Monday, March 2, 2015

Platberg: bittersweet endings...

Crocosmia (Curtonus) paniculatus
 The largest of the genus (and the parent of many hybrids), a clump of this wonderful Irid greeted near the beginning of what turned out to be a longer and more dramatic day than I had expected (or hoped). Some days one wishes one could re-program--this being high on that list: we attempted to approach Platberg via the "shortest" road--I quickly realized we'd made a mistake. But we made the best of the mistake and saw quite a few wildflowers, although only a small number of participants made it to the summit plateau. I was not one of them...a disappointment to me personally.
Intrepid travelers!
 Here's the group gathered at the start. We thinned out rather quickly, alas (it was a toasty day, and the trek to Platberg from this spot was long and not that easy.
Galtonia candicans
 Not much of interest for a kilometer or two--but then I found Galtonia candicans in the wild for the very first time: red letter day! This is so showy, so widely and cheaply available in the trade, one almost forgets it's a wildflower.  And here it is IN the wild.

 The veld became more and more pristine, and the town below began to shrink from view--with wonderful "koppies" in the distance (those buttes and mesas that remind one of home)...

Zig Zag Pass
 This is one mis-named pass: it barely zigs or zags--it goes STRAIGHT UP! An example of South African humor at its worst.

Crassula nudicaulis
 The crassulas of the Drakensberg are legion--this is one of my favorites.

Oxalis obliqifolia 'alba'
 A pure white Oxalis! Still growing on that slope...
Selago flanaganii
 From a little higher up, Harrismith reminds me of Boulder where I grew up, from Flatirons Mountain. In fact--it's probably not that different in size from Boulder when I first moved to my hometown...this view made me doubly homesick. Oh yes, the wonderful lavender Selago in the grass is high on my wishlist of South Africans I'd like to grow.

A closer look: this has been put in its own family--which is a homonym of a family of Pteridophytes--I must see what the cladists and gene jockies have done with its current status.
Agapanthus campanulatus v. patens
 As beautiful as it may seem, that vast forest of Pinus patula is mostly invasive: such a beautiful Mexican pine is obliterating biodiversity as it goes. The Agapanthus in the foreground is an example of the meadow flower that will not tolerate shade.

Dierama robustum
 I have yet to master my camera--so all my pictures of Dierama are out of focus, but Karel DuToit, who was a fellow tour leader, managed the picture below (albeit likely taken in Lesotho) of the same species. We have yet to master these, but they must have totally adaptable strains...
Dierama robustum (photo by Karel DeToit)

Delosperma ashtonii
 On a previous visit I remember seeing this ice plant in bloom: the seedpods weren't quite ripe--but very attractive in their own right.

Leonotis intermedia
 Always a treat to find Lion's ears....

Hirpicium armerioides (lax leaf form)
 We did see just a few of the giant form of Hirpicium here: this is almost unrecognizable compared to the alpine form from Tiffindell...look back four or five blog postings and you'll see what I mean!

Berkheya speciosa
 We saw this and a closely related giant, willowy Berkheya all the way to Kruger the next few days...I suspect this could become a week...         
Kniphofia triangularis
 I posted about this six or seven blogs ago--but had to show it again. Possibly my favorite poker. In a wonderful color form.
Pelargonium luridum
 This enormous Pelargonium was everywhere--in shades including dark pink. It has a big taproot--and Ernie Demarie has had it overwinter in New York.
Corycnium nigrum
 I have a much better picture of this black orchid I took on Sani Pass ten years ago--but what a treat to find it again!

Gnidia sp.
 I know this looks pitiful--but if you look up Gnidia you will see how magnificent these Daphne cousins can be. I am a firm believer in the "Ark" theory--that many North Temperate families dispersed from India when she collided into Asia--can't you just see an ancestral Gnidia morphing into Stellera? It's not a big leap from Moraea to Iris, nor from Erica to Phyllodoce...if you catch my (continental) drift...

Berkheya maritima
 This was a particularly nasty Berkheya. I'd love to grow it anyway...Love child of a thistle and a sunflower!

Hermannia sp.
 Haven't determined the species on this little wild Chocolate. How annoying that they've lumped these all into Malvaceae!
Scilla nervosa
 This is a plant we should be growing in the Northern Hemisphere!

Gladiolus papilio
 What a treat it was to stumble on a few plants of this widespread species, in a subtle color form. There must be some very hardy forms of this in cultivation!
Striga bilabiata
 It may be parasitic, but this striking flower is always a treat to find.

Acacia mearnsii
 Black wattle is one of the most widespread and weedy plants throughout South Africa. Even though this had been burned, it's coming back even stronger for it! Invasives like this are the bane of the landscape--although the bark is prized for tanning.

Rain clouds closed in, the group had splintered into various factions and I was (frankly) deeply disappointed that things had transpired this day the way they did. But the early group had been befriended by the most delightful Afrikaans family, who entertained them and made everyone welcome. One by one, the clusters of the group came back utterly exhausted, and in the final analysis, I was relieved things hadn't turned out worse. How different might the day have gone had I gone out the evening before to scout the "right" route: we would have been together, but may have missed some of the gems we did perhaps All's Well That Ends Well!

And so we end the circuit of the Drakensberg.                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                 and I can't wait to get back!


  1. I have enjoyed your South Africa trip. It is nice to know the world is green in South Africa as we are getting an ice storm here.

  2. Thanks, James! We've had the snowiest February in our history--and a storm predicted here today again: South Africa was a sweet and welcome interlude indeed!


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