Tag Archives: Running

Glorious Sunday Fynbos Flowers

After a golden day on Saturday when we were out all day with no time to run on the farm, we finally set off late on Sunday morning, the dogs and I.  Just as we left the house a light drizzle began to fall and I went back, wisely as it turned out, for a rain jacket.  It was only drizzling as we ran down the drive and then started to climb, but by the time we got high on the farm the weather had closed in.  Somehow this line of pines with the dams below always seems a little Japanese to me – is that an odd thought here in the uplands of Paarl?  Perhaps it is.

The landscape Japaned by the mist and the light

The landscape Japaned by the mist and the light

Luckily the weather hadn’t deterred us and some flowers glow and seem to photograph even better in the rain.  Take this Cyphia volubilis, the delicate white creeper.  There is one on the drive that is climbing all the way up this unidentified and rather plain shrub.

Cyphia volubis

Cyphia volubis

A close up reveals the charm and beauty of this delicate flower, notice the tiny pink spots at the centre, and of course the drops of rain, proof of our damp run.

Cyphia volubilis - detail

Cyphia volubilis – detail

All over the farm these yellow shrubs are flowering profusely, it is Hermannia grossularifolia I believe; there are as many as 60 fynbos subspecies but this one looks right, it belongs on these sandstone slopes and is flowering at exactly the right time of year.

Hermannia grossularifolia

Hermannia grossularifolia

Another flowering shrub is this one that I’ve posted before, unidentified until a friend pointed out that it is the common Tickberry (thank you Gilly), which used to be called Chrysanthemoides monilifera but is now correctly identified as Osteospermum moniliferum.  This shrub, although included as fynbos, is not unique to the fynbos region but grows happily, wild and in gardens, all the way up to tropical Africa.

Osteospermum moniliferum

Osteospermum moniliferum

An oft-posted winter flower was the wild rosemary, Eriocephalus africanus and I though it would be interesting to post it now that it has gone to seed.  With so many seedheads one can understand why it is so prolific on the mountain.

Eriocephalus africana - gone to seed

Eriocephalus africana – gone to seed

The light lent itself perfectly to capturing the magnificent white Erica which I believe to be the plukenetii.  It could be the coccinea, but the book says that particular subspecies does not exist in white and this is most definitely white.  Magnificent with its protruding anthers.  This is a common Erica and occurs all over the farm in many colours.

Erica plukenetii (?)

Erica plukenetii (?)

At this time of year the lands are full of flowers among the buchu.  The overall effect can be hard to photograph although this field of senecio high up in the lands gives a good sense of the colour and effect even on a dark day.

The lands full of flowers, primarily Senecio

The lands full of flowers, primarily Senecio

Saving the best for last.  One of the loveliest sights on the farm occurs at this time of year when this particular Leucadendron turns coral coloured. One of the interesting things about the Leucadendron family is that although less flashy than the protea to which it is related, it tends to be highly localised, fussy and choosy about where any particular subspecies will grow.  This appears to be Leucadendron tinctum, the name giving away the remarkable change in colour at this time of year.  The shrubs are everywhere in the higher parts of the farm and the effect is magnificent, one of our all time favourites.

The magnificent Leucadendron tinctum

The magnificent Leucadendron tinctum

 

I hsd planned a long run covering most of the farm, but by the time we reached what we call the look out it was raining heavily, I was tired slow and a bit sore after a lot of travel and show jumping on Saturday. The dogs were soaked and had been very patient as I took photos on the way up, not that they care, they happily sniff and hunt although Seamus, who misses us when we are gone, never left my side. So we put away thoughts of fynbos and plodded a little wearily down the hill to lunch, a fire and an afternoon in front of the TV.

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?

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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Philosophical musings, buchu and wild rosemary

I don’t remember all that much about my schooldays, more important things have happened since.  But I clearly remember one lesson.  Mr Clifford, the science teacher, was explaining the structure of an atom.  Someone asked the inevitable question “but if we can’t see it, how do we know it is there?”  “Ah”, said Mr Clifford tapping the table in front of him, “but how do we know anything is there, how do we know this table is here?  But”, he said, “that’s philosphy.”
That question really caught my imagination, and years later when I was studying philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, I read Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosphy where that question about the table comes under discussion.  As does another question: that of truth and knowledge.  Simply put, I know all bachelors are men because that lies within the very meaning of the word men “bachelor”.  Similarly, can I know that all swans are white?  No, I have to keep seeing swans and noting their whiteness.  One day I’ll go to Australia, or the zoo, and see a black swan.  Whiteness is not a defining factor of swans; that was Russell’s point.

It was buchu that led to these musings as the dogs and I ran this morning.  We grow buchu commercially and I always have the notion that buchu flowers are white.  As we peaked at the highest point of the run and headed down the moutain (always a very happy moment in the morning run) I suddenly saw this flash of lilac.

Buchu - in this case a hybrid of Agthomsa Crenulata, with an unusual mauve coloured flower

Buchu – in this case a hybrid of Agthomsa Crenulata, with an unusual mauve coloured flower

I stopped at once, and low and behold it was a little buchu plant, a hybrid from the farm, with lilac coloured flowers.  They were hard to photograph in the dim morning light – I can’t wait for the days to lengthen so that photography becomes easier in the early mornings when I run.  Where did this purple come from?

In referring to the books, buchu, or Agthomsa as it is properly known, can indeed flower in mauve.  Rather like a swan can be black.
The buchu harvested on our farm is mostly a hybrid.  The oils are distilled from the leaves and is used in the European food flavouring and perfume industry, mostly for its strong blackcurrent flavour and smell.  Here in South Africa it is used medicinally, it is one of the oldest medicinal flowers in the Cape, indeed in the world.  Personally I believe in its natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and I love its aniseed, fennel like flavour and drink a cup or two most days.
Agthomsa crenulata hypbrid: this plant is farmed here and harvested for its essential oils

Agthomsa crenulata hypbrid: this plant is farmed here and harvested for its essential oils

The other highly aromatic plant on the farm at this time of year is the wild rosemary.  This grey scrubby bush used to irritate me, but no longer.  Running my hand down the leaves and smelling the rosemary scent, seeing the lands full of shrubs and this exquisite, delicate flower has become a winter joy.
Eriocephalus africanus or wild rosemary

Eriocephalus africanus or wild rosemary

 

Wild rosemary has taken over this land on the lower slopes of the farm

Wild rosemary has taken over this land on the lower slopes of the farm

 

We are enjoying a mid-winter break at the moment.  Winters in the Cape can be long and stormy and sometimes quite cold.  This year we are enjoying a warm July.  Here in Africa the temperatures are as warm as an Irish summer – over 25 degrees during the day.  It’s a bit confusing for the poor plants though and I’m sure we’ll see some strange flowering dates as a result.
The mornings are clear and lovely.  As we ran we saw the first rays of sun over the Simmonsberg to the South West.  A joyous morning.
The first rays of sun on the Simonsberg

The first rays of sun on the Simonsberg

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.
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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.
 
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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.

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Stormy Weather 4 June 2013

We have been having the most dreadful weather.  Day after day with torrents of rain and low cloud on the mountain, we can barely see a flower, never mind try to photograph one in the gloom.  This morning when I woke up there was silence.  No rain drumming on the zinc roof.  If I don’t run for a few days I feel horrible and miss it and worse, I know it will be harder when I do get out there.  It’s cold, there is probably snow on the mountain above us but the thought of fresh air and happy dogs was enough to get me up and into running things.  I took the precaution of wearing a rain jacket on top, in case the deluge came.  

In the gloom and the early light I didn’t expect to see much and it’s true that there is nothing new.  I suspect we need sunshine and a little warmth to encourage flowering.  One plant that has come out in profusion is the wild rosemary.  The tiny white flower is too delicate and subtle to capture in the half light of the early morning but they are everywhere and will be the subject of a future blog.  

Jumping out of the gloom are the lime green leucadendrons and Maebh the wolfhoud (pronounced “mave” as in “wave”) chose to position herself photogenically behind them.  I think she may be taking lessons in modeling, she’s certainly getting better at posing fetchingly for the camera.

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The leucadendron was particularly stunning in the morning light – a photo of the mountain shows the green shrubs glowing in the gloomy morning.

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Close ups give you an idea of this lovely wild, winter flowering shrub.

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The proteas start flowering even before the rains come, typically in late March and continue for months. They love the rain and the flowers gleam white while the buds can be bright pink.

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Protea Repens

Another pink protea is the nerifolia which flowers prolifically at this time of year. I went up this evening to see if the evening light would let me capture the waterfall and chanced on this one as the first rays of sunlight we’ve seen in days caught it.

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Protea Nerifolia

Peter told me that with all the rain the waterfall would be looking spectacular. There is a story to this – when we bought the farm this entire area was covered in alien vegetation. We started a programme of clearing those trees, hundreds of them, and revealed an old road, which must have lead up to the pass over the mountains, and this beautiful fall of water from a permanent stream. We’ve planted some indigenous trees, continue to do the clearing and we’ve seen the most amazing resurgence of fynbos in this area. The fall is hard to photograph as it sits in a crevasse that blocks the light, you can see the shadow – at this time of year the late flash of sunlight sneaks into the crevasse and nearly catches the water, so at leasst you can get a sense of it. There must be a moment when the light is at just the right angle and I’ll endeavour to be there when it does.

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It’s raining again now, but as I walked home in the last of the light the sky seemed to hold a promise of better things to come. After 10 days of almost constant rain and increasing cold we’ll welcome a little sunshine. This photo of the road that leads from the main farm down to the farmhouse wouldn’t win any prizes, but I like the gleam of wet on the road and the glimpse of blue in the sky. We need this rain in the winter, it keeps this land fertile and the more rain now, the better the spring flowers will be. The dogs and I hope for better things and brighter runs for the rest of this week.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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