Friday, July 4, 2014

Cape winter

We seem very far from the 4th of July. But I did dream that I tried to sing The Star Spangled Banner (whose words had changed), in a country of refugees on the move where an Apocalyptic event had taken place. In the end one girl's voice sang it above the silenced and confused crowd, the only one who knew the way forward. 

I blame the quiet nights of Constantia for serious REM sleep.

The corgis have grown a little...fat...since the last time I saw them. And by the time I have reached the halfway mark of a very modest walk along the Alphen Trail they are looking weary. Corgi bootcamp is just getting started. 

This is the Cape winter. Wet and green. With flowers that betray a sense of spring.

After our most recent Harlem winter, when the toilet seat froze our bottoms, our teeth chattered in bed, and we ate dinner in wool socked feet, this weather, dipping into the 40's at night, seems balmy. My mom and Selina keep asking if I'm not cold. No! I say, looking at their sweatered layers with some surprise.

I made a pilgrimage on Vince's behalf to the Cape dwarf chameleons.

Under tall stone pines I found patches of Oxalis purpurea, identifed with the help of iSpot. This part of the Cape is considered an Oxalis hotspot and I had no idea how complicated they can be.

Near them grew beautiful and petite Romulea flava. This greenbelt is under siege by aggressive alien plants,  from Acanthus, bugweed and cannas, to smothering nasturtiums and morning glory. This sweet little indigenous colony of plants is, sadly, an exception to the exotic rule.

A cold front approaches today, sweeping up from the southern Atlantic. It will bring a lot of rain, snow on the mountain tops, and flooding to the ill drained Cape Flats, which are really a wetland under cover of massive urban sprawl, often of the most meager construction. This is a miserable time for poor people.

Up here, the land is raised and water flows away. Streams drop from the mountain and click frogs click all night. Fresh firewood is delivered and woodsmoke perfumes the daytime house.


  1. Maybe it is just me but I think that chameleon is adorable. Interesting - and also sad and scary - how all that ornamental garden flora - even nasturtium! - turns into dangerous invasives under the right conditions. I guess Oxalis pes-caprae carpets most areas with a Mediterranean climate in winter and spring, but other than that I do not know of a lot of South African species that have done the same elsewhere in the world.

    1. I love the chameleons. Horrible people love them too, and collect them to sell on the black market or to keep as pets. Ugh.

      Lots of Oxalis pes-caprea around right now.

      Yeah - the invasive dilemma. Our "sour fig" - Carpobrotus edulis, is invasive in California, and Agapanthus are treated as weeds in Australia (and Cali, too, I think). As you say, right conditions, no competition, and poof! They're off.

      Most people ooh and ah over the greenery along this trail, but the tree ferns they see as wonderfully lush are invaders from the Antipodes. I did see that stands of bamboo had been eradicated. I wonder how...?

    2. South African iceplant (Carpobrutus edulis) is another example of a vigorous transplant - it was introduced to the California coast in the early 1900's for erosion control.

      The species has become rampant and invasive in our mild Mediterranean climate and is the focus of large scale eradication.

  2. I love your posts from South Africa. They give me a glimpse of a place I may never see. Don't let the corgis take you hostage again:-)


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