Tag Archives: Seamus

All about Ericas

An interesting question came from a follower of this blog:  where does the inspiration come from?  How do I sit down and write 500 – 100 words every week or so?  I’ve never thought about it – the inspiration comes from the run, the beauty of the place, sometimes, wild, sometimes spiritual, always theatrical.  Every time it’s the same story, I took my dogs, we went for a run on our farm, we saw flowers.  Like Heraclites’s river it’s always the same and always different and there is another tale to tell.  I do my best thinking on the run.  I don’t listen to music and my mind is free to wander and ponder.  Mostly I think about work or about what I’m going to put in the blog.  The thought about Heraclites and his river, fished out from the bubbling spring of knowledge that was my first philosophy lecture at Trinity, came to mind on a run.  By the time I actually sit down and write, the words are clamouring to be put on the page and it’s only a matter of deciding how to present it.  The titles are another matter – I read somewhere that titles matter a lot when you blog, so I have to consider my theme and find an elegant arrangement of words that will capture the reader’s interest and make them want to read further.

At this time of year the sheer volume of flowers on the mountain is overwhelming.  We went for a run on Saturday evening; the air was calm and still and the run was about 60% photos and 40% run.  Luckily by Sunday morning a wind had picked up and I’ve learned there’s no point in trying to photograph flowers when their long stems are being blown by the wind; much better for my fitness!  I took just one photo, of Seamus  loving the feeling of the wind in his coat.

Seamus enjoying the wind as he trots up the mountain with Paarl visible in the valley below

Seamus lets the wind stream through his coat with Paarl visible in the valley below

Last year some readers complained that bacame a bit obssessive about the flowers and they missed the bit of chat that goes with the blog.  So this year I shall do some frequent posts and place the flowers in groups, starting with the Ericas.  I’ve mentioned before that one of the interesting things about the Cape Floral Kingdom is that it is the most diverse in the world, accounting for the hundred of species growing on our small farm.  And Ericas are the most diverse of all, with around 860 subspecies and 660 of those are fynbos.  So it’s not a surprise that they are not always easy to identify. I’ve included here some Erica’s that we haven’t posted yet – there are many many more in flower and I will try and add an Erica page when I have time to do some cataloguing.

One particular favourite grows at the top of the waterfall, on the other side of the stream.  If you look closely you can just see it at the top of the fall.  In reality it’s a vibrant splash of pink.  It’s quite far from the road; I risked a soaking and my still recovering ankle to bring you these photos of the perfectly named Erica multumbellifera in full bloom.

Erica abietina comes in many colours: yellow, orange, red or magenta.  Those on our farm are all this fabulous scarlet, quite often hard to photograph because the shiny flowers reflect the light intensely.

Erica Abietina

Erica Abietina

Another charming pink Erica has emerged higher up at the very top of the farm where the damp and little used road encourages lots of fynbos growth.  This one has little pinky-white bells.  There are lots of subspecies with little pink bells which makes them hard to identify – even in the book the descriptions are almost exactly the same.  The flowers are almost too tiny to be seen with the naked eye, the iphone camera does a great job of enlarging them.

Even smaller is this white-flowering rambling Erica.  Seamus helpfully stood beside the plant so that you can get an idea of just how very tiny the flowers are.  Then I used the iphone camera with a microlens to get a decent image of the flowers which are very white with little teeth on the edges.  When this shrub finds a place it likes it spreads and spreads and swarthes of land are covered in it in sections.

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

Gloomy northern skies and dreams of fynbos flowers

Sitting in an office in Stockholm on a gloomy day it is hard to imagine the glories of Saturday morning’s run.  The light, the warmth, the howling wind.  Seamus and Meabh stand face on, heads up, loving the feel of the wind ruffling their coats.  As ever there is something new to see – this gorgeous Tritonia undulata which has emerged in quite a few places.  It’s very distinctive and very lovely, what a treasure to find on a Sunday morning.

Tritonia undulata

Tritonia undulata

I stopped to try and capture a good picture of it of course, and as I trotted on up the hill I reflected on how much less fit I am than I was when I started this blog.  You would think that blogging what I see when I’m out on a run would get me out running more.  But the problem is that my runs are longer – I can never resist a new flower, especially as anything that is a bulb may be gone by tomorrow, and each picture takes a few minutes as I try to find the best angle and the best light.  Sometimes, perversely, that even puts me off from going out at all because I don’t have the time I need to do a proper run and photograph the flowers as well.  It will be an ongoing dilema and really, as with so many problems in one’s life could probably be solved if I got up earlier…

One of the flowers that inspired me to start the blog has suddenly emerged.  It’s known as the comb flower, Micranthus junceus, and is one of the first that I identified because of its distinctive shape and pretty blue flowers.

Micranthus junceus, the Combflower

Micranthus junceus, the Combflower

As I do the research and leaf through the books hunting for flowers, inevitably one passes stunning flowers in the book and thinks – “never seen that one, I wonder if it grows on this mountain.”  This Roella ciliata is such a flower with its gorgeous lilac-blue and inky collar.  I spotted it out of the corner of my eye as we ran down one of the paths in the forest and felt like an excited hunter who has finally found a screcretive and exclusive quarry.

Roella ciliata

Roella ciliata

Much more common is this butterfly lily, the splendidly named Wachendorphia paniculata I posted it not long ago, but can’t resist posting this lovely example which is growing along the drive and which looked particularly fine against the sandstone wall.

Wachendorfia paniculata

Wachendorfia paniculata

Finally a couple of flowering bulbs that I haven’t identified, one blue, one yellow.   The blue one has a twisting spike out of which the flowers grow and the yellow one grows tightly out of its stalk like a delphinium.  I haven’t been able to identify them in the general fynbos books and I really need a night in with the encyclopaedia of fynbos bulbs to see if I can identify these and a couple of others that we still have not named.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of a better photograph and all is revealed.  A good project for hot summer nights when the pressure of new flowers has eased and we will start a job of identifying and cataloging what we’ve found.

Unidentified blue flowering bulb which has a distinctive twisting flowerhead

Unidentified blue flowering bulb which has a distinctive twisting flowerhead

Unidentified yellow flowering bulb that is suddenly flowering all over the farm, particularly on damp roads

Unidentified yellow flowering bulb that is suddenly flowering all over the farm, particularly on damp roads