Sunday, January 4, 2009

Skeleton Gorge, Aqueduct, Reservoirs, Jeep Track: flora

There is actually plenty to photograph while climbing the stairs, rocks and ladders up Skeleton Gorge, so I'm not sure why I didn't. We saw lots of small pale blue lobelias, a crassula new to me, Crassula pellucida, with pretty pink flowers and a love of damp places, lots of moss and ferns.

Above, the solitary and striking beauty of the mountains, Watsonia tabularis, now coming into bloom. A picture of watsonias photographed by Vince above De Hel in the Little Karoo is in the December issues of Go! and Weg! magazines - last page.

Above, Erica cerinthoides appeared as soon as we entered sunlight from the wooded koof. Also called Fire heath and Rooihartjie (little redhead).

Above. Stumped. Possibly Bobartia indica in the Iridaceae family. Or Moraea virgata? Anyone, anyone?
Below, the very cool parasite Harveya bolusii. It feeds off the roots of other plants, often daisies. Harveyas are named after Dr W. Harvey, "an auditor-accountant who became treasurer general of the Cape Colony" after arriving in the Cape in 1835, "and who became chief author of that master catalogue, the Flora Capensis." [Wild Flowers of Table Mountain, Prof. WPU Jackson; Howard Timmins, Cape Town, 1977]

Another Harveya, H. tubulosa, I think. They are striking because they pop up with none of the preparation or context that leaves seem to provide. I think of them as the Paris Hiltons of the plant world. Lots of splash and zero substance.

Below, a helichrysum?

I would have thought helichrysum but I can't find it. Maybe an everlasting? Its leaves below are large and soft, and it was growing in a healthy clump with stems about 15cm long.

Below, Aristea macrocarpa - with no common name listed, which I find odd. It is a beautiful plant, just past flowering - this one was an anomaly, late for the party but hanging on for me.

They are usually very tall, up to a metre and a half, but this was about half that, possibly because of its windy site.

Lots of lichens and mosses on the rocks. This is where my attention span begins to resemble a flock of white eyes. No ID even attempted. It's just pretty.

One of the plants that seems to define both the Cape and fynbos, a leucadendron, L. coniferum, I think. The Botanical Society's 2006 Wild Flowers of Table Mountain National Park says that the bracts become red with

Another flower typical of South Africa and the language, a vygie. But which? There are so many. Ruschia, Erepsia or Lampranthus. This is where my ignorance begins to show. I would wing it and say Lampranthus falciformis.

This buchu below, made me very happy. [Ed 02/21/2009: and it makes me unhappy to report that it is not buchu! Also belonging to the family Rutaceae, known as the Citrus Family, also highly aromatic, it is nevertheless: not buchu.] We found several shrubs as we descended from the Aqueduct, beside the clear brown mountain stream to the reservoirs. Buchu is something of a mythical plant in terms of its traditional medicinal properties. I recognized the leaf as I have never seen this flower - about an inch across - before. The leaves are very small and very aromatic. Fresh, they are far more herbal in the culinary rather than medicinal in the cough mixture sense. Adendra villosa - China Flower, Shepherd's Delight. [The species Agathosma claims the buchu name.]

Below, a pretty little tree (shrub, actually), slender and pliant with the wind, Psoralea pinnata, or Bloukeur, dots the landscape all over the mountain. The pea flowers are very blue: Prof. Jackson says they are "extraordinarily difficult to do justice to in a slide." He may have liked digital.

Near the caretaker's house on the Jeep Track there are lots of pincushions, introduced, I suspect, by a gardener, though maybe not. Leucospermum, yes, but for the species I need a different book.

Vince spotted this gorgeous orchid in the dry and undistinguished brush. I would have missed it. Disa cornuta, or Golden orchid.

Each flower painstakingly painted.

Lower on the mountain, above Cecilia, the erica that brushes the slopes pink.

On a rock wall, dripping with seepng water, a colony of sundews, Drosera trinervia. Its flowers are usually white.

And the special disas we saw? Not the D. cornuta above. See next post!


  1. You are one lucky dog. Only slightly less lucky myself, in New Hampshire, snowy but beautiful nonetheless. But no flowers. Only dreams.

  2. Hello Brooklyn! Thanks Amarilla ---

    and hi Frank - snowy sounds quite beautiful, actually.

  3. GORGEOUS photos! I LOVE the color of the Watsonia tabularis. The Disa cornuta is also incredible. From a distance it looks like a fancy delphinium but up close... WOW!
    I am going to search and see if I can buy either one for my garden. Wish me luck.
    Have fun, be safe and keep taking and posting photos.


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