Monday, March 3, 2008

Map of Africa and Environs

For some reason I've hoarded the last two flower posts from South Africa, perhaps because posting them will really mean that the trip is over. A memory. But new things are happening, and are e.x.c.i.t.i.n.g.

So we arrived at Wilderness and after Vince had found the information bureau to steer us to Cloud Base, he returned to the car sniffing the air appreciatively: There is saucisson around here, we must come back and find the restaurant where they have it!

Before we found the saucisson (the long-ago-and-quite-recently-found-writing about which is the reason we met, really, a long story), we stayed the night at the paragliding base at the Wilderness, run by Jan Minnaar and his partner Kohbie Bowden, English, ex-New Yorker, now paraglider...In their wild garden, on a lush, steep slope I found the following:

Paintbrush lily - Scadoxus punicens. They shone like torches amongst thickly green ferns and groundcovers, and the feeling was suddenly subtropical.

More orange. The gloriosa lily, a climber. Gloriosa superba - both lilies native to the Eastern Cape, and quite at home in the Wilderness.

And one of my favourite plants - very good for burglar-proofing a hedge: prickly Carissa macrocarpa - edible fruit: soft and sweet with a slightly astringent juice. Also known as Num-num. The white flowers smell like jasmine. A plant that delivers bang for the buck.

There was a tall pine tree just across from the house. A heronry. Packed with egrets, two kinds; cormorants, two kinds; and herons, two kinds. A constant commotion, cackling, heckling, insulting, jostling, sniping, pecking and to-ing and fro-ing. It was like being back at the office. At one point Vince and I sat outside on the deck with a drink to enjoy the show and then as one we leaped to our feet and levitated indoors as a strong wave of guano-air was wafted towards us by a gust of wind. Damn!

Next morning, while Jan and Vince checked out conditions at the launch site, I studied the grass beneath my feet. It reminded me of nothing so much as an Alpine meadow...

Oxalis sp.

A slightly fuzzy Ranunculus multifidus - notice how similar the flower is to the winter aconite's? Same family. This one on a temperate grass slope in 30'C overlooking the Atlantic. That one in a frigid urban park, below freezing.

I think this is Pelargonium incanum - though the petals are very differently-coloured from the photos I've seen....[Ed. er...Oops. I meant Geranium my mom pointed out. "Rarely white with pink veins," says John Manning's Field Guide to Fynbos. Was this the "rarely??]

Somebody's beautiful seedpod. But whose?

Convolvulus farinosus...the sweetest little climber just twining itself among the delicate grass stems.

And then this one. Gorgeous. And I'm stumped. Is it Viola decumbens, a native violet (the only violet we have)? I don't theenk so...It looks like diascea...Could it have come from farther east, thus eluding identification because I only had books for the Western Cape, Outeniqua and Little Karoo with me?

Vince plugging himself in...and I had to return to the real world.

Booting his paraglider up.

And launching himself into real space...

That night he joined the birds in the heronry, having convinced them he was one of their own. In the morning they were all eating croissants together and saying please and thank you.

* the saucisson. We returned to the area around the information bureau the next evening. It was a well-landscaped courtyard whose main feature was many lovely old milkwood trees, protected in South Africa. I sniffed. Can you smell the saucisson? asked Vince. Sniff! Yes, I do! I said. We sniffed towards a restaurant, but the scent grew no stronger. There was something familiar about it though, deep in my bones. Sniff. Saucisson...yes. Sniff. It's driving me crazy, said Vince...Sniff, sniff. It's the milkwoods! I yelped. And it was. Their berries smell just like cured sausage.

They are now known as Saucisson trees, and Vince hates them.


  1. Ahhh. The "booting" one is my favorite. So obstructed, yet speaking of such freedom...

    It's called "building up a wall", by the way - pre-inflating the canopy to do a first visual inspection of the lines and making sure it is lined up with the wind and will lift up evenly... :-)

  2. Even lifting is desirable...


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