Friday, January 27, 2012

Bontebok National Park

Damaliscus dorcas (Bontebok) Bontebok National Park July 2009

Alcelaphus buselaphus (Hartebeest) & Acacia karoo (Thorn Tree) Bontebok National Park July 2009 

 Langeberg Mountains,  Bontebok National Park July 2009 

 Recently burned fynbos in Bontebok National Park July 2009

 Fynbos in Bontebok National Park July 2009

In July of 2009 I spent 24 days in the Western Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa (RSA).  As you probably know, July is a winter month in the Southern Hemisphere, corresponding to January in the Northern Hemisphere.  But it is January as you might experience it in southern California.  The Western Cape Province has a Mediterranean climate.  It is dry in summer & rains in winter.  After 6 mostly rainy days in Cape Town, then 6 mostly sunny days in the beach town of Hermanus, I spent 6 days of variable weather in the small town of Bredasdorp on the Agulhas Plain. I stopped at Bontebok National Park on my way from Bredasdorp to Swellendam.

From the website: A part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, now heralded as a world heritage site, Bontebok National Park always offers something in bloom. The Park is proud to promote its achievements in biodiversity conservation, from the endangered fynbos veld type, coastal Renosterveld to the namesake bontebok! Once these colorful antelope numbered a mere 17, and through effective management we are proud to affirm that the present world population amounts to around 3000. The Park offers much more for nature lovers, from a diversity of indigenous animal life to over 200 remarkable bird species. The Breede River provides an idyllic western border to the park and offers guests scenery, bird watching, fishing, and a refreshing swimming spot. Visitors can also get a profound familiarity of the Park’s endless sights and sounds while on one of the various hiking trails or on a winding bike trip.

From my journal, 7-27-09: At Bontebok National Park I walked through a forest of thorn trees (Acacia karoo) 15 feet tall & Aloe ferox 10 feet tall.  The effect was very strange, African & (with all of the sharp thorns) somewhat menacing.  There was Podocarpus elongatus closer to the Breede River.   As I was walking, I heard a loud snort.  I took out my camera & walked cautiously around a bush to see a hartebeest charging away through the underbrush.  I got a picture only from a distance.  The forest floor was mostly Oxalis & Asparagus.  There was Carpobrotus edulis where it was more open.  I saw 2 groups of bontebok, another hartebeest & a steenbok from the car.  There was fynbos with Protea compacta, Leucadendron salignum & a tall Erica with pink flowers.  But mostly it was short Luecadnedrons, short restios, grass & a few short, undistinguished gray shrubs.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

De Hoop Nature Reserve

De Hoop Nature Reserve July 2009.  De Hoop Vlei (wetland) then the Indian Ocean in the distance.

Protea compacta De Hoop Nature Reserve July 2009 

Protea compacta De Hoop Nature Reserve July 2009 

 Papio ursinus (Chacma Baboon) De Hoop Nature Reserve July 2009 

Potberg Mountains De Hoop Nature Reserve July 2009 

Protea neriifolia De Hoop Nature Reserve July 2009

Click here to see more photos from De Hoop Nature Reserve.

In July of 2009 I spent 24 days in the Western Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa (RSA).  As you probably know, July is a winter month in the Southern Hemisphere, corresponding to January in the Northern Hemisphere.  But it is January as you might experience it in southern California.  The Western Cape Province has a Mediterranean climate.  It is dry in summer & rains in winter.  After 6 mostly rainy days in Cape Town, then 6 mostly sunny days in the beach town of Hermanus, I spent 6 days of variable weather in the small town of Bredasdorp on the Agulhas Plain.  I stayed at the Voorhuis, a private home & guest house built in 1841.  On the 3rd day I visited the De Hoop Nature Reserve.  

From the website: Only three hours from Cape Town lies a special nature reserve situated in the Overberg region, near the southern tip of Africa. De Hoop Nature Reserve is approximately 34 000 ha in size.  It is a favourite destination for hikers, cyclists, bird watchers and during the winter and early summer months, whale watchers.  The adjacent De Hoop Marine Protected Area, which extends three nautical miles (5 km) out to sea, is one of the largest marine protected areas in Africa.  De Hoop Nature Reserve forms part of the world's smallest and most threatened plant kingdom, the Cape Floral Kingdom. Fynbos is the dominant vegetation group and is largely confined to nutrient-poor soils in the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape.  De Hoop is important for the conservation of lowland fynbos for it has the largest conserved area for this rare vegetation type.  The reserve has 86 mammal species. Most notable are the rare bontebok and Cape mountain zebra, as well as eland, grey rhebuck, baboon, yellow mongoose, caracal and the occasional leopard.

From my journal 7-24-09:  It was actually cold that morning.  I could see my breath.  It warmed up quickly as the clouds disappeared.  I drove to De Hoop on endless dirt roads.  There was beautiful fynbos near the gate house, but no trails.  I parked beside the road & walked along the edge.  I saw eland, baboons & bontebok in grassy areas closer to the ocean.  I saw southern right whales from the dunes.  Even with binoculars, I could only see their tails, spouts & a bit of their heads.  It was low tide. Tide pools were filled with anemones & urchins.  I drove to the Potberg Mountains at the other end of the reserve.  I hiked through fynbos along the mountain trail to a cave with alleged paintings by Bushmen. There was no way I could climb the steep rocks into the cave to verify that.  On the drive back through rolling pastures, I saw many sheep.  I was stopped by men with red flags driving sheep up the road toward me.  Cape vultures perched around the edge of a water tank & beautiful blue cranes stood in a field near the road.

Friday, January 13, 2012

December Garden Pictures

Euphorbia nicaeensis December 2011

Hebe x pimeloides December 2011

Hypericum 'Hidcote' December 2011 This thing blooms forever!

Sorbus forrestii December 2011

Tanacetum parthenium December 2011

Click here for more December Garden Pictures.

December 2011 was cooler & much drier than usual. The mean temperature was 39.2F/4C, 1.4 degrees lower than normal. The highest temperature was 53F/11.6C, the lowest 26F/-3.3C.  2.24 inches of rain accumulated, 3.1 less than normal. There were 18 cloudy days, 13 partly cloudy days, 0 fair days, 18 days with rain, 24 days with fog & 3 days with haze.  The 13 partly cloudy days were unusually sunny for December.  Fog was mostly gone by noon.  On December 10 there was a lunar eclipse starting around 5:00 AM. It was a beautiful month.




Lunar eclipse December 10, 2011 at approximately 5:00 to 6:00 AM

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wickets, Wickerwork, Whatever

 This wicker fence has been expanded to strengthen older (& rotting) uprights & extend the span to support more of the Crocosmia 'Emberglow' that grows behind it.  The 2 stakes on the right are new.  December 2011

This is the old section of fence from 2009. December 2011

This is new wickerwork that includes Paeonia suffruticosa stems among the uprights. December 2011

A more elaborate wicket for the largest Paeonia suffruticosa. December 2011

This wicker fence was woven in 2008.  The upright on the right (Weigela) rooted in place, helping to keep the fence standing.  I cut off new growth.  December 2011

Visitors to my garden have called these charming & clever.  But they've never given them a name.  I call them wickets, which sounds a lot like cricket.  I think it refers to weaving sticks together, in this case to support perennials & the notoriously floppy Paeonia suffruticosa (Tree Peony)  The dictionary says wicker means 'made of twigs.' These wicker fences are best at supporting perennials that flop in one direction.  I use them for Crocosmia.  I also use them for Helleborus x sternii, which backs up against shrubbery, or it would flop in every direction.  I use them with less success for Tree Peony.  The blooms are so heavy that they often need to be staked individually, preferably before the buds open & it rains.  This year I started weaving the peony canes in with sturdy upright poles (warp) & thinner cross-pieces (weft) cut from Corylus avellana 'Contorta' (Contorted Hazel) Viburnum & Weigela.  I think it will hold most of them up this coming spring.  I've been making these for 4 years.  Weaving is fun.  It's a reward for cutting hazel risers, which is tedious work.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Geelkop Private Nature Reserve

Leucadendron modestum Geelkop Private Nature Reserve July 2009

Leucadendron salignum Geelkop Private Nature Reserve July 2009

Leucospermum heterophyllum Geelkop Private Nature Reserve July 2009

Protea pudens Geelkop Private Nature Reserve July 2009

Protea pudens Geelkop Private Nature Reserve July 2009

Half  a sign at Geelkop Private Nature Reserve July 2009

An unidentified succulent at Geelkop Private Nature Reserve July 2009

Click here for more photos from the Geelkop Private Nature Reserve.

In July of 2009 I spent 24 days in the Western Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa (RSA).  As you probably know, July is a winter month in the Southern Hemisphere, corresponding to January in the Northern Hemisphere.  But it is January as you might experience it in southern California.  The Western Cape Province has a Mediterranean climate.  It is dry in summer & rains in winter.  After 6 days in Cape Town, then 6 days in the beach town of Hermanus.  I drove to Bredasdorp on the Fynbos Road.  Along the way I stopped in Elim to visit the Geelkop Private Nature Reserve.

There is very little information about reserve on the web.  I have assembled what I found:  Geelkop (private nature reserve) is about 450 hectares (1100 acres) in size. It derives its name from the mass of yellow flowering plants, particularly Leucadendrons, which cover the hills during spring.  Geelkop means Yellow Hill in Afrikaans.  Geelkop is owned and managed by the Elim community. Though small, it is one of the botanical hotspots in the world. The Geelkop is the only home of several very rare dwarf-species of the protea and other families. Geelkop is located on the Fynbos Road, next to Elim. There are no signs indicating the Nature Area, but the tourism bureau can give you directions. The tourism bureau can also recommend guides to show you around. Since you are looking for dwarf species you might want to take an expert.

From my journal, 7-21-09:  I drove south to Pearly Beach, where I took a dirt road to Elim.  It was a very good dirt road.  I was able to do 80 kph.  I stopped at the tourist information centre, which was a small office with a desk just inside a side door of the old community hall.  If some tourist women hadn't directed me there, I would never have found it.  The village of Elim was row after row of about 200 white-washed stone cottages with thatched roofs.  Everything belonged to the Moravian Church of South Africa, including Geelkop Private Nature Reserve.

I told the old woman at the desk that I wanted to see the reserve.  She said, 'Oh no, not now.  The rains have washed away the trails.'  She looked at my shoes.  'You would need to have boots.'  I said I had boots.  'Oh well then.' She sighed. 'You take the road to Napier, cross the river & turn right up the hill.'  She pointed to a hillside in the near distance.  'That's Geelkop.  I don't know if the sign is still up at the gate.'  I found a likely-looking gate: a space between 2 fence posts where the barbed wire didn't cross.  There were 2 wheel-ruts & a board face-down on the ground.  I turned it over to find half a sign.

NATURRES
GEELK
NATURE R

I drove down the very bumpy road until it forked.  I stopped the car.  I found a small sign on the ground, still attached to a post: car park.  There was no evidence that cars had parked there.  I moved the car slightly off the road, smashing a number of plants.  I found the other half of the entrance sign.

ERVAAT
OP  
ESERVE

The site was very dry & quite different from others I had seen.  I saw 2 types of Protea that sprawled across the ground.  1 had red flowers resting on the ground.  The other had white flowers facing downward from a height of 6 inches.  Both types had flowers that were quite large (6 inches across) & filled with fuzzy black-tipped feathers.  They were the most amazing flowers I saw in South Africa.  I later identified them as Protea pudens.

The sun was mostly behind dark clouds.  But it was still very bright & not very hot.  Elim was beautiful in the distance with the sun shining on it.  I never found a trail, but walked across a landscape of short restios & grasses, skirting the few large Protea shrubs.  I drove the car a bit farther down the road. until I came to a place with tiny Leucadendron shrubs less than 18 inches tall & flowers less than an inch across. I later indentified them as Leucadendron modestum.  I thought they were fascinating.  Although I wasn't there long, it was a very rewarding experience.