Thursday, June 18, 2015

South Africa 7. Up the west coast

The lush landscape north of Cape Town features farms isolated 
amidst hills covered with native fynbos (equivalent of our
chaparral).
As one ventures up the west coast of South Africa from Cape Town, the hamlets and farms become sparser, and the landscape becomes wilder and drier.  At the beginning, we are in the lush fynbos similar to what we've seen elsewhere.  Spring wildflowers are everywhere, as are the wildflower shows and exhibits.  South Africans do love their native flora, and one sees more natives than exotics in their landscapes and gardens.

Visitors examine a display of local wildflowers at the 1998
Darling Wildflower show.

On my excursion with 1998 Botanical Garden Congress, our first stop was the spring wildflower show, held each September in the small town of Darling north of Cape Town.  The show serves as an excellent introduction to the local native wild flowers. In the exhibit hall specimens were lined on tables and labeled - everything from ground orchids to the weird saprophytes in the genus Hyobanche.

Labeled wild flowers create a living field guide.
Satyrium erectum is one of many native ground
orchids.

Thoroughly labeled and interpreted displays make the Darling Wild Flower
Show a truly educational experience.


Wildflowers are not the only attraction in South Africa.  North of Cape Town
we encountered this massive colony of gannets, along with penguins and other
marine birds. 
Further up the road we came to the Clanwilliam Wildflower Garden - another fabulous stop and opportunity to learn about local wildflowers. Especially exciting was our first glimpse here of the giant Aloe dichotoma.

At Clanwilliam, a carpet of wildflowers tumbles down a hill, watched over by
giant tree-like Aloe dichotoma.  Aloes are monocots, and incapable of making layers
of wood like other trees, but they have evolved another way of increasing their
thickness and strength, by adding new fibrous vascular bundles and parenchyma
tissue around the periphery of their stems.
North of Clanwilliam, we entered the region known as Namaqualand.  We continued to see new wildflowers in this increasingly dry region, but also had the chance to visit some caves containing 10,00 year-old paintings by the native San people.

Please enjoy the pictures, which will explain themselves.
Babiana angustifolia (Iridaceae) provides splashes
of violet close to the ground.

Bright red blossoms of Cotyledon orbiculata 
(Crassulaceae) form living, nectar-filled  bird-feeders 
at Clanwilliam.

A multi-colored Sparaxis, either S. variegata or
S. villosa (Iridaceae), at Clanwilliam.

An attractive member of the genus Polygala
(Polygalaceae).

A yellow-flowered species of the genus Lampranthus (Aizoaceae), might
be mistaken at first glance for a member of the sunflower family,
but these are true, single flowers.

Cyanella hyacinthoides (Tecophilaeaceae)

Lapeirousia anceps (Iridaceae) appears to mimic some species
of Pelargonium.

A red-flowered Lampranthus (Aizoaceae) joins forces with a piece of driftwood
to form a natural work of art.


The dainty blossoms of Nemesia ligulata (Scrophulariaceae) dance above red
Lampranthus blossoms.

Diascia longicornis (Scrophulariaceae) has
long spurs that are filled, not with
nectar, but with a nutritious oil collected
by pollinating bees.

An orange-flowered Cotyledon orbiculata
(Crassulaceae).
Monopsis simplex (Campanulaceae) straggles along the ground.


A Namaqualand landscape of drought-tolerant 
shrubs line the path  to an ancient art gallery (entrance
 in rocks ahead).

An anonymous San artist depicted ancient archers on the hunt.  The image appears to overlay an earlier work.






Another painting depicts a herd of giraffes.

Anisodontea triloba, a member of the Hibiscus Family (Malvaceae)

Herrea elongata is a member of the succulent family,
Aizaoaceae.

Hyobanche sanquinea (Orobanchaceae) does not photosynthesize.
Instead, it draws its nutrition through a symbiotic fungus that
parasitizes tree roots.

Romulea flava (Iridaceae) is a geophyte, emerging
from a corm in the spring. It will disappear again
 after producing seeds.

Anchusa capensis (Boraginaceae) adds a swatch of
bright blue to the Namaqualand landscape.


A species of Lachenalia (Asparagaceae). 

Salvia africana-coerulea (Lamiaceae) is related to mints,
sage, and catnip.

Asparagus lignosus (Asparagaceae).

Babiana curviscapa (Iridaceae) near Leliefontein.
A colony of Arctotis fastuosa (Asteraceae) drapes the edge of a ravine.


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