Tag Archives: Wild flowers

Could try harder

The blog has suffered because I’ve gone back to school.  I’m doing a Masters in Philosophy in Coaching (MPhil means you do a significant research piece, that’s for next year).  Weeks like this one, spent at the business school, are intensive and in between there’s lots of study and lots of writing.  Along with launching my new business there’s just about time to run but not much time to write about it.

One of the subjects I was thinking about tonight on the run was the challenge of confidence and humility in business leaders, and specifically in myself as a leader and a coach.  I’d say I don’t have enough of either.  Confidence isn’t too hard to think about.  I don’t want to waffle on so in a nutshell, in many ways confidence is everything, it allows you to be grounded and forget yourself so that you can immerse yourself in the flow of whatever it is you are doing.  Lacking an edge of confidence might not be a bad thing though.  In my case it’s the endless “could try harder” I got as a child instead of positive reinforcement in the form of praise.  Yet it gives me an edge, makes me work a bit harder.  I’m a bit of an Avis type: I may not be No 1 but I try do harder.

Humility as a notion is altogether more difficult.  I’m trying to uncouple the notion from the famous role models like Mandela, Ghandi and Mother Teresa.  They may be shining examples of humility but it’s a public and political humility.  The kind I’m trying to understand is a humility that a great business leader or star sportsman or woman can epitomise.  Utterly genuine, held in a context of great work or great sporting success.  How can you develop and encompass that humility?  Indeed what is it?

These are the questions the study leads me to consider…

The evening was mild with heat from the warm day beating up into the cooling air and as we ran along the path at the very top of the farm we came across one of my favourite flowering bulbs, the gold and brown Gladiolus maculata.  Elegant and queenly, the flower heads arched into the path in front of us.

The Eriocephalus africanus is early this year compared to last – as are many flowers – the warm wet autumn must have a lot to do with it.

As we ran down the mountain Maebh paused and the last rays from the west caught the ghostly tips of her coat, illuminating her in the evening light.

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I have so many other flowers to post, but this magical evening run deserved a blog to itself.

 

Skipping up the mountain

After a week of howling wind that has distressed the garden and stripped the leaves and lots of baby olives off the trees, we finally had a quiet, damp, cloudy morning today.  This kind of weather is much more conducive to flower photos so we managed to capture a few we’d missed.

The Christmasberry, Chironia baccifera is in flower all over the place.  It has these pretty pink flowers now, and later in the year it will be covered in beautiful red berries.

As I’ve been running up the mountain in the past week I realised a sad truth.  We went to the bush for a few days at the end of November.  I love everything about the bush except for the fact that going running would make you a nice, easy, soft pink target for the predators.  So you can’t run.  A few years ago I realised the solution was to bring a skipping rope and this time I was quite good about skipping in the mornings.  It’s very boring, but it does work and to my amazement when I got home I ran quite effortlessly up the mountain.  Next time I’m struggling with fitness I’ll get that rope out.  Tiresome with amazing results.

Another tiresome thing is that I’ve missed some flowers.  I caught these comb flowers, Micranthus alopecuroides at the beginning of their flowering and this morning caught the end of the flowering, they are a little tatty but still very pretty.

Something happened while we were in the bush and it was funny enough to be worth the telling.  We came back from a game drive and I did my skipping, followed by a lovely brunch.  Tired from the early morning start, the exercise and the indulgent brunch, I decided to go for nap.  Off I went to our room, the last little cottage along the river, and lay on the bed.  It was hot; at this point I have to admit I was naked.  I duly fell asleep. A noise woke me.  I looked up.  Sitting on the balcony, lined up in rows as if in a cinema, the babies sitting on the shoulders of the adults, staring in at me through the huge windows, was an entire troop of baboons.  Just watching me sleep.  It was the most bizarre feeling.  I sat up.  They didn’t move, just stared.  It was rather unnerving.  Then quite quietly I said “go away” and equally calmly they all left.  I watched them go, en famille, off along the river bed.  We didn’t see them again for a couple of days.

Back to the flowers.  I have no idea what this pinky red pea is.  I’ll post it on ispot and see if we can find out.

Unidentified pinky red pea

Unidentified pinky red pea

These are an old friend, Selago corymbosa, quite common and very charming.

I went for a walk the yesterday evening.  I’d missed the morning run and when the wind dropped in the evening I thought the dogs would like a walk.  They certainly did and I took a couple of beautiful photos of Maebh.  The focus isn’t perfect her coat looks great in the evening light.

One of the first things to flower at the end of summer is the Protea repens and I think this might be a second flowering, it’s unusual to see them at this time of year.

Protea Repens

Protea Repens

I think this one is a Crassula but I’m not sure which one so once again I will ask the iSpot experts to identify it for us.

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.

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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

 

Running in between the flying

When I got home from Nairobi last week little Jemima Chew was not looking her usual self. She’s what the South African’s call a ‘pavement special’, an SPCA rescue dog who arrived in our lives shortly after Seamus. Although quieter than the attention seeking wolfhounds, she’s a lovely dog and often ends up a favourite with guests. She also gets bullied by Maebh as a result of which she now sleeps on our bed at night while the hounds sleep in the kitchen.  A perfect outcome from her point of view.

Jemima Chew (named for the Jimmy Choo boots she very nearly destroyed as a puppy) is always alert, always ready for action and always hungry. So when she was down in the dumps, refusing food and clearly off colour we were quite worried. Especially when Peter told me she’d been that way for a couple of days. She didn’t have a temperature, but in our part of the world you worry about biliary and I found a couple of ticks on her. We rushed her to the vet and although she didn’t have biliary she did end up on a drip for 24 hours. Poor girl, she’s so tough that in six years its’s the first time she’s ever had to go to the vet. By Sunday she was home, feeling much better, wagging her tail and demanding dinner.

Here she is in the misty afternoon light a week later. It poured with rain all last weekend but stopped early enough on Sunday afternoon for us to go for a quick run before I had to leave for the airport. This blog is being written on a plane between London and Frankfurt.

Jemima Chew, fully recovered

Jemima Chew, fully recovered

The light was fantastic and made the grove of Ilex Mitis by the weir look like a scene from The Hobbit. Seamus and Maebh put on their best performances for this photo.

Scene from The Hobbit, starring Seamus and Maebh

Scene from The Hobbit, starring Seamus and Maebh

The waterfall, which I posted only a few days ago, is now white with pounding water – we must have had 30mm of rain at least and the farm is soaking wet.

Water!

Water!

One lovely result of a few days of rain is all the bird activity when it stops, especially as this is the mating season for most of our birds. We took a different route through the fynbos today and saw lots of Cape Sugarbirds having battles over the girls. The iphone which I used for all my flower photos is much less good at caputuring fauna but I did manage to get one image of the sugarbird inspecting his territory from the top of a Protea repens.

If you look closely you can see the Cape Sugarbird with his long tail

If you look closely you can see the Cape Sugarbird with his long tail

Not so many flowers on this run – the rain, followed by some sun, means there should be some new things to see next weekend when I get home. This is a new protea gleaming in the soft winter light.  I have promised myself I will be stricter on identity this year, but I’m not sure what this subspecies is.

Unidentified pink Protea

Unidentified pink Protea

No problem identifying Chasmanthe aethiopica which we have posted before.  This group grows higher on the mountain on a different part of the farm – a damp shady area just below the weir. Such a lovely flowering bulb and reliably reminds me of the damp sweet smelling Irish spring where it grows wild on the verges and in the hedgerows.

Chasmathe Aethiopica

Chasmathe aethiopica

Another shot of the graceful and beautifully coloured Chasmanthe Aetheopica

Another shot of the graceful and beautifully coloured Chasmanthe aetheopica

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

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

Wild windy summer sunsets

I never get tired of looking at the view from the balcony and because we look west we have wonderful sunsets. Tonight’s was special by any standard. I took this photo just as the sun had gone down – no filter, just the last light of the setting sun reflected from the clouds onto the dam.

Sunset over the dam

Sunset over the dam

We had Christopher, the brother-in-law, to stay and before he left I offered to take him up the mountain and show him the flowers. All spring we’ve had a wonderful time showing our guests the wonders of the mountain fynbos flowers. That time has passed.  He loved being up on the mountain but the flowers have become sparse and less interesting to the casual visitor. A really passionate gardner might still enjoy it – for the less passionate there is merely fading and die back and the fucundity of the land has passed into dryness survival mode.

It doesn’t mean that there is nothing of interest out there, I’ve often mentioned that yellow daisy-like flowers are among the hardest to identify. This one could be the rock daisy, Heterolopis, or perhaps Leysera. If I see it again which is quite likely we’ll take a closer look.

Heterolopis or Rock Daisy?

Heterolopis or Rock Daisy?

The wind continues to blow – it has been more than a week now, which is quite unusual and not a let up in the forecast. The dogs love it particularly the wolfhounds and here is Maebh standing in the wind, allowing it to stream through her coat.

Maebh poses in the evening light, letting the wind slip through her coat

Maebh poses in the evening light, letting the wind slip through her coat

Jemima Chew on the other hand finds her solace in water and the permanent streams. She loves to wallow and lie the flow and then stands up, looking about her, thoroughly pleased with herself.

Jemima Chew - life is good

Jemima Chew – life is good

As Christopher and I chatted and walked I kept my eyes open for anything new and exciting, expectations low. And here we are, hidden beneath some fynbos scrub, this exquisite pelargonium. There are nearly 300 subspecies, 150 in the fynbos region of which only 20 or so are in the book. This one is so lovely, the colours, the delicate shape of the petals. I would be tempted to move it to the garden but my fingers are not the greenest and what if it’s the only one? I only ever transplant the very common flowers, anything that might be rare, special or precious belongs on the mountain.

A Pelargonium we have not seen before

A Pelargonium we have not seen before

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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The Guernsey Lily and other stories –

Writing this blog involves a lot of leafing through books trying to identify the flowers.  My favourite and the best that I’ve found so far is called Field Guide to Fynbos by John Manning.  It seems remarkably comprehensive, very detailed and I’m very grateful for it.

One thing I have learned is that small, daisy like purple and yellow flowers are quite hard to identify with pinpoint accuracy.  The devil, as always, is in the detail.  One has to note leaves, shape, colour, and plenty of tiny details involving the language of the botanist.  The purpose of this blog is not to bore a reader with the science; at the same time reasonably accurate identification of the plants means I must learn something of it myself.  As time goes on I should get better at it.
This has been a busy week and included some travel which means I’ve been out on the farm less than I like.  Luckily here were a few flowers I found last Sunday that I hadn’t taken the time to identify and it’s a rainy Sunday today, the mountain unphotogenically covered in dense cloud, so it’s a good day to spend leafing through the reference books.
This stunning purple daisy-like flower looks like a Felicia, of which we have lots on the farm, though they are not quite in flower yet.  Closer study reveals a white circle at the base of the petals which, combined with the shape of the petals (I really must take care not to become too much of a geek about this) makes me think it must be a subspecies of Senecio.  It looks quite like Senecio Sophioides which is not due to flower until July but it could be a close relation.  There are 80 fynbos subspecies of Senecio and not all are in the book.
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I am a little more confident with the next identification despite the fact that the yellow daisy-like flower is the commonest of all, seen on lots of different shrubs.  Still, this one is quite distinct so I’m going to identify it as Ursinia.  Again it’s not flowering at quite the same time of year as the sub-species in the books, but it is quite distinctive for a yellow daisy-ish thing.
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The day after I saw the Brown Afrikaner I saw another gorgeous bulb.  When it comes to bulbs there are two exceptionally prolific areas (that I’ve identified) on the farm and luckily one of them is the bank along the drive.  Running down the drive the other morning I caught a flash of red and stopped to see this; high on the bank above us.  It’s a south facing bank which doesn’t get much sunlight at this time of year.  I stopped several times as I drove up and down the drive and managed to catch one shot late in the day with the sun behind it.   I’ll go and have a look this week if the weather improves but I don’t know if I’ll find more of these so although the photo isn’t great, I decided to publish it in any case. I couldn’t get close enough to identify it with pinpoint accuracy – I can’t believe I’m going to have to bring field glasses with me to identify flowers. I’m pretty sure it’s a Nerine though. It is a lovely thing.

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Nerine Sarniensis or Guernsey Lily
 

There is a multitude of shrubs on the farm with shapes that are unique and rather strange; not familiar to anyone who grew up in the herbaceous gardens of Europe, even those filled with exotic flora.  A feature of these, and we’ll have lots of examples over the coming months, is that the leaves grow close to the stem, all the way up a long stalk, with the flower heads clustered at the top.  One of these is Metalasia Densa, coming into flower now, – a prolific flowering which will last for the next six months.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these shrubs on the farm.

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Arum Lilies, a dedication and 11 new species/subspecies

On the 19th of May I think of my brother Mark, who’s birthday this is, and this blog is dedicated to him.  Peonies are my favourite flowers because they bloomed in our garden the day he was born and I picked some to bring to the hospital the first day I met him.

Yesterday I took the dogs for a walk in the evening and as we crossed the dam wall I saw the first Arum Lily of the year.  I’ve seen them on the roadside already; all winter the roadsides and fields are covered in them – amazing that something so rare and precious in Europe should be a common winter wildflower here.  They thrive in watery places and the streams and banks on the farm are covered in them, hence this first sighting.  Before our run this morning I took this photograph – the flower shimmered against the brown dam water – its perfection needs no embelishment.

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Then off we went for our favourite weekend run.  The northern boundry of the farm abutts the nature reserve and the lower slopes of the reserve are covered by a commercial pine forest.  Crazy in this environment where the fynbos needs to burn every seven years or so in order to regenerate but if the forest goes up it will be a disaster, not least because there is a village in the middle of it.  That said, we love it.  On hot days it’s a joy to run through the forest’s dappled light and today was an unusually hot autumn day.  Once we leave the property both wolfhounds go on the lead.  I probably look a bit ridiculous running along with these two huge dogs, one of which weighs more than I do, but even with baboon sightings they are too polite to pull me over or the lead out of my hand.  A passing cyclist generates no more than an enthusiast tug from the dogs, and pedals all the faster when he sees them.  They are gentle giants but look quite fierce; this may be Africa, but I feel perfectly safe.
As we set off I was thinking that surely I wouldn’t find anything new on the farm – after all a few days ago I photographed everything I could see.  Now I’m curious to see how the year goes, because in one day I’ve identified 11 new species and subspecies, not all of which I’ll talk about yet but still; 11.  And as I think about it 12 because I saw the buds of one of very favourite flowers about to bloom and didn’t take a picture as the months to come will offer splendid opportunities to capture it at its best.  Out I went thinking, probably won’t see anything new today and 11 new things pop up.  This bodes well for our blogging year.
We ran later than usual so the Oxalis, mentioned in a previous blog, are all showing off in the glorious autumn sunlight and as soon as we left the house I notice this lovely yellow version, on the banks of the roadside and also in the lands, this in the last couple of days.  There are 120 Oxalis fynbos subspecies so forgive me if I dont’ try and identify this one which doesn’t have a perfect match in my book.
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While on the subject of Oxalis, I published a picture of one from the southern part of the farm which I described as unusual.  Clearly I shall be humbled by this blog; this flower may be unusual on the southern boundry, but in the north of the farm these jewel-like flowers are everywhere.  There is one road in particular which always has the best display of flowers and of course it is littered with these lovely pinky white stars.  On closer study I believe it may be Oxalis Argyrophylla.
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While photograhing those I noticed this creeping pink Oxalis with finer leaves and a creeping or rambling disposition.  I can’t identify it but it is most certainly a different and very charming sub-species.
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Ericas or heathers are one of the great marvels of fynbos and the flowers take many forms, often bells or trumpets, others less musical.  The trumpets are to my mind the most beautiful of all – and this coral version has started to flower in the past week or so.  The morning light was not good enough to capture it and I had a busy Sunday afternoon in the garden so I asked Peter to take me up to the top of the farm this afternoon to capture it in the southwestern sunlight.
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This expedition led to several more sightings which I’ll share during the course of the week – too much for one blog.  One thing I saw late last night, photographed this morning and again this afternoon is this tiny, delicate flower, of which I could find only one example in the middle of a fertile piece of road.  Initially I thought it must be yet another of the 120 sub-species of Oxalis but on looking at this photo that’s clearly not the case; the leaves are all wrong. I think it must be Chaenostoma, yet those in my book are all shrubs and this is somewhat standalone. Perhaps this plant will develop over the years, or I shall find others that permit a more accurate identification.  Delicate, delightful, terribly discrete and utterly charming.
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Finally – what on earth is this?  It looks like it belongs in a very smart herbaceous border, yet here it is, casually on the roadside, red berries glistening in the afternoon sun.  Further investigation is clearly required and we need to see what the flowers look like.  What a beauty.  And if you look closely you will note the little violet wild lobelia flowers growing through it.
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