Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Silvermine and Kalk Bay Peak

Heading for the mountains - a quarter hour drive from home - at 6.15 in the morning, it became clear that we'd be hiking in some mist. In my backpack on the seat beside me I had water, coffee in a useless thermos (don't you hate it when your espresso and hot milk are luke warm?), biscuits that I'd made the night before, with some butter and apricot jam, and a jersey, even though the predicted temperature for the day was 30'C. In one of my cargo pant pockets I had my small Canon SD95, in the other, pepper spray.

Welcome to the mountains.

After the troops had gathered and everyone had kvetched about the weather (which is famously changeable in Cape Town: blue sunny sky on one side of the peninsula, rain on the other), we set off.

If we couldn't have blue sky we could have Aristea africana. They were everywhere.

Below, a paler variation.

Beside the red gravel road, Serruria villosa.

Bubblegum pink Saltera sarcocolla.

Everywhere the sculptural vestiges of Dilatris pilansii.

Up close.

The image of the mountain dahlia, Liparia splendens, already seen in a previous post, but it captures the mood of the walk so well: what a pleasure to walk with people who are happy to stop and look at flowers.

I love these pelargoniums: P. longifolium, very variable in colour - from pale blushed faces...

 ...to spicy salmon to plain pink, each meticulously etched with carmine.

The cloud was soft and not very cold at all. I have walked here in sunlight in summer and have shivered till my teeth rattled.

Watsonia tabularis dots the fynbos regularly at this time of year.

We turned to climb Kalk Bay Peak.

And found at the top an erica I have never seen in bloom. I don't know what it is.

[* Update: An email from Kaartman himself (that would be Peter Slingsby, who made the wonderful maps we use when hiking) tells me that this is Erica lutea. Follow the link to his blog, Maps for Afrika. Wonderful reading.]

You will see a different plant, and then see a lot more, as micro conditions are conducive to its particular growth needs. 

Another erica, this time E. mammosa.

Around us everything dripped. Mountain fynbos in action, waiting for the winter rains, gathering its summer moisture from the fine cloud. 

On the peak, everlastings, Syncarpha vestita, tight shut. No sun? No play.

Tiny hairs on the shrubby Leucaspermum bushes collected water drops. Water ran down their woody trunks. Our hair turned to damp rats tails.

Our national flower, the king protea - Protea cynaroides.

More watsonias with Hermas villosa.

In a burned area a stunning, statuesque Aristea macrocarpa grew through a shrub's blackened skeleton.

Heading back down...

At the bottom, at the round path marker you can barely see, we had to consult our Slingsby map again. A path seemed to be missing. We opted for a rocky scramble and later found that the old path had been closed to recover from erosion.

More Aristea macrocarpa.

And some Hermas villosa pompoms.

Below, Gnidia tomentosa.

Tiny, damp Gnidia pinifolia...

Muraltia...maybe? Low, compact shrubs filled with tiny confetti-like flowers. Or is it a buchu?

We had breakfast under a huge rock.

Heading back on our loop we started to see lots of Roella triflora.

Microdon dubius...

Thereianthus bracteolatus.

Corymbium africanum.

Below. No clue.

Below, possibly an Agathosma, another buchu - highly fragrant.

Pretty grasses.

And at last we came out of the cloud.

Leucospermum...How do your remember the difference between Leucospermum and Leucadendron? asked someone. Well, said, Helen, Leucospermum look like..sperm.


Peucedanum galbanum, the notorious blister bush. I don't think everyone is susceptible to its blistering  ( I know I touched it as a teenager and nothing happened) but it's not worth taking a chance. The leaves look disarmingly like celery.

                Micranthus alopecuroides, one of those wonderful blues again, ready for its close up.


Sour fig, the fruit of Carprobrotus edulis. It belongs here but is an invasive pest in California. I suggest y'all eat them, like we do. This is its flower, below.

Below - Athanasia crithmifolia. And friends.

The sad and mysterious Pelargonium triste. And a few steps later, we were back in the car park. About 5 hours and countless species after we had set out.

I drove down Ou Kaapseweg and snapped two pictures of the weather out there.Table Mountain and a hot city below.

While from Silvermine the cloud still tumbled.

And the day had only just begun.

[And this is the new record holder for the most pictures in one post. Phew.]

Books used for ID: 

Wildflowers of Table Mountain Park, Terry Trinder-Smith. Mary Maytham Kidd and Fay Anderson, illustrations. Botanical Society of South Africa, 2006.
Cape Peninsula, South African Wild Flower Guide 3, Mary Maytham Kidd. Oxford University Press, 1983.

Here is Helen's post, for another point of view of our walk.


  1. so beautiful. thank you. what is pepper spray to deter?

  2. In California, we called 'sour fig', 'pickle weed'. I've seen photos of it growing in Chile, along the coast. I never thought of it as invasive; it was just part of the landscape of my childhood. Great to mark Hopscotch on the sidewalk.

  3. Oh Marie, those photos/flowers are so beautiful. I wish I was there to see them in person. Enjoy!

  4. Donna - well, muggers. In theory. Hasn't happened to any friends, but there have been muggings in various spots.

    Bow Street - really? I love the hopscotch application.

    Donatella - thank you :-)

  5. Oh what a beautiful and interesting post, thanks Marie :)

  6. Beautiful - wish I could join you. If you have time, fly to Nelspruit and we'll take you flower hunting on the escarpment.

  7. wow - every flower more beautiful than the last.

  8. Muggers shall not deter me...those flowers and that landscape are irresistible.

  9. Beautiful flowers and many more sighs...

    I hope you told Mr. Slingsby how much we enjoy his maps, for hikes and even trail runs!

  10. It may have been misty, but wonderful for beautiful pictures. I have never had the urge to go to Cape Town, because I didn't know much about it. However every year I learn more, and maybe, one day....

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  12. Thanks for the copious photos.

    It will make identification much easier next time I go on a mountain walk (especially the white Erica has always floored me, not finding it in my guide books).

  13. Hi Marie. haven't touched a plant book (shocking really.. and I call myself a botanist :) but looking at Walking the Cape's latest blog photos of Silvermine, is it possible that the unknown fleshy red-tipped and square-shaped character in your photos is Crassula cocinnea or Penaea mucronata?

  14. This is a superb post.

    Where else in the world can you be presented with such an array of fauna and flora in five hours?

  15. Fantastic trip Marie! So many interesting species. I love that P. longifolium.

  16. jelli - thank you - how is Lemon doing?

    Orchidchef - hm, now that's tempting invitation. Maybe next time. Vince and I are longing to visit Kruger again.

    webb - even the little ones are wonderful. I'd love to hike here at night - the scent would be overwhelming.

    Ellen - you have no idea how I am trying to choose walks to do with you; and you must see town, and we have to picnic at Clifton, and eat out, and hike some more, and hear music, and swim with the penguins, and...and...

    Beence, I did! I meess you. So much xxx

    Amy - I'm prejudiced, but it's very high on the list of Must Do's. Cape Town is stunning.

    Roelf - hope your next walk is a good one...

    Rosie - yes! Not the C.coccinea but the Penaea? Thank you!

    Thanks, Rob (glowing with pride):-)

    Stephen - come and visit...

  17. this hike looks so gorgeous. your warm south african photos are a welcome sight! thank you!

  18. I really don't know how I every missed your blog before! So inspiring, and the plants, and the photography, truly magnificent! From a fellow gardening blogger with interests in South African plants...

  19. Out of curiosity, since I live here on the CA coast and am surrounded by hottentot fig, how do you eat Carpobrotus edulis?

    ps - native CA pickleweed (Salicornia virginica) is entirely different.


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