Sunday, September 25, 2022

Where to begin? Namaqualand dream trip...

It's not even Namaqualand yet: this is the Bokkeveld on the way there--a tad south and west of Calvinia: but there were flowers everywhere--and let's not even talk about bulbs. The fellow in the front (Steve Brack) invited me--one the world's premier succulent experts. I am so lucky to have had over 40 years friendship with him: he reckons this was his 23rd trip! More on the purple-pink succulent later.

And the daisies! These are mostly Dimorphotheca pinnata--a dazzling white, but they came in every shade of yellow and even red: Gorterias, Gazanias, Arctotis galore, Grieliums--you name it!

And of course succulents: this is Crassula alpestris. NOT an alpine plant by any stretch...

There were endless stretches of this (Drosanthemum hispidum) and similarly hued Leipoldtia and Ruschia in many species. Some growing on the highest coldest parts of the Roggeveld where they'd be Denver hardy for sure: wooo HOOO!

Drosanthemum hispidum

The commander!

Karel Du Toit--head of Pillansii tours orchestrated and led this tour (with Steve): you could not be in better hands--he's a chief police officer for all Namaqualand to boot!

Unknown Ursinia and Cleretum pattersonjonesii

And there were Conophytums galore! This one is C. obcordellum--especially fetching. These have been dug up by the million by unscrupulous Chinese collectors for the East Asian and European markets. Karel has arrested dozens of the locals working for the Chinese--they go right back to pillaging as soon as they're out of jail apparently. We saw the stolen plants that had been captured--many were dead by being stuck in bags for so long. The others are held for evidence--but of no use to the South African botanic gardens for lack of data: a complete waste!

Loved seeing dozens (nay, hundreds) studding the shallow pans where they like to grow...

 Did I mention daisies? These are but a smattering, a small sampling from a single site on one of the days out over over 2 weeks of pure plant bliss!

4000 photographs (almost all labeled) and dozens of videos--there's no way to mete them out except in dribs and drabs!

Friday, September 9, 2022

South Africa part one

Erica viscaria

We launched from Cape Town on August 24--crossing over DuToitskloof pass and fantastic stands of proteas I've already posted on Social Media. I did NOT post this exquisite heather--one of the hundreds of endemic species of this genus which is largely centered in the Cape Floristic province around Cape Town. The floral diversity of this tiny Kingdom (equivalent floristically to most of the northern hemisphere which is the Holarctic floristic province).

On the north side of the pass we found our first of many Romulea, and one I have not keyed out yet. Harbinger of dozens--or hundreds I should say--species of bulbs on this trip.

One of our first Haworthia finds was the miss-named H. pumila (largest of the genus--and even segregated to a new genus by some). It is embedded in a mat of Antimima--or perhaps Ruschia--an amazing series of species of which greeted us at almost every stop.

Lithops comptonii

Hitherto I had only seen L. lesliei in the wild. We were to add a number of species on this trip! In the vicinity of Worcester.

Jan and me--making a rare appearance in Prairiebreak!

Most of the area around Matjiestfontein is Karoo (semi-arid scrubland). Here and there quartzite outcrops and fynbos reappears--with majestic proteas such as this (undetermined) species.

Tylecodons are the giant bonsai of the Karoo and Namaqualand: here T. paniculata is revealing its gnarly trunk....

A cryptic message from the past or is it a forgery?

Euphorbia multiceps

I saw this 25 years ago high atop the Roggeveld: it was abundant at one stop near Matjiesfontein--and we saw it again and again subsequently!

Gazania krebsiana

 What a treat it was to see this everywhere along the trip--ever so variable. But these forms were very similar to 'Tanager' promoted by Plant Select (which we obtained from Kees Sahin--via yours truly)...I must get seed again--at one point I had hundreds on my xeriscape...

These are a very few glimpses from the first few days of what has been one of the best trips I've ever taken, thanks to the fantastic partnership of Steve Brack and Karel Du Toit. The other participants will be acknowledged as well in time...I suspect I took a couple thousand pictures, but wanted to share these few to get the ball rolling. South Africa is simply sublime!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Patagonia day three: the steppe!

Viola maculata

Not all the violets in Patagonia are succulent: we encountered herbaceous species several times (always yellow)

Astragalus cruckshanksii 

We found several genera which also occur in North America--we have species quite like this in the West. We also found a Scutellaria which surprised me--a truly cosmopolitan genus. My picture was horrible so I won't share it.

Austrocactus bertinii

Our first Austrocactus: there were many more!

Austrocactus bertinii
The armature was formidable!

Azorella monantha
The first of many of this genus (and the most condensed!)

Azorella prolifera
And here was another species nearby in full bloom.

Calceolaria polyrhiza

The only flower open--growing with cheatgrass on dry steppe!

Calceolaria polyrhiza

Corynabutilon bicolor 

A rather showy (if muted in color) shrub

Corynabutilon bicolor 
Growing to a respectable size! Trip leader Rod Haenni with trip botanist Marcela Ferreyra on the left.

Ephedra chilensis

A perfect bonsaied ephedra. Wish mine would do this rather than taking over the world.

Geum magellanicum

I was more than a little surprised to see geum out on dry steppe--here growing with Acaena splendens.

Geum magellanicum

Our native geums generally grow in moister habitats--G. coccineum in Turkey grew in wet meadows!

Junellia cf. succulentifolia

There were Junellias everywhere, two or more species often growing together. These are doing extremely well in cultivation at Chatfield and York street DBG.

Junellia sp.

Junellia sp.

Junellia sp.

Junellia sp.

Maihuenia patagonica cream colored flowers

Our first, but NOT our last sighting of this fabulous plant!

Maihuenia patagonica pink colored flowers!

We never saw another pink one alas! How I would love to grow this!

Chocolina and Steve Brack

Chocolina developed quite a fondness for Steve. We all did--I'm following him to South Africa right now (hope to have breakfast with him tomorrow as a matter of fact!)

Gamocarpha macrocephala

Our favorite family of almost extraterrestrial beauty. No, not related to broccoli!
Gamocarpha macrocephala

Even the first year rosettes are lovely.

The landscape could be in the foothills of the US West...or the Karoo or one of the "Stans"

Honestly, I could find almost the same vista not far from Denver--only junipers rather than Austrocedrus chilensis.

Caracara and roadkill
The same year I took this a friend sited one in Colorado and posted a picture on Facebook!

Oenothera odorata

Several evening primroses look like this in the USA--not sure they are fragrant though. Actually forgot to sniff this to see if the epithet was accurate.

Oenothera odorata
That's Bariloche in the distance, and the Andes!

Naussavia glomerulosa
Forgot to sniff this one too: the genus often has a chocolate scent.

Alas, I know so little about lichens--would love to know if any of these are in the Northern hemisphere...the orange one is usually found where birds perch...and poop!

Our rural cities often have strange art as well--often with religious overtones. This inset that gradually cheers up after chatting with God was rather fetching I thought...better than Trump flags, that's for sure!

And wall art recalling the Mapuche indigenous tribes that are still alive and well: I'd read that the Patagonian people had been all killed off--not true. This village was largely indigenous people,

Pozoa coriacea

I can't help but wonder if this genus of characteristically Patagonian plants isn't related to the Boreal genus seems to have a strong family resemblance.
Viola escondidiensis
Our first steppe "rosulate" is one of the strangest of the genus. We found the more typically rosulate V. columnaris here as well, but my picture didn't turn out!

Viola escondidiensis
A preposterous plant--but I like it!

As a "rock gardener" I have a strong interest in all uses of rock: this Patagonian wall struck my fancy.

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