Sunday, September 24, 2023

Here's to the toughies! Watsonia aletrioides for one...

Watsonia aletrioides

"They should dig these all up" declared my friend of 40 some years (Rod Haenni) who is also president of the Cactus and Succulent Society. Growing out of the very asphalt of a busy road didn't seem a very good home for this beautiful monocot.

But they grew there, and quite a few of them. The countryside around (between McGregor and Hermanus) is in the very heart of the Cape Floristic Province. The hilly areas on quartzite were pretty pristine and fabulously rich in biodiversity. But the flats between these hills were "Renosterveld"--with deep rich loams derived from shales--most of which have been converted to agriculture a century or more ago. The tiny fragments that remain remind us these were as rich as the Fynbos that surrounds them.

We will never know what grew on the Renosterveld hereabouts. Except that these few toughies persist: a dozen or so species (this the toughest of the lot) were growing cheerfully and with determination.

See the yellow line? I think this Watsonia may cross it.

I personally think this will persist, even if they repave. Even if they mow them down (the mowing crew was a quarter mile away and heading towards them). I don't think they should be dug up and replanted, Rod: I think these might persist beyond Human Civilization at the rate we're going.

You may have to fiddle a bit, but it's worth seeing what is replacing our Watsonias--and perhaps thousands of other gems in the veldt...we will never know what's been lost here in South Africa, in the Tallgrass prairie of the American Midwest, in most of lowland China and all the other places where farms have replaced biologically complex and rich ecosystems. By the way, I've never seen better wheat stalks: absolutely heavy with seed.

 Here you can see a tiny fragment of Renosterveld near Ashton that harbors one of two last populations of the dwarf form of Aloe erinacea. The local expert who brought us here says, every year more of the Aloe disappear due to trampling by sheep. These tiny fragments are all far from secure. That's wheat in the middle, enormous tented acreage of citrus crops beyond and the rugged, thus far useless and therefore pristine Fynbos-clad mountains.

 I finisb with one last panorama of our toughie--one of the few bulbs that seems to have a will to survive. I for one am cheering it on enthusiastically!


  1. Great story, you are a great blogger

  2. Nice watsonia, grew it years ago at NYBG, was one of the easier ones.


Featured Post

A garden near lake Tekapo

The crevice garden of Michael Midgley Just a few years old, this crevice garden was designed and built by Michael Midgley, a delightful ...

Blog Archive