some of the local residents have told me.

Wild dagga, Leonotus leonurus

Wild dagga, Leonotus leonurus

I love this Selago corymbosa which flowers only in the dry months on it’s long softly spiking stems.

Selago corymbosa

Selago corymbosa

There are 35 fynbos lobelias and they are really stunning, especially in close up. I’m going to suggest that this one is Lobelia pinifolia because many of them have hairless flowers while this one is quite clearly hairy.

Lobelia pinifolia

Lobelia pinifolia

This is known as the blue pea and is most likely Psoralea restioloides, choosing to flower late in its season near the stream that marks our boundary with the nature reserve at the top of the farm.

Psorolea restioloides, the blue pea

Psorolea restioloides, the blue pea

This, oddly, is known as the Christmasberry, although it flowers at Christmas and the spectacular red berries appear in the autumn. It is a common shrub, with a distribution along the coasts and a good way inland from Namaqualand on the West Coast of South Africa all the way to KwaZulu-Natal on the Eastern Coast. Perhaps among all those different habitats there is one in which the berries appear at Christmas.

Christmas berry, Chironia baccifera

Christmas berry, Chironia baccifera

I love these protea cones though I can’t remember which member of the protea family this shrub belongs to.

Protea cone

Protea cone

This time of year brings the most magnificent sunsets and with friends staying we often take a sunset walk with the dogs. We’ve had tremendous winds this spring and suddenly over Christmas they’ve dropped and the weather has been perfect, sunny but not too hot. The air is amazing, a light breeze, slight damp dew falling as the sun goes down. Fewer flowers perhaps but the valley below us is a theatre of glorious changing light.

The evening light in the olive groves above the house

The evening light in the olive groves above the house

Sunset on Christmas Day

Sunset on Christmas Day

Summer

As spring turns into summer the intense proliferation of new flowers on the mountain is dying back and I don’t really expect to see new things as frequently. So far there has been something new on each of the 50 runs that I’ve done since I started the blog. That won’t continue when the summer sun sucks every last bit of moisture out of the ground, leaving it rock hard, dry and dusty.

Summer running has quite a different feel to winter running. The wind for a start; when it’s hot and dry the famous Cape Doctor, the southeaster, howls over the mountain, shredding all but the hardiest plants in the garden. Suddenly it is clear why so many fynbos plants have tough spikey or needlelike leaves. They need them to survive the wind and the summer drought.

We did some quick runs with no photo stops last week on a route that we run quite frequently and then on Friday morning the dogs and I decided to go for a proper blogging run to the highest point of the farm where there a shady damp road that always has something interesting to look at. When it gets hot like this we seek out the few shady groves, damp areas and streams to get a break from the relentless morning sun. Maebh as she often does, posed for the camera. Perhaps not the best ever photo of her but the colour of her coat is gorgeous in the dappled light.

20131126-084429.jpg

Just a little further on, caught in a pool of sunlight, stood this amazing flower. Although I can’t find it in the books, the slightly twisted sword like leaves tell me it is a kind of Gladioli and if I have some time I’ll hunt through the Fynbos Bulb Encyclopedia to see if any of the descriptions match this. I love this photo, the flowerhead in a pool of light against the dark shadow of the trees.

20131126-084910.jpg

I’m never 100% sure that I have identified this flower correctly – there are 52 fynbos subspecies in the Metalasia family and the photos in the books are not great. I’ve published photos of them before and I couldn’t resist this one with its spectacular pink flower. I believe it’s Metalasia divergens.

20131126-085104.jpg

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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?

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