Monday, February 2, 2015

Wunderberg! Drakensberg Gardens indeed.

Drakensberg Garden resort and spa
 Another day to put in a snow globe...I've grown up by the Rockies, and spent some of almost every year in my life in California and many parts of Eastern America. I've been lucky enough to travel through much of Europe and Asia--and even the Andes. I don't believe there is a destination on Earth which combines the elegance of the great Kwa-Zulu Natal resorts (there are dozens) with more fabulous plants and spectacular scenery. I didn't examine the costs under a microscope, but I doubt there is a better value for the buck (or Rand or Euro) than these often incredibly luxurious resorts situated in the best approximation of Paradise I can imagine [if you're a plant nerd especially--of course]. You can always golf or play tennis or do the Spa. Some of my companions visible at far left as we began our trek through a forest sparkling with thousands of dahlias (I kid you not). No pix of those--exotix!

Intrepid photographer (Scott Dressel-Martin) giving me the heebie jeebies
There are no end of waterfalls in the Drakensberg--one more picturesque and alluring than the next. Maybe TOO alluring....

Cyathea dregei
First tree fern of the trip--saw many more--some quite tall. But I love the way this one is tucked beneath the cliff with a sea of smaller ferns around it.
Cyathea dregei

From a bit further away, with some of our party (Linda and Kristin) above..

Orchids galore...
We must have seen a dozen or more species of orchid, all growing like this--among mats of Helichrysum between the grass clumps. With the crags in the distance and clouds: the essence of the Drakensberg...aaah.
Erica caffrorum
One of the innumerable heathers that grow everywhere hereabouts--in every shape, form and color imaginable. This one can become quite a large shrub. I don't know any Drakensberg heathers in cultivation in America--although I suspect these could be more sun tolerant and adaptable than the Eurasian species.
Erica caffrorum
Same plant with a broader view.

Hoodoo above the Garden
Lots of interesting geology--the juxtaposition with the golf course below is SO Drakensberg. What a place!
Xyris capensis
A wonderful little grassy monocot that's common in "vleis" (South African for moist swales--a useful term.

Xyris capensis
Haven't quite yet mastered the closeup: sorry! Closer view...

Rubus cuneifolius?
There are two native raspberries, but I think this may be the introduced one. Surprising how few weeds or exotics we found--once you got away from the woodland filled with Dahlias that is!

Protea dracomontana (yellow)
You can hardly blame me...but I will inflict quite a few pictures of the wonderful dwarf protea of the Drakensberg (and neighboring highveld)--the likeliest of the family to eventually prove hardy in parts of America beyond the mild coasts...I was astonished by the range of colors. As it turned out, some of our party found a field with dozens of spectacular clumps. My half dozen or so were apparently puny by comparison--but I was pleased. I hope you will be too: no commentary for a while...

Protea dracomontana

Protea dracomontana

Protea dracomontana
Beautiful even in bud!

Protea dracomontana

Protea dracomontana

Protea dracomontana

Protea dracomontana

Crassula dependens
I've grown this for years under the wrong name: if you have it from me, this is the real name. Probably closely allied to C. sarcocaulis var. rupicola (which becomes woody): flowers and foliage almost the same.
Rabdosiella calycina
This wonderful mint is closely allied to Plectranthus: had to show it against the dead Protea...

Watsonia pillansii
Just caught the tail end of bloom on this very dense, colony forming Watsonia. it must be spectacular in November!
Harveya speciosa
I suspect these are now in Orobanchaceae--used to be Scrophs. The flowers are enormous--and they make a spectacle all over the Drakensberg in many colors.
Selago cf. galpinii
I know this better from the East Cape where it's darker in color and much showier--but fun to see here!
Schizochilus flexuosus
Horrible picture--here for colleagues on the trip to I.D. their much better pix I suspect!

Lobelia sp.
So many lobelias--many quite similar to our garden L. erinus which comes from further West. Would love to try these in the garden. I suspect many are perennial here.
Berkheya sp.
It should not be difficult to find the name of this--but there are too many Berkheyas in my books to be sure. There were permutations on this one everywhere we looked at mid elevations.

Eulophia leontoglossa
Somehow managed to get this one in focus: one of the larger flowered meadow sorts we found. Orchids always elicit a shout on field trips like this! "Here's another one!"...

Pelargonium sp.
I put this one in for Mr. Geranios: not sure which species.

Habenaria sp.
Very similar to many of our homely, green bog orchids--only this one was in a dry meadow!

Ledebouria ovatifolia
We must have seen a dozen species of Scilla/Ledebouria/Drimia etc. etc.--one more interesting than the next.

Ledebouria ovatifolia
They often grew incredibly thickly, and often had bulbs exposed (and destroyed) by baboons who love to eat them.

Cyperus obtusiflorus
Surely the queen of sedges: this was surprisingly variable in color and form on this trip...

Pentanisia cf. angustifolia
A wonderful genus. I don't believe it's in cultivation in the USA as far as I know. Rather like blue-flowered which they're related.

Jamesbrittenia (Sutera) breviflora
I have seen this one and its hybrids being grown...

Hypoxis sp. dwf.
Remarkably similar to our native American hypoxis--this genus has its epicenter in the Drakensberg--amazingly common and polymorphic.

Helichrysum herbaceum
One of the most common and widespread mid-elevation strawflowers--this made enormous patches by rhizomatous spread.
Helichrysum lineatum
Even the non-strawflower crowd made an exception for this sexy thing--although I doubt it is a long lived perennial.

Helichrysum ecklonis
There were huge mats of this--mostly without bloom. Maybe it needs fire? I've seen this growing exuberantly at Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. It is likely to be the foremost species for gardens if and when it's tamed. It can come in dark pink (see below!)...
Helichrysum ecklonis
If you don't find this fetching you have my sympathies!

Before the hike!
The intrepid group: the map showed such a quaint little loop around the property. It turned into something of an ordeal--but we made it! Although I did get a lot of well-deserved ribbing about my "gentle hikes around the bus". Technically, we did circumambulate the bus....just saying.

The bridge at the end of the hike

I'm sitting at a charming cafe--looking back at the terminus of our hike. Several of us downed two largish bottles each of chilled "still" water. I can taste it still.


  1. Nice shots of that protea, didn't know it came in different color forms but not surprising, so many SA plants show such variation within a species. The pellie is P. alchemilloides in one of its many forms. I know what you mean about hypoxis, its endlessly confusing from small to big in S Africa, especially in the higher altitude areas. Always was puzzled how a genus with seeds obviously poorly adapted for long distance transit got from Africa to North America, especially since they split back in the Triassic. My own pet theory is that the origin of flowering plants goes back further then the Cretaceous, too many strange cognates between continents that split a long time before that. Oh, and if you look up the African Crotons and compare to Croton alabamensis (have one of each in my living room by or under the lights as I write this) the resemblance is scary for what must have been over a 100 million years of separation. I will blog about this one day too. Keep those photos coming Ernie

  2. The Protea reminds me distantly of Magnolias. The Helichrysum reminds me of Anaphalis margaritacea.

    Could asteroid impacts have helped spread the seed of some species around the globe?



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