Friday, January 23, 2015


We stayed for four nights at the De Mond Veld Cottage, half an hour's drive from Bredasdorp, on the Heuningnes Estuary. This gave us plenty of time for walking in the dunes nearby, where the southern Overberg fynbos is very different from the Cape peninsula iteration, which I know better. I was surprised to find succulents, for instance.

This is a creeping aloe, perhpas Aloe perfoliata. Even though it's indigenous to the Western Cape I am guessing it was planted outside the abandoned cottage next door to ours, before it was abandoned.

The clump was always filled with Cape sugar birds (below) and malachite sunbirds. Whenever we went to look at them we paid very close attention to our feet, as we'd been warned about snakes, which in these parts would be either puffadders or Cape cobras. Neither of which is to be trifled with (later we saw a puffadder - my first - at Cape Point, and it was gorgeous. I had no idea how bright its markings would be. I think the Frenchman got a good picture).

Every morning, round about our own breakfast time, a crew of small tortoises came to eat the flowers that opened every day in the lawn. While they ate a mole would kick up his mound behind them.

Their breakfast: Falkia repens, in the Convolvulus family.

Behind the cottage a path led into the fynbos and we followed this for a promised circular walk, me in flipflops, still watching my feet.

So much was fragrant. A lot of Agathosma (buchu). I tend to crush leaves as I go, sniffing and testing, and was very inspired by the good things I smelled.

Above, too prickly to crush, tortoise berries, Nylandtia spinosa.

The beautiful shrub above was abundant and I brought some twigs home. Their fragrance was citrussy and strong. It is Othiolobum bracteolatum, known in Afrikaans as skaapbostee (sheep bush tea). I'd like to know more about that. Regardless, it was part of supper, that night.

In the weathered rocks stunted plants grew.

This was the surprise. A plant I'd only ever seen as a potted ornamental: Aloe brevifolia [thank you Eban!]. Everywhere, in these impressive colonies.

Many of the colonies were just past prime bloom and the veld was dotted with their orange spikes.

A Haworthia, below, maybe Haworthia minima.

Below, Athanasia, I think, but I don't know the species.

A geophyte surprise on a slender stalk, and leafless. Fire lily, suggested the Southern Overberg South African Wildflower Guide, and probably Cyrtanthus ventricosus (not in that book). But no a mystery. We saw half a dozen, spread out.

Below: Nope, no idea. Help?

Better known wild rosemary, Eriocephalus africanus.

There were masses of these tufts of a little restioid grassy thing, like a loose, tall lawn. I am not sure what they are. No taller than 10" - 12"/30cm.

At first we followed the path which led us right the way to the Cape Nature reserve at De Mond, and then we circled, as intended, but later lost our path. So we bushwacked back. Watching our feet.

Not before we found something container-grown, though. Old flotsam. Or jetsam. Or neither:

"Flotsam is defined as debris in the water that was not deliberately thrown overboard, often as a result from a shipwreck or accident. Jetsam describes debris that was deliberately thrown overboard by a crew of a ship in distress, most often to lighten the ship's load." Source - NOAA

We were better prepared the next day. No fence-walking for us. We entered through the park, properly, showing our Wild Cards and signing in. That was the blue day.

Here on the flats the tide rises enough to wet these saline-tolerant plants.

The only vehicles allowed belong to rangers or researchers.

The beautiful, succulent grey and lilac plant is called soutbossie in Afrikaans - salt bush. Bassia diffusa.

Our old friend Limonium (scabrum, I think) last seen in the Knysna lagoon.

Below. No idea. Very interesting.

A vygie flowering out of season, possibly Lampranthus.

Salicornia, also last seen in a similar zone in Knysna. Super-salty - good to eat.

Below, a mix of dune spinach (Tetragonia decumbens) and soutbossie again.

Carpobrous edulis,the sour figs. At the gate of our cottage a huge patch grew and those ones I used for our dinner, too.

That dinner cooked slowly all afternoon while we visited Arniston.

Wild rosemaryskaapbostee and the seedy syrup of the sour figs, plus some local, early grapes, with the lamb shanks.

Later a fog bank moved in off the sea and over the dunes towards our cottage.

We sat outside on the stoep for supper, with the flickering candles and the cicadas, listening to the occasional buzz and pop of the power lines in the dark, watching the stars of the Milky Way disappear in the cloud we could not see.


  1. I have to go to South Africa someday!

  2. I wonder if the short thick grassy thing is a kind of horsetail plant—Equisetum?

    1. Just what I was going to suggest. Looks very similar to what we used to call field horsetails in New England.

  3. Las fotos 10, 11, y 12 son "Aloe brevifolia" la foto 13 es Haworthia, las diferencias por la inflorescencia!

  4. This is my idea of heaven! So many beautiful plants, riot of colors all around, it has always been my dream to get lost in a place for a while.

  5. Thank you so much for a completely unexpected fynbos end to my French day of renovating a very old village house. It has been like a trip home, walking the dunes and sandy paths, can almost smell the sharp tang of crushed leaves. Xxx


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