Calpurnia sericea

CalperniaGreetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to the latest “Plant of Interest” article for 2016!! This week we’ll be looking at a member of the Legumaceae (Pea) family, formerly known as the Fabaceae family (on account of the nitrogen fixing properties of the roots of most plants in this family).

Calpurnia sericea (Mountain Calpurnia in English, Berg-geelkeur and tloele in Sesotho) is a perennial shrub of up to 2500mm, with many erect stems occurring from the Eastern Cape through to KZN. It occurs near streams on moist soils in grassveld areas, in close proximity to rocks and boulders. This species has been observed at a maximum altitude of 2000m A.S.L., and is endemic to South Africa.

Nitrogen fixation – a trait characteristic of the family – is a symbiotic process between the root systems of the plant and nitrogen fixing microorganisms, wherein atmospheric nitrogen is converted to a form of ammonia or nitrate that the host plant can assimilate. This increases the nutrient content of the soil surrounding the plant, thus preparing the soil for larger and more complex vegetation to grow in a given area over time. This modification is part of the process known as succession; whereby more complex and suitable vegetation takes over from earlier & simpler pioneer vegetation. Through this process, it is believed that complete plant communities may change over time, allowing even eventually for the transition between say, grassveld – and eventually into forest vegetation (although other factors, such as climate may also come into play). In the Eastern Free State this is most evident in montane Kloof areas.


The leaves of C. sericea are imparipinnately compound consisting of 3-13 pairs plus a terminal leaflet and measure 60-120mm long whilst the leaflets measure 5-20mm long X 5-12mm wide. Small pods, characteristic of the genus are produced, measuring 10-50mm X 3-10mm. The flowers are small and yellow in terminal clusters, each cluster measuring approx. 60-130mm long. Flowering usually takes place from Dec to Jan; although with the recent late rainfalls, flowers have been observed until late March.


The leaves of the Pea Family have been found to contain natural insecticidal chemical compounds. South Africa has a relatively small contingent within the family comprising 7 species, whilst the Free State is home to only 3 species.

Traditional uses

Reportedly, C. sericea has been used to disinfect wounds in injured livestock and to kill lice. In humans the leaves may be used to alleviate itching & the symptoms of allergic rashes. In Nigeria the seeds have reportedly been used to treat abscesses. It also makes good firewood and the heartwood has been used in the construction of traditional rock & mud shacks.

Conservation Status

Regarded as of Least Concern by SANBI on account of its stable presence throughout its distribution.

Damien1-100x100Article and research by Damien Couls0n

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

CVC Report-back April 2016

 CVC April

CVC April 2016 1During April, the rangers removed several dustbin bag loads of seed-pods of Datura stramonium – Common Thorn Apple – from the Clarens Nature Reserve. All parts of this plant are poisonous if consumed; propagate readily and are easily dispersed by livestock throughout the CNR. As such the seed containing pods were carefully cut and handled to reduce spillage of seed onto the soil. This plant has encroached rapidly in the CNR and if not swiftly dealt with, could pose a threat to biodiversity in the area. This is a Category 1b A&IP, requiring mandatory removal from all properties and natural areas – it may not be grown, sold, traded or transported for any commercial or domestic use. For more information about invasive plants and their management in and around Clarens, please contact the CVC at the details provided below.

Environmental Education


CVC April 3The CVC continuously improves on its’ outreach to the public regarding environmental issues – whether it be through workshops; presentations at local interest clubs; events and activities at schools; enviro-articles; guided trail tours, and more. Our stall at the Clarens Country Market (Saturdays) at the Bibliophile is a great opportunity for the residents of Clarens, and visitors alike to get to know the rangers and to enquire about the work that the CVC is engaged in with the community of Clarens.

Trail maintenance & enhancements

The Caracal Contour Cycle Trail received some much needed TLC after damage caused by cattle on the trail earlier in the month.  After some time and a good deal of energy from the rangers & Clarens Working on Fire team, the trail was looking better than new as several improvements were made, particularly in some of the steeper and inherently narrower sections of the trail. Work was also done on the Sky Contour & Kloof Mountain trails in preperation for the Ashburton MTB Cycle Series.

Special activities

CVC April 4

The Ashburton MTB Cycle Series made its’ annual round in Clarens over the weekend and brought many cyclists to Clarens. For the first time, the cycle race wound its way through the CNR on both days of the race. An estimated 600 and 900 cyclists participated in the race which brought them into the reserve on the Saturday & Sunday respectively. There were thankfully relatively few injuries, and in general the rangers received many compliments about the conditions of the trails as the cyclists passed through the reserve.

CVC April 5

Our rangers on patrol

CVC April 6

Wood collectors have been observed with greater frequency and the rangers are having to be increasingly vigilant that only dead invasive wood is collected from within the reserve. Please note that the harvesting of live wood of any kind from within the CNR is prohibited, and should such an activity be observed, please contact the rangers immediately. The snakes are out and about, likely as they seek appropriate shelter in which to hibernate throughout the winter – so please don’t shortcut through long-grass, wear boots and keep your eyes peeled. Winter is definitely approaching, and the concomitant array of fall colours is truly spectacular this time of year. Anywhere that you look in Clarens, the signs are evident as more and more leaves fall on our trails. It is now the perfect time to pick up your camera and take a few happy snaps – and remember you could use these in our up-and-coming photography competition – see our Facebook page and the CVC website for details!


The CVC has received a number of small cash donations at our stall at the Clarens Country Market (Bibliophile) over the past month.  As always, your contributions go a long way in the management of the CNR and improvement and maintenance of infrastructure.  Donations of any amount can find our Facebook page at or through our link in the Clarens News. The CVC Banking details – Acc. name: Clarens Village Conservancy. Acc. number: 330544489. Standard Bank, Bethlehem. Branch code: 055033.

Article and title picture by D. Coulson   Cell: 076 833 8910 or 060 307 1489

In text photo credits: D. Coulson and the CVC Rangers