Friday, March 27, 2015

South Africa 5. Into the Karoo

Rainfall is sparse in the Karoo, but that means
fewer large shrubs and more space for spring
At the end of our tour of the southern coast of South Africa, we turned inland, into the area known as the Karoo.  There is the lesser Karoo first, then further north the Great Karroo. The climate becomes increasingly arid as we move north.  Nevertheless this region is richly endowed with wildflowers that pop up within weeks of the winter rain.

Tourists can get close and personal with ostriches in
Ostrich chicks recently hatched in the
This a region of wide open spaces is the beginning of the range of many iconic African animals, and our excursion made a stop at an Ostrich farm near Oudtshoorn.  Elsewhere we saw baboons foraging along the road.

The habitats here are diverse.  There are mountains and plains, and wet spots in seeps and streambeds, so room for a great variety of plants.
A species of the genus Babiana, probably either B. hypogea
or B. sambucina,  near Cango Caves.

Aptosimum procumbens is a creeping
 plant of the snapdragon family,
with spectacular blue-purple blossoms.
Aptosimum indivisum has a more compact growth form.

A species of Felicia in the sunflower family. The flowers of
many species in this genus are blue to violet, adding a
distinctive splash of color to the spring landscape.

In moist meadows, particularly in coastal
areas one can find many wild gladioli.
This appears to be Gladiolus liliaceus.

Aspalathus is a genus in the legume family, and the source
of rooibos tea.

A shrubby, succulent species of the huge African genus Euphorbia.  this appears 
to be E. burmannia or possibly E. mauritanica 
One of many species of Erica occurs in the foothills along
the south side of the Little Karoo.

Moraea polystachya, a member of the
Iris family, pokes up among shrubs.

Rhizogum obovatum is a spectacular flowering shrub 
in the Karoo.

Melianthus comosus grows along streams.

Oxalis obtusa pokes up from under a shrub.
Known as a weed in the U.S., and occasionally
mistaken for clover or the Irish shamrock, this
genus has many beautiful species native to
South Africa.

A bewildering array of yellow-flowered members
of the Asteraceae fill the open spaces of South
Africa in the spring.  This appears to be Gazania krebsiana.

A group of tiny red sundews have sprouted up in a moist spot.

A great variety of species belonging to the
succulent family Mesembryanthaceae add to the brilliance of
the spring flora.
Erica cubica has interesting, bicolored
Aloe variegata is a compact triangular plant with
variegated leaves.
The dry karoo becomes a lush garden in the spring, with color here provided by
several species of Erica, and an accent in the back by a large sedge.