Category Archives: Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Gladiolus crassifolius

Galdiolus

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to another exciting “Plant of Interest” article for 2017!! This week we’ll be looking at a striking member of the Iridaceae (Iris) family.

Gladiolus crassifolius (Thick-leaved Gladiolus in English, khala-e-nyenyane in Sesotho) is a widespread perennial Iris, occurring in grassveld at altitudes of up to approximately 2000
m A.S.L., where it obtains a maximum height of 100cm.

The Genus name Gladiolus heralds from the Greek short sword after which the leaves resemble; whereas the species name crassifolius is a union of the Latin “crass” meaning rough or tough and “folius” meaning leaves, in reference to the thick leaves.

The thick, firm leaves of this species are held erect by prominent veins, measuring around 600-700mm tall by approximately 100mm wide and are a grass-green to blue-green colour, usually burned brown at the apex. These form a basal sheath of overlapping leaves which spread out into a rough fan. The inflorescence of G. crassifolius is a spike borne aloft a stem; wherein the small flowers (25-40mm in diameter) are a light-deep pink and the lower two lobes have a darker purple blotch. Flowering takes place late summer from January through to March.

This lively specimen was photographed along the Sky Contour Trail in the Clarens Nature Reserve where it usually occurs in small clumps or in isolation.

Ecology

This species is pollinated by sugarbirds and long-tongued bees and is thus an important species within the grassveld biome.

Traditional uses

It has been used as a treatment for headaches by the Basotho.

Conservation Status

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

 

Vernonia natalensis

Vernonia Vernonia 2

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to the latest “Plant of Interest” article for 2016!! This week we’ll be looking at a striking member of the Asteraceae (Daizy).

Vernonia natalensis (Silver Vernonia in English, ileleva in Zulu) is an erect perennial herb, obtaining a height of 100cm. It is widespread from the Eastern Cape to Limpopo, growing mostly on grassy slopes in montane, high elevation areas and has been recorded at up to 2000 m A.S.L.

This lovely specimen was photographed on our Porcupine Trail in the Clarens Nature Reserve. It usually occurs in clumps, but may also be found as colonies. It is dormant during winter, but flowers from as early as August in warmer cycles, through to December.

The beautiful silver leaves of V. natalensis are lanceolate; undulating with the margins slightly rolled inwards and velvety to the touch. The leaves measure on average 40-60mm long by around 5-10mm wide. The dainty purple-pink flower-heads measure up to 10mm wide; are branched and appear flat. White tufted buds are often interspersed between the florets, giving rise to new flowers. Purple stigmas also contribute to the frilly appearance of this species.

Ecology

Butterflies, beetles and bees have been recorded visiting V. natalensis flowers in the CNR. The seeds with their hairy parachutes are dispersed by the wind.

Gardening

This plant makes for an eye-catching ornament in gardens, and can be propagated from seed or grown from cuttings. This versatility makes it an obvious choice for the amateur gardener.

Traditional uses

Reportedly, the roots and leaves of V. Natalensis have been used as a charm against lightning. As traditional medicine it is used to treat coughs, headache, and internal pains. It is an ingredient in medicines to ensure a healthy baby, although a variation of this is sometimes used to induce abortion. Several species within the genus are used as herbal teas.

Conservation Status

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

Damien1-100x100

Article, photography and research by

Damien Coulsen

Head ranger Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Ledebouria revoluta

Hyacinth Hyacinth 2 Hyacinth3

 

Greetings 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 Hyacinthaceae (Hyacinth family).

Ledebouria revoluta (Common Squill/ in English, Bokhoe in Sesotho) is a perennial herb of up to 15 cm metres and occurs in bushveld and grassveld from the Western Cape through to KZN to approx. 2100 m A.S.L. Growth is best in the shade of trees along streams and on rocky slopes in the grassveld areas. The distribution is largely summer rainfall but also includes winter rainfall areas.
The specimens pictured here were photographed on the Spruit trail where they prefer partial shade. The species seems to fare better in moister areas where it occurs in a darker green variant.

Ledebouriarevoluta belongs to an interesting group of succulents with Epigeal bulbs. The word epigeal is derived from the Greek Epigiaos , Epi meaning “above” and Gia referring to Mother Earth, thus “above earth” or “above-ground”, with only the root system anchoring the plant to the soil. These plants thus germinate above – ground in contrast with the majority of plants. As the common name implies, L. revoluta is regarded as the most common species within the genus. It persists for elongated periods in moister areas, but is deciduous in the drier parts of the grassveld and is thus relatively frost tolerant.

The genus Ledebouria was believed to be closely related to the genus Scilla or Merwilla; however this has now been proved a distinct genus. Huge variability in morphology has been observed for this species, likely as a result of ecological adaptations throughout its broad distribution. This is interesting in itself, and further studies will be required to ascertain whether these are actually sub-species within the genus.

The leaves of the Common Squill are lanceolate, and tapering at the points from a broader base when between 1 and 20 leaves may be fully developed by flowering season. These are a dull green (and may be rolled inwards) and often marked by purple or darker green dashes throughout the length of the leaf. The leaves envelop the bulb in a basal rosette. The inflorescence is a raceme and are held aloft a purple-grey stem. The flowers are small and bell-shaped, measuring around 5mm in diameter and are a purple-grey colour with deeper purple/magenta stamens. These in turn are held in clusters on short stems. Flowering occurs from September – January.

Medicinal

Regarded as an ethno-medicinal geophyte, a plethora of medicinal uses have been attributed to L. revoluta, including use during pregnancy; as an antiseptic for wounds; itches and scratches; in the treatment of diarrhoea and flu and for back pains. Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and free-radical fighting properties have also been researched for the species utilising crude root extracts.

Ecology

A multitude of insects (including bees and butterflies) visit the flowers in spring for their nectar, thus fulfilling a role in the annual pollination cycle.

Conservation Status

Classified by SANBI as of Least Concern (LC).

 

Article and photographs by Damien Coulsen

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

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.

Ecology

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

Helichrysum herbaceum

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to the 5th “Plant of Interest” article for 2016!! This week we’ll be looking at a member of the Asteraceae (Daizy) family, also known as the Compositaceae (on account of the composite arrangement of the flowerheads of all the species within the family).

Helichrysum herbaceum (Monkey Tail Everlasting in English and tlhako in Sesotho) is a perennial herb with many erect stems sprouting from a creeping rhizome, occurring from the Western Cape through to KZN. It occurs almost exclusively in grassveld but may overlap to a lesser extent with woody Kloof-vegetation. This species has been observed at a maximum altitude of 2600m A.S.L., preferring full sun.

Helichrysum 1

As the species name implies – herbaceum refers to this Helichrysum conforming to a herb-like morphology as opposed a woody morphology. This specimen was photographed on the Porcupine Trail. In full sunlight the papery ray florets take on a brilliant brown-golden sheen that can be difficult to observe directly for more than a few short seconds at a time.

Helichrysum 2

 

 Helichrysum herbaceum does not exceed a height of 400mm, with each inflorescence borne singularly aloft a flowering stem. The leaves are khaki-olive green, dulled somewhat white-grey by fine hairs covering the ventral surface – these hairs appear woven as if in a loose fabric. The hairs are largely absent from the dorsal surface. The basal leaves measure approximately 40-50mm long X 20-30mm wide with undulating margins. The basal leaves occur in a loose rosette, which falls away on the flowering stems in favour of an overlapping composition in which the leaves are considerably smaller, measuring around 20mm X 2-3mm wide. The flowerheads measure approximately 25mm wide. Flowering takes place from as early as December according to some sources, but generally occurs from Feb-May.

EcologyHelichyrsum 3

The morphology of many species within the Helichrysum genus is such that it facilitates growth in semi-arid environs, usually on thin or partially exposed soils.  Helichrysum plants are therefore drought tolerant. The outer florets are paper-thin; leaves are covered in fine hairs and the arrangements of both the basal and stem-covering leaves are all designed to interlink, thus reducing water loss. Fine hairs offer the dual function of both reducing water loss and retention – the arrangement of the hairs on H. herbaceum allow for the absorption of tiny drops of dew in the early morning.

Traditional uses

 Helichrysum herbaceum has reportedly been burned as an offering to the ancestors of various African tribes in order to profit from their divine blessings. The stems and leaves were also burned as incense in ancestral rituals.

Conservation Status

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

 

Damien1-100x100Article and research by Damien Coulson

Head ranger Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Datura stramonium

Stinkblaar 1 Stinkblaar 2
Stinkblaar 4 Stinkblaar 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to the 4th “Plant of Interest” article for 2016!! This week we’ll be looking at a member of the Solanaceae (potato/Nightshade) family. Any plant can be of interest when it displays unique traits – always a favourite to the author, are plants that seem inconsequential at a glance, but chemically tell a whole different story – as this week’s PoI will convey.

  Datura stramonium (Common Thorn Apple in English, Gewone Stinkblaar in Afrikaans and lechoe in Sesotho) is an annual weed occurring from the Western Cape through to KZN. It can be found along roadsides, old pastures and in disturbed areas at altitudes ranging from 0 – 2400 m A.S.L. It is believed to have originated in tropical areas of the U.S. but was most likely accidentally introduced to South Africa among cereal grain.

The specimen photographed here is just one of many found recently growing in the area. It is often eaten and spread by livestock, resulting in fatalities. When even a small stem is cut, it releases an acrid scent (hence the Afrikaans Stinkblaar) which permeates the air for many metres. Cutting of a large patch of the plant can result in blurred vision, proving removal challenging and is a wholly unpleasant task. From a management perspective, the plant is regarded as a weed and declared a Category 1b invasive in South Africa – the detrimental applications and implications on an economic and social scale outweigh its value greatly. It thus requires mandatory removal from all public areas and even private residences.

Many species of this family contain toxic substances such as alkaloids (see medicinal uses) many of which are intentionally and sometimes accidentally ingested. This plant is notable for its many uses in the treatment of numerous ailments as well as the psychological effects that it imbues on the user as a narcotic. As with any plant or medicine, the use of the plant is all about dosage. Even the tiniest miscalculation can be the difference between a favourable effect on the body & mind or a fatality. It is not advised to use this plant or any of its derivatives without prior professional consent.

Physiologically, the plant may obtain a height of 1.5 metres, and is much branched as a weedy shrub. It may occur in isolation but is usually observed in large scraggly patches in older stands. The ovate 4 chambered fruit (measuring approx. 50mm long by 30mm wide) are a bright green when young and covered in multiple short, nasty looking spines of around 10mm. When dry, the fruit brown and split down the centre, releasing the dark brown seed. The leaves are large – measuring in excess of 100mm by 60mm and have irregularly toothed margins. Each leave stalk holds one large purple-white tubular flower (these are closed in sunlight and open at night and in partial shade). Grows Nov – April.

Ecology

Increasing number of D. stramonium in the veld is a symptom of overgrazing or degradation.  This is especially of concern since the spread of this species has only been widely observed this past summer in the region, and is another indication that the cattle and goats in the reserve are indeed a factor leading to the reserves decline. Removed before a seed-bed can be accumulated, the problem can be reversed with regular follow-ups.

Medicinal uses

Dubbed “malpitte” (mad pips) in Afrikaans, the ingestion of a high dosage of this plant (as seeds) – according to one source who confessed in their youth to consuming parts of the plant – can lead to a variety of symptoms including disorientation, rage, anxiety, hallucinations, etc. At low doses extracted from the leaves it may be used as a sedative and depressant.

Traditionally, infusions have been used to relieve asthma and reduce pain. They may also be used to induce a trance for ceremonies and act as aphrodisiacs. A fresh, warmed leaf may be applied in a poultice to treat rheumatism, gout, boils, abscesses, and small wounds. The green fruit may be sucked to treat tonsillitis, sore throat and even toothache. The smoke from a dried leave is inhaled to relieve bronchitis and asthma.

At one stage extracts of the leaves were concentrated in certain cough syrups to treat respiratory difficulties; although modern cough syrups do not include the compounds from these extracts. Today, 2 compounds from D. stramonium are still commercially utilised: the alkaloids atropene, in eye-drops; and hyoscine for motion sickness. Hyoscine can also be injected in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and painful back spasms. The pharmacological effects exerted on the human body by various parts of D. stramobium include: increased heart rate; smooth muscle relaxant, saliva, sweat and other secretant reduction, partial ocular paralyses and even glaucoma.

Conservation Status

Not classified by SANBI, regarded as a Cat1b invasive weed according to NEMBA (10 of 2004).

Kniphofia triangularis subsp. triangularis

Kniphofia triangularis subsp. triangularis Kniphofia triangularis subsp. triangularis Kniphofia triangularis subsp. triangularis

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to the 3rd “ Plant of Interest” article for 2016!! This week we’ll be looking at a member of the Asphodelaceae family.

Kniphofia triangularis subsp. triangularis (Manderin Poker in English, Motosi in Sesotho) is a monocotyledonous perennial herb that occurs in the Eastern Cape through to KZN at altitudes of up to 2500m A.S.L. As with most species of the genus Kniphofia, the Manderin Poker is most suited to moist grassveld, nearer vlei’s and on the banks of mountain streams.

The specimen pictured here was photographed on the banks of a small stream on the Kloof Mountain Trail where, in this instance it grows in solitary, or otherwise in small groups.

The leaves are narrow and grass-like, measuring approximately 500-600mm long by 2mm wide, with relatively smooth margins. The inflorescence is a roughly triangular/wedge-shaped spike (80mmX50mm) atop a narrow stem of 600mm. The individual tubular flowers are a vivid orange, measuring 20-40mm X 4-5mm. Flowering is usually from December – February; however because of the dry summer and late rains associated with El Niño and La Niña respectively, these have only been observed to flower from around early February, well into March.

Ecology

Frequented by butterflies and other pollinators, this species plays an important role in maintaining the ecological diversity of wetland areas throughout its range.

Gardening

Kniphofia triangularis subsp. triangularis makes for a dainty yet attractive garden ornamental. When planting from seed, make sure to plant in moist, well-drained soil in full sunlight. A light mulch layer may be needed for its first year in the Free State where frost is common in winter.

Conservation Status

Classified by SANBIas of Least Concern (LC).

 

Damien1-100x100Article and Research by Damien Coulsen

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

Gomphorcarpus fruticosus

Milkweed 2 Milkweed

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to the very first “Plant of Interest” article for 2016!! This week we’ll be looking at a member of the Apocynaceae (Milkweed family).

Gomphocarpus fruticosus (L) subsp. fruticosus (Vlei-klapper/Melkbos in Afrikaans, Milkweed in English, Modimolo in Sesotho) is a multi-stemmed perennial herb of up to 2 metres which possesses a poisonous white milky latex in the leaves and roots. It is common throughout the provinces of South Africa from sea level to approx. 2400 m A.S.L.

The specimen pictured here was photographed on the Kloof Dam Trail on the right-hand side of the trail as you approach the Kloof. It is often associated with riparian areas, and areas that have been previously disturbed through anthropogenic or natural causes. It is indigenous but is mostly regarded as a weed in S.A. Naturally such a specimen would exhibit a degree of both frost and drought tolerance.

The leaves are slightly curved, narrow & opposite, measuring approx.50-120 X 20-35mm. Flowers are green-yellow (approx. 8mm across) and held aloft in pendulous clusters and followed closely by the large, bladder-like and yellow-green seed pods. The fruit pods are inflated, light-weight compared to volume, covered in sparse bristles and tapering to a point. Flowering occurs Nov – Apr (summer – autumn) and reproduction takes place primarily through seed but also through suckering. Uses:

Commercial products

The seeds are coupled to hairy “parachutes” which have been used as kindling.

Medicinal

Due to the poisonous milky-sap, the leaves of the plant have been finely ground and used as a snuff as a mild sedative against headaches and as a treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis. Decoctions of the leaves can be used as an emetic (nausea inducing substance) to improve health. The roots have been reportedly used as a treatment for general pain and stomach aches. Use of the leaves or roots is poisonous to humans and livestock when ingested in non-specified quantities as some of the active compounds include cardiac glycosides.

Ecology

Frequented by the Monarch Butterfly which derives its un-palatability from the poisonous milky latex of G. fruticosus (L) subsp. fruticosus upon which it feeds.

Conservation Status

Classified as a weed and defined under the SANBI as of Least Concern (LC).

Damien1-100x100Article and Research by Damien Coulsen

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Opuntia ficus-indica

Opunta ficus-indica
Opunta ficus-indica Opunta ficus-indica

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts.  This week we’ll be looking at an alien member of the Cactaceae (Cactus family): Opuntia ficus-indica.

Opuntia ficus-indica (Sweet Prickly-pear in English, Truksvye in Afrikaans, Terofeiye in Sesotho) is an invasive weed (Category 1) that obtains a height of around 5m as a shrub and occurs throughout much of South Africa. It was originally introduced from Mexico to act as natural hedges in biological cattle kraals. The fruit of which is also a tasty treat – especially when eaten cold – beware those fine hairs though which itch like mad when they get into your skin.

The flower pictured here was photographed opposite the old Post Office. As a Category 1 weed its control, removal or destruction if possible is mandatory. No trade or planting of prickly pear is allowed, with the exception of the fruit if used for non-commercial human consumption.

The leaves are large; succulent; broadly obovate and flat, the stems woody. The stems are sub-divided into flattened, narrow, elliptical segments that are green but covered with a waxy layer. Small bristles protrude from the leaves in clusters. The fruit are roughly egg shaped, and like the leaves – are covered in clusters of fine bristles. Flowers are yellow-orange and measure around 50mm across. Flowering October – December. Uses:

Commercial products

Extracts of O. ficus-indica have been used in jellies, candies, teas, and alcoholic drinks.

Medicinal

This invasive has been used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, inflammation, ulcers and the treatment of first degree burns.

Ecology

Invasive weed. Removal is mandatory if at all possible. The fruit is a favourite of birds, mammals and humans. Pollinated by bees and butterflies.

Conservation Status

Naturalised invasives are not defined under the SANBI National Red List categories.

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

Barleria monticola

 

Barleria monticola Barleria monticola 2

Barleria monticola (Berg Barleria in English) is a perennial which may obtain a height of 300-400mm and tends to grow in small semi-rounded clumps in moist grassveld areas, growing in relative abundance particularly on mountain slopes and in close proximity to sandstone rock shelves. Distribution is from the Eastern Free State through to KZN. Flowering occurs from mid-September – late November.

This attractive specimen of the Berg Barleria was photographed on the slopes of the Kloof Mountain Trail where they were observed for the first time this season (for some unfathomable reason) by the author. The mauve flowers contrast pleasantly with the bright green leaves which in turn make for a striking plant against the more uniform mountainside foliage. Understandably then, the species name monticola is derived from the Greek montane meaning “arising from the mountain” or “mountain residing”.

The sessile leaves (40mmX20-25mm) of B. monticola are lanceolate-ovate, tufted; soft and covered in velvety long hears. The margins are entire and the apices are pointed. The stems are also velvety while the inflorescence takes the form of a terminal spike. The overlapping 5-petaled flowers are mauve, measuring around 30mm and always occur at the apex of the tightly clustered leaves, held aloft by a short (approx. 20mm), silky stalk. Uses:

Gardening

This species is frost resistant and drought tolerant, making it a relatively hardy species. B. monticola grows in special abundance after fires and in warmer than average spring seasons, where its presence in the veld is nothing short of spectacular. It would thus make for a very attractive garden ornamental, especially when grown in full sunlight conditions.

Ecology

The nectar-rich flowers attract many species of butterfly and bees and are thus ecologically significant from a pollination perspective. When ripe and exposed to moisture, the brown seed capsules explode, ensuring a viable population for the next generation. These will then develop in close proximity to the parent plant.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of B. monticola according to SANBI is listed as of Least Concern (LC).

Moraea huttonii

Moraea hotonnii Moraea



Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’ll be looking at a striking member of the Iridaceae (Iris family).

Moraea huttonii (Large Golden Vlei Moraea in English, teale-ea-noka in Sesotho) is a perennial which may obtain a height of up to 100cm. This species usually occurs in clumps, but may also occur in smaller groups of 2-3 in the early stages of development. This Moraea likes to grow in moist areas at high altitudes (up to 2400m A.S.L.) in close proximity to rocky mountain streams.  The distribution of this species is relatively wide (though sparse) from the Eastern Cape through the Free State, KZN and Mpumalanga. Flowering occurs from end Sept – mid November.

This specimen of M. huttonii was photographed on the banks of our Spruit hiking trail. Another specimen of the same species was observed along the Leucosidea trail in close proximity to the Kloof Dam.

The leaves of this species measure in the vicinity of 5-25mm wide; possess concave margins and are longer than the stem (approx. 1200mm). The flowers are relatively large (50-70mm across), and are an unmistakable butter yellow with large sunshine-yellow nectar guides on the outer tepals. The inner tepals are erect and spatula shaped. A dark hue is usually observed nearer the apex of the style. Uses:

Gardening

Moraea huttoni makes for a very attractive and altogether striking garden plant. Households in Clarens have been observed utilising similar Iris species in colourful hedges along the outside perimeters of their properties. The ornamental value of this species is thus considerable among avid gardeners.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of M. huttonii according to SANBI is listed as of Least Concern (LC ).

 

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

 

Berkheya cerciifolia

Berkhaya cercifoliaGreetings to all our enthusiastic and botanically minded villagers! This week’s PoI focuses on a herb from the Asteraceae (Daizy) family – now also known as the Compositae family.

Enter Berkheya – a genus which makes its first-time appearance in a biweekly PoI article. Berkheya cerciifolia (White Thistle-leaved Berkheya in English, Wildedissel in Afrikaans and mohata-o-mosoeu in Sesotho), is a perennial herb that often obtains a height of over 1.5m, especially in its preferred habitat atop moist grassland slopes and in close proximity to high-altitude streams. This species makes itself at home in high altitude (1800-3000m A.S.L.) areas in the Eastern Mountain Region (EMR) of the Drakensburg, where it is locally endemic.

This lone specimen was observed in close proximity to a waterfall that intersects our newly built Caracal Contour Cycle trail. It may not be graceful but it certainly won’t be messed with and its spiny growth form is certainly worthy of our interest.

The leaves of B. cerciifolia are of 2 forms: basal – measuring up to 300X80mm, white-felted beneath with deeply lobed and sharply toothed margins; and upper leaves which are directly attached to the stem, broad nearest the stem, and resembling spiny bat-wings. The stem by contrast, is slightly silky – yet firm – to the touch. The flowerheads are comparatively large, measuring up to 80mm across. The sterile ray florets are usually white but may be a light yellow; whereas the disk florets are always yellow. The bracts surrounding the flowerhead resemble small leaves, measuring 10mm wide, and complete with spines of half – equal length. Flowering occurs from Jan – March, so you’ve (regrettably) got a little waiting to do. Uses:

Medicinal

Many species of the genus Berkheya are known to have medicinal properties; although very little research has been done on B. cerciifolia in particular.

Ecology

This species is both a pioneer of recently disturbed veld (secondary succession), and serves to stabilise the soil structure of newly colonised areas (primary succession), thus facilitating an eventual progression to the next ecological stage in succession.

Conservation Status

cerciifolia is listed as of Least Concern according to the SANBI database.

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 


Tephrosia diffusa

Tilandsia
Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’ll be looking at a member of a rather large family, the Leguminosae (Legume or Pea family).

Tephrosia diffusa (Creeping Tephrosia in English, Visboointjie in Afrikaans) is a herbaceous perennial which, as its common name suggests, is a creeping wildflower. It tends to form relatively thick carpets in grassveld, usually in close proximity to water and rocky outcrops. T. diffusa is distributed from the Eastern Cape right through to KZN at altitudes of up to 1950 m A.S.L.
The genus name Tephrosia is derived from the Greek tephros (Ashen), most likely in reference to the grey-green or silvery green shade of the leaves of various species of the genus. The species name diffusa means diffuse and refers to the trailing nature of this species.

The pinnate leaflets occur in either pairs of 2-3 and are elliptic – oblong, measuring from 8-20mm long by 3-6 mm wide. The many-veined leaflets are prominent and large oval stipules are present. The inflorescence is an apical raceme and the flowers (15-20mm) are a brilliant pink, occurring on long stalks. Flowering occurs from October – May. Uses:

Traditional

T, diffusa has many traditional uses, including treatment of a wide range of ailments including chest ailments, fevers, lice and even internal parasites.

Pesticide

The roots of this otherwise innocent seeming plant were once used as a form of fish poison.

Gardening

The creeping nature of this species makes for good groundcover, is attractive, and as with all legumes, is a great way to naturally add nitrates to the soil.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of T. diffusa, according to SANBI is listed as of Least Concern (LC ).

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

 

Indigofera dimidiata

Indigofera 1 Indigofera 2

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’ll be looking at a member of an attractive plant family, the Leguminosae – formerly Fabaceae (Pea/Legume family). Species of this family may take the form of either herbs or shrubs, and may be either annuals or perennials.

Indigofera dimidiata (Trifoliate Indigofera in English, musa-peloa-thaba or qoi-qoi in Sesotho) is a small perennial herb that obtains a height of around 100-300mm, depending on locality. It grows best in grasslands in proximity to streams, but will also grow at the base of sandstone cliffs where water collects at altitudes of up to 2600m A.S.L.  Range extends from the Eastern Cape – Malawi.

The genus Indigofera was so named for the indigo dye obtained from several species of the genus.  The species name dimidiata refers no doubt, to the diminutive size of the dwarven-sized herb. This particular specimen was photographed on the Titanic trail below Titanic rock.

The leaves of I. dimidiata are small, (approx 30X10mm), trifoliolate, grey-green and sparsely hairy and are purched apon stalks of between 10-20mm, arising from a stem of 100-250mm in length.  Stipules of up to 4mm wide can be observed at the base of the petiole. The inflorescense is in terminal racemes and are very compact, whilst the tiny flowers (around 5mm) are light-deep pink, forming between Sept and Feb. Uses:

Traditional

Used medicinally to treat fevers and also used in funeral ceremonies. I. dimidiata is said to bring about good fortune to the wearer who uses it as a charm.

Gardening

This species of Indigofera may be small, but they still make for an attractive horticultural ornamental.

Ecology

Flowers of this species are pollinated by bees, butterflies and long-tongue flies.

Conservation status

I. dimidiata is listed as of Least Concern by SANBI.

 

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

Helichrysum adenocarpum

Helichrysum 1 Hlichrysum 2

This week we’ll be looking at another member of the rather large Asteraceae (Daizy) family.

Helichrysum adenocarpum subsp. adenocarpum (Pink Strawflower in English, Pienksewejaartjie in Afrikaans and senkotoana in Sesotho) is a perennial herb, and occurs often in a reclining position, but may also be erect. The distributed is widespread from the Eastern Cape – Zim. This everlasting species is found in grassveld regions in close proximity to, or on moist slopes. It is a hardy species, as it tolerates both frost and drought and grows even at altitudes as high as 3000m A.S.L.

The specimen photographed was observed along the margins of the Porcupine trail, and was made even more eye-catching by the general dearth of other flowering plants in the vicinity in comparison to the almost iridescent pink-white sepals of this wildflower.

The flowers of H. adenocarpum subsp. adenocarpum occur as solitary flowerheads, appearing as glossy pink orbs atop grey-green and wooly flowering stalks of between 40-450mm in length. The leaves of this species are rounded and semi-cylindrical, measuring 30X20mm. The flowerheads (25-35mm when open) appear almost glossy pink-white under bright sunlight. Additional flowering stems may arise from the side of existing flowerheads. Flowering usually takes place over a good 9 months of the year from January right through to September. Uses:

Medicinal

This attractive everlasting has reportedly been used in traditional medicines to treat diarrhoea as well as vomiting, and is more commonly used on children.

Gardening

This species makes for a great garden plant, on account of it being both hardy to the elements as well as being visually pleasing.

Conservation status

Helichrysum adenocarpum subsp. adenocarpum is listed as of Least Concern by SANBI.

 

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Gazania krebsiana

Gazania krebsiana Gazania krebsiana 2

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’ll be looking at a member of the rather large Asteraceae (Daizy) family.

Gazania krebsiana Less. subsp. serrulata (Common Gazania in English, Bruingousblom in Afrikaans and shoeshoe in Sesotho) is a perennial herb, distributed from the Western Cape – Mpum. Don’t let its’ diminutive size fool you though – this tough little guy can survive tough high-altitude winter and summer conditions at up to 3000m A.S.L.

The specimen photographed was observed recently on the Kloof Mountain trail. This find was lucky as usually the rocky grassland plateau is heavily grazed by cattle (for whom the flower is a delicacy).

The leaves of the Common Gazania are lanceolate measuring around 150X4mm, and the margins are sparesly hairy and rolled under, with an off-white midrib; dark/khaki-green above and grey-green below. A milky latex may be exuded when the leaves are damaged. The inflorescense is bourne aloft a stem of 100-120mm. The flowerheads (30-50mm) are mostly solitary, often with a few others in close proximity to the parent plant. The ray-florets are a butter-canary yellow. Some variants my even appear orange-red with dark spots at the base of the rays. Flowering usually occurs from Spring-mid summer; although this specimen was observed in early July (possibly as a result of warmer than usual winter tempretures and slightly elevated winter-rainfall). Uses:

Medicinal

Decoctions and infusions from several species of the Gazania genus may be used as analgesics to reduce pain in patients.

Traditional

Eaten raw by herdsmen and cattle alike as a source of nourishment and moisture. The felt/fine hairs on the underside of the leaves was rolled into twine to make skirts for rite-of-passage ceremonies. This was a painstakingly slow (and therefore costly) process as very small quantities of twine could be collected from each leave at a time. It makes sense then that these skirts were of high value to the Sesotho, and usually passed down from generation to generation until new skirts were required.

Gardening

The resilience and widespread distribution of this plant has made it a popular choice for gardens, with numerous cultivars having been produced over the last 60 odd years.

Conservation status

Gazania krebsiana Less. subsp. serrulata is listed as of Least Concern by SANBI.

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Erica cerinthoides

Erica cerinthoides 1

 

 

 

 

 

Erica cerinthoides Erica cerinthoides 2

 

Erica cerinthoides L. var. cerinthoides (Red Hairy/Fire Heath in English, Rooihaartjie in Afrikaans and semomonyane in Sesotho) is more commonly associated with the Fynbos biome of the SW Cape where it occurs alongside other species of the Proteaceae and Restoniaceae; however the distribution of this particular species extends as far as Mpumalanga at altitudes of up to 2300 m A.S.L., and is the most widely distributed Erica in the country. This highly distinctive species of Erica grows to around 500mm but may occasionally form an elongated shrub of up to 900-1200mm as shown above.Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’ll be looking at a member of the Ericaceae (Erica) family.

The specimen photographed was observed on the Maluti View hiking trail on an island of soil in close proximity to a cliff of Clarens Formation Sandstone, from which it derives a modicum of shelter from the elements as well as moisture. Fynbos species such as E. cerinthoides, are usually adapted to grow on nutrient deficient and relatively shallow soils which is why this species is seen to occur so far from the Cape . Several Erica’s are also adapted to propagate following a fire which is another possible explanation of why this species would occur in the grassveld biome.

The leaves of this species are needlike and are very small (<5-15mm) in whorled clusters of 4-6 at nodes along the length of the stem.  The bright orange-red flowers are the most striking feature of the plant and are visible at a good distance in the grassveld. These are large (25-35mm), tubular – characteristic of flowers of the Ericeaea family – and velvetly hairy (hence the common name), occuring in apical clusters. Flowering depends to a degree on locality but generally occurs all-year-round.

 

Uses:

Traditional

Sucked by children and herdsmen in Lesotho as a form of natural candy.

Ecology

Erica’s are pollinated by sugarbirds and sunbirds, which thrive on the energy provided by the sweet nectar.

Conservation status

Cerinthoides L. var. cerinthoides is listed as of Least Concern by SANBI.

 

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

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Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Hypoxis costata

 

Hypoxis 1 Hypoxis 2

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’ll be looking at a member of a rather large family – Hypoxidaceae (Star-flower).

Hypoxis costata (Small Yellow Star/African Potatoe in English, Geel-sterretjie/Afrika Patat in Afrikaans and Tapole in Sesotho) is a small perennial that obtains a height of around 150mm and grows best in moist rocky areas near kloofs and seepages at altitudes of up to 2400m A.S.L. The genus Hypoxis is cosmopolitan, occurring in Africa; North and South America; parts of Asia and Australia.

The genus name Hypoxis is derived from the Greek Hypo (below) and oxys (sharp-pointed – in reference to the shape of the fruit) and is characterised by plants with small yellow, star-shaped flowers. The species name costata means lines/ rib-like ridges, in reference to the venation of the leaves.

The leaves of this species are relatively broad and measure 40mm wide by approx 150-170mm long. As the species name implies, the leaves are conspicuously ribbed. Leaves are densely hairy and produced with flowers. The flowers (30-40mm) are butter- canary yellow and are borne aloft a stalk as long as the leaves. Flowering occurs from Oct-Jan. Uses:

Traditional

Used as a charm to protect against lightning strikes. Hypoxis are tuberous and the corms; dark brown-black externally and yellow internally, are used for muti. Common ailments treated include dizziness; mental illness; bladder problems; weakness; burns; testicular cancer, and also provide the immune system with a general “boost”. Much research is on-going regarding the pharmacological effects of various species of the genus. Because of overharvesting for their use as muti-plants, several species of Hypoxis are under threat.

Ecology

Hypoxis flowers are short-lived and are pollinated by solitary insects and honey bees, their pollen appearing yellow in the translucent pollen-sacks of bees in flight.

Conservation status

  1. costata is listed as of Least Concern by SANBI.

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Pycnoporus sanguineus

Pycnoporus sanguineus
Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. This week we’ll be looking at something a little different, a unique species of Bracket.
Pycnoporus sanguineus is not your typical plant – in fact, this bracket mushroom actually belongs to an entirely different kingdom – one that many either love or hate and is neither plant nor animal, but lies somewhere in between (scientists observe that mushrooms are more closely related to insects than plants – freaky right?)  Yes, for those of you “in-the-know”, P. sanguineus is in fact part of the Fungi kingdom.
Many refer to fungi in a very general sense as mushrooms.  But what exactly are mushrooms then, how do we differentiate between different forms of mushroom, and to top it all, is it even correct to refer to all fungi as mushrooms? Well no, and yes – confused?  While it isn’t generally incorrect to refer to fungi as mushrooms, the term is more applicable to fungi whose growth-form (physiognomy) consists of a distinct stem (stipe) with a cap (pileus) and gills (lamellae) under the cap. A good example of this are the various species of edible capped mushrooms (usually agarics) found in your local Pick ‘n Pay or Checkers. Fungi are heterotrophs (obtain food from other organisms – not unlike animals) yet have cells with cell walls (as do plants) consisting of chiton (the exoskeletons of insects) and may be classed in 1 of 2 groups – macrofungi or microfungi (microscopic i.e. invisible to the naked eye). Macrofungi differ greatly in morphology, size, colour and edibility and these characteristics are the basis of differentiating between various forms; although it is always best to consult a reputable field or pocket guide before deciding whether or not a mushroom should be handled or consumed.
Pictured above is the bracket fungus P. sanguineus, always found occurring on decomposing wood from trees such as pine. This particular specimen was found on an old and partially decayed Weeping Willow along our Spruit trail. It is widespread and inedible, although non-toxic. It is of small-medium diameter, bright orange, and is observed “fruiting” from November – April.

Uses
Throughout history, mankind have found fungi to be of great appeal. Much mystery and mythology surrounds fungi. They have found a place in children’s fairy-tales, been used to stimulate unearthly visions and often vivid hallucinations, have found their way into traditional medicines and are the basis of modern antibiotics (such as penicillin). They have been used in the production of an array of adult beverages and have been used the world over in a huge plethora of culinary masterpieces. Fungi can either be beneficial as already mentioned or be the source of acute poisoning in humans and livestock.
One particularly alien species Ophiocordyceps camponoti-rufipedis, is known to abduct carpenter ants Camponotus rufipes by rooting itself in their brain-stem, driving them into sunlight and sprouting from their heads whilst simultaneously killing the host in the process – talk about bizarre! (Don’t worry – their distribution is limited to certain tropical forests). For the most part fungi play an important ecological, cultural and spiritual role the world over.
Ecology
You’ve heard of the Food pyramid in school yes? Well fungi form the basis of this pyramid as decomposers. As implied, their primary ecological role is to decompose and restore to the earth, in basic form, all plant and sometimes animal matter; thereby facilitating the growth of new life forms. Careful examination of almost all known terrestrial biomes and ecosystems will reveal the presence of fungi of one or another form.

 

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Silene undulata

S. undulata

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-monthly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be focusing on a member of the Caryophyllaceae (Carnation) family.

Silene undulata (Gunpowder Plant or Dream Root in English, Wildetebak in Afrikaans and Molokoloko in Sesotho) is a frost and heat resistant perennial that grows up to 1000mm tall on moist, steep hill-slopes at altitudes ranging from 1550–2880 m A.S.L. This plant occurs from the Western Cape right through to Zimbabwe.

S. undulatamay be differentiated from a similar species; S. bellidoides primarily through its ecological range and habitat – S. bellidoides prefers open grassveld, and is substantially smaller at only 600mm. The species name undulata is derived from undulate, in botanical terms this refers to the undulating or “waving” nature of the leaves. The common name Gunpowder Plant is a reference to the dark colour of the seed-baring capsules held by this species. This particular specimen was observed for the first time on the new Caracal Contour Cycle trail on the day of the MTB Series race through the CNR

The leaves of this species occur in a basal rosette (120X30mm) and smaller leaves also occur on the stem (80X20mm). The ovary upon which the flower is perched is tubular, obloid, green-ribbed, measures 20-30mm and is slightly hairy.  The flowers vary in size with the largest almost double the diameter of the smallest which measure 20mm across. The flower is a cream-white and is deeply lobed, resembling a heart. The flower margins are slightly undulating and the flower produces an agreeable sent from early evening. The flower is open early mornings just before dawn (and in the shadow of south-facing mountains) and again around dusk. Flowering occurs from December – mid-April. Uses:
Traditional uses
This seldom-observed flowering species is regarded by sangoma’s as a sacred plant with the ability to induce vivid prophetic dreams as well as in the facilitation of communication with ancestral spirits. The plant can be ingested as a tonic, solid or the foam from brewing can also be ingested. Larger doses can cause nausea and vomiting. It is believed that if foam doesn’t occur after preparations that the timing of the ceremony for which it was prepared is either ill-advised, or that the ancestors don’t approve of the ceremony.
Ecology
S.undulata is pollinated at night by insects such as Hawk-moths.
Conservation Status
The SANBI conservation status for S. undulata is listed as Least Concern

 

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Alectra sessiliflora

Alectra sessiliflora 1 Alectra sessiliflora 2



Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts.  This week we’ll be focusing on a member of the…take a deep breath because it’s another long unusual scientific name… Orobanchaceae(Broomrape)family – whew!

Known by its English common name, Yellow Witchweed (or Verfblommetjie) Alectra sessiliflora is actually an herbaceous hemiparasitic plant on grasses, occurring at altitudes of up to 2900m A.S.L., from the Western Cape through to equatorial Africa. Hemi-parasites are very interesting and rather unusual in that they can obtain nourishment from photosynthesis (as with all true plants), but can also leach nutrients from other plants. A more common example of this occurs in the plant Viscum capense – the Cape Mistletoe. This food production strategy could theoretically afford these plants an advantage of most other plants that rely solely on photosynthesis for the production of sugars, especially in areas of semi-permanent shade, in waterlogged soils or in low soil ph.

The Greek Alectra is derived from Alector or cockscomb (in reference to leaf morphology).Sessiliflora refers to flowers occurring without a stalk and arises directly from the stem. Not many know that the leaves turn black if the plant has been damaged or crushed. A. sessiliflora differs from A. basutica in several respects – it occurs at higher altitudes, prefers moist to dry grassland, is not limited to the Eastern Mountain Region (EMR), the inflorescence is terminal as opposed to a long spike in A. basutica.

sessiliflora obtains a high of 250mm (sometimes doubled depending on terrain). Leaves measure around 30mmX20mm, are spear-tipped and have toothed, fairly hairless margins. The stems are a characteristic purple/black and sparsely haired. The inflorescence is terminal and the bracts mimic leaves, complete with toothed margins. The flowers (around 15mm across) are yellow, barely protruding from their calyx and may grade to orange-yellow with darker veins, with hairless filaments. Flowering occurs from November – March.

Traditional uses

The rootstock was once utilised as a yellow-orange dye in clothing. Hence the Afrikaans vernacular – Verfblommetjie. This plant has also been ingested as a treatment for bacterial and fungal ailments and has been scientifically proven to show antimicrobial chemical properties.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for A. sessiliflora is listed as Least Concern.

 

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

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Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Cirsium vulgare

Cirsium vulgare 1 Cirsium vulgare 2
Cirsium vulgare 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts.  After some time out due to the recent MTB Cycle Series race through Clarens this past weekend, the CVC can now breathe a sigh of relief…and continue producing interesting articles. This week we’re going off on a slightly fresher tangent – we’ll be focusing on an exotic member of the Asteraceae (Daizy) family.

Cirsium vulgare (Scotch Thistle in English, Skotsedissel in Afrikaans) is considered a naturalised exotic in S.A. This group are Alien & Invasive Plants (A&IP’s) that have occurred within our country for a long enough period of time, measured in decades, to be deemed “natural” (though not to say beneficial, and more likely detrimental to local ecosystems). C. vulgare occurs naturally in parts of Africa and Asia, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, South America, Hawaii and the Pacific islands, but is classified as a Category 1 weed.

Many of you will have recognised this striking purple flower from disturbed areas including roadsides, old farmlands, along riparian zones and urban fringes. Make no mistake though – once those spiny leaves make contact with your skin you’ll be itching and scratching for the rest of the day. A&IP’s such as this species rely on wind and avian dispersal and through some feed-stocks to spread into new areas.

The leaves of C. vulgare (are pretty vulgare when catching one’s bare skin) are 70-300 mm long, roughly lance-shaped with spine-like margins and covered in fine hairs. The stems extend up to 2 m on average, spreading from the base into a mess of dense, multi-stemmed and near impenetrable foliage. Flowers develop at the apex of the plant, flowering takes place in late summer to early autumn (Feb-Apr). The purple flower heads typically measure 40-50 mm in diameter by 25-50 mm wide, complete with narrow, spine-tipped bracts. The wind-dispersed fruits have several bristles on the tip and are up to 5 mm long. Uses:

Traditional uses

The seed fluff makes excellent tinder that is easily lit by a spark from a flint and the petals have been used as chewing gum/tobacco alternative. The oil from these seeds has reportedly been extracted for use in cooking and in lamps for lighting.

Ecological Threat

The fluffy-white seed of C. vulgare are highly viable and once introduced spreads rapidly if not swiftly controlled. This is one of several species that the CVC actively strives to eradicate and is most simply done through uprooting using a spade, cutting off of the flower-heads, placing them into a bag and burning in an enclosed chamber (or in an area with no wind). The spiny form of this species renders it unpalatable to both wildlife and livestock. If left unchecked, this species encloses old farmlands and grazed grassveld areas, leaving the land largely fallow and vulnerable to erosion and subsequently, degradation.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for C. vulgare is listed as Not Defined.

 

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

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Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Trifolium burchellianum

Trifolium burchelianum

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Leguminosae (Pea or legume) family.

Trifolium burchellianum (Wild Clover in English, Wildeklaver in Afrikaans and musa-pelo in Sesotho) is a creeping annual herb growing to a regal height of just 200mm. For something so small it manages to scale to incredible heights of around 2800 m A.S.L., and enjoys moist grassland and grassland-rock ecotones. This tough little herb has a wide geographical distribution, ranging from the Western Cape through to the equatorial regions of Africa.

As the name Trifolium implies, the leaves of this herb are arranged in 3’s (tri = 3 and folium = leaves). T. burchellianum differs from a very similar species – T. africanum in that the former has broad leaves and pink florets, whilst the latter has narrow leaves with almost red florets. Their distribution does overlap so look closely, as what may appear as a single subspecies could possibly be 2. T. burchellianum is one of only 2 subspecies that are indigenous to Africa.

Leaves are hairless, 3-foliolate, broad (25 X 20mm) and wedge or heart shaped and very finely toothed. The floret head (approx. 30mm) is held aloft a stalk of around 70mm and is clustered and pink/purple. The flowers are small, often measuring less than 10mm. Flowering: Dec-March. Uses:

Food:

Our rangers report using this herb as a light snack as kids. The flower head is predominantly eaten and has a cabbage-like aftertaste – not completely unpleasant. It could make for an interesting decoration in some food dishes such as pasta or even a curry. Livestock have been seen grazing this species as an almost favourite food-source.

Traditional Uses:

Reportedly, T. burchellianum has been used in traditional medicines – it can be chewed, infused as a tea to combat heart ailments, it has diuretic properties, helps induce sweeting and cleansing and is used in the treatment of sore throats.

Ecology

The fragrant flower-heads are frequented by insects such as butterflies during the summer season. It may also have a role as ground cover in relatively well-shaded areas.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for T. burchellianum is listed as of Least Concern.

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Kniphofia thodei Baker

 

 

Kniphofia thodei Baker Kniphofia thodei Baker

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Asphodelaceae (Red-hot Poker) family.

Kniphofia thodei Baker (Thode’s Poker in English and Leloele in Sesotho) is perennial monocotyledonous herb growing to a towering height of just 500mm. Unlike many other species of the Red-hot Poker genus, this little guy enjoys a bachelor’s solitary existence including freedom from group tyranny and peer-pressure. One will need to prepare a backpack to find our hero as he prefers “hanging-out” on moist high-altitude grassveld mountain slopes at up to 2750 m A.S.L. He is also an endemic to the Eastern Mountain Region (EMR), making him even more interesting…and don’t all bachelor’s lead interesting lifestyles?

Photographed on the steep slopes near Titanic Rock and our Sky-Contour Trail, this individual was no easy find (as is any decent bachelor) and may at first glance be misidentified for several of the more prominent of the Red-hot Poker genus in the area.

The leaves are narrow, recurved, around 5 mm wide by 300-400mm long, blue-green, soft to the touch, with slightly coarse or toothed margins. The inflorescence consists of a single dense spike of tubular and hanging measuring approx. 70X40mm, grading from orange apically, to yellow-white below. Flowers measure a mere 20-30mm in length. Flowering occurs from spring-early summer (November to March). Uses:

Gardening

This solitary Poker would make for a highly attractive garden ornamental, especially in areas of partial shade with moist, well drained soils. Red-hot Pokers hybridise readily with wild specimens, making Id in gardens particularly difficult.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for K. thodei is listed as of Least Concern.

 

Click here for more information on plants in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Click here for more information on the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

Crinum bulbispermum

CrinumGreetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts.  This week we’re focusing on a member of the Amaryllidceae (Bulbous lily) family.

Crinum bulbispermum (Orange-River Lily in English, Vleilelie in Afrikaans and Lelutla in Sesotho) is a perennial bulb of up to 900mm tall, usually observed at moderate altitudes of 1600 m A.S.L. in damp areas such as wetlands and streams. This plant occurs from the Western Cape – Limpopo. Crinum has its origins in the Latin Krinon – Lily, whilst bulbispermum means “bulblike seed” or “bulbous seed”.

Photographed in close proximity to our Spruit hiking trail, this lily is unmistakable and beautiful to behold. Closer inspection of the flowers yielded a faint yet pleasantly sweet scent. Sometimes confused with the River-Lily Crinum macowanii, they can be told apart by looking at their anthers. Those of C. macowanii are black whilst those of C. bulbispermum are not.

The leaves of C. bulbispermum are long (appr. 450X40mm), flexible, gracefully arched and basally sheathed. The inflorescence is born on a stem of height almost equal to leave length. The flowers are tubular and narrow to a stalk of 110mm in length. The tepals measure 100X30mm. When viewed as a whole the flowers appear wilted. The flowers are white to off-pink with a pink-red keel. The fruit are 70mm in diameter and tipped by a ring-like structure. Flowering occurs from spring-early summer (September to December).

 

Uses:

Gardening

This moderately sized herbaceous bulb would make for a highly attractive garden ornamental, especially in areas of partial shade with rich moist soils. It is a fast growing and relatively resilient plant that grows readily from seed.

Traditional uses

The bulb is used medicinally to treat a wide assortment of ailments including colds, rheumatism, varicose veins, is said to reduce swelling and is used in the treatment of septic sores. It is also used during the delivery of babies and reportedly stimulates breast milk. The Sesotho believe that it can be used as lucky charm protecting against evil entering into their homes.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for C. bulbispermum is listed as Declining. This plant is threatened by development, but most notably through uncontrolled over harvesting for medicinal purposes.

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Disa porrecta

 

 

Disa porrecta Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Photo: D. Coulson
Disa porrecta  Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Photo: D. Coulson
Disa porrecta. Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Photo: D Coulson

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Orchidaceae (Orchid) family.

Disa porrecta (lekholela in Sesotho) is a perennial epiphyte of between 200-600mm tall, usually observed at higher altitudes of up to 2000 m A.S.L. in damp grasslands from the EC – the FS. Disa or dis means 2, in possible reference to the style wings, or alternatively dis meaning rich[ly coloured] referring to the bright orange-red flowers of the genus. Porrectus means to lean forward or outwards.

This little guy appears on first sighting to resemble one of the members of the Asphodelaceae (red-hot poker) family in the process of dying-back, but on closer inspection characteristics unique to the genus become obvious. Seen on our Titanic Trail, the specimen pictured below seems to prefer areas with half day sun in close proximity to cliff-faces where the moisture content of the grassland is higher.

The leaves of D. porrecta are long and slender (300X1mm) and on casual inspection resemble a blade of grass. The inflorescence is a dense corymb with the flowers facing down. Colour ranges from a vivid pink-red to orange-red with yellow petals and lip. The sepals converge to a thin tip of around 3mm in length. A large spur is present on each flower measuring 20-40mm long and is upwards pointing. Flowering occurs from Jan-March. Uses:

Gardening

Would make for an attractive garden ornamental in summer, but care must be taken to avoid full-day sunlight and planting should take placein moist, shallow soils.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for D. porrecta is listed as Least Concern.

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Agapanthus campanulatus

Agapanthus campanulatus
Agapanthus companulatus (Photo: D Coulson)
Agapanthus companulatus
Agapanthus campanulatus (Photo: D.Coulson)

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Agapanthaceae (Agapanthus) family.

Agapanthus companulatus subsp. paten (Bell Agapanthus in English, Bloulelie in Afrikaans & Lera-laphou in Sesotho) is a deciduous perennial herb which may grow to 100mm tall. This species prefers moist rocky areas such as waterways and drainage lines, near valley bottoms and rocky slopes. A mid-high altitude species, it is commonly found growing at the 1800-2400m A.S.L. band. A. companulatus subsp. paten is found occurring in the Eastern Mountain Region (EMR) of the Drakensburg in montane grassland through to Mpum, the Eastern Free State and Gauteng.

The derivatives agapé – love and anthos – flower, hint at the attractive nature of this particular wildflower. A conspicuous plant, it’s almost always found in colonies and it is hard to confuse the sky-blues and characteristic long, slender, bell-shape with other wildflowers. This particular specimen was found growing along the Titanic Trail and again along the Spruit (always in close proximity to water). This plant contrasts nicely with the various shades of green vegetation amongst which it grows, and is large enough to photograph without having to first get dirt on your elbows and knees…

The leaves of A. companulatus subsp. paten are long and slender (150-400mmX10-25mm) and dark green-grey grading to a red-purple colour towards the base of the stem. The umbel inflorescence is characteristic for this plant and the florets are wide-open to slightly reflexed. Each floret comprises 6 light-blue to purple tipped petals (approx. 35mm X 10mm) with a dark blue vertical mid-stripe and 6 stamens. The floret tube is shorter than the lobes by 1/3, with each floret borne on its own stalk and supported by a long, slender stem. Flowering occurs from Jan-March. Uses:

Ecological role

The flowers of this plant attract a host of pollinators such as bees whilst the seeds are wind-dispersed.

Traditional Uses

New-born Sesotho babes are bathed in a cooled infusion of the leaves to strengthen them against the elements. A soothing baby-lotion is also made from the rootstock to treat “cradle cap” (a dermatological condition of the head, unique to infants). It’s also been reportedly used as a lucky charm against lightning.

Gardening

This is amongst the most popular and sought-after of garden ornamental species and is great at growing from cuttings. Many of the gardens in Clarens have these growing where the soil is moist.

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Ajuga ophrydis

Ajuga ophrydis
Ajuga ophrydis (Photo: Damien Coulson)

 

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Lamiaceae (Sage and mint) family.

Ajuga ophrydis (Bugle Plant in English & Senyarela in Sesotho) is a perennial herb which may grow to 250mm tall. This remarkable yet understated herb grows sparcely distributed in rocky grassland areas, in close proximity to rocky slopes at higher altitudes up to 2700 m A.S.L, occurring from the Eastern Cape through to Mpum.

An altogether attractive plant, this specimen was observed above the Porcupine Trail, along what will soon be our new cycle route – the Caracal Contour. Interestingly this specimen and several new wildflowers were only observed in the area in which cattle have been excluded and in which an intact portion of fence remains, and is evidence of the need to conserve our natural heritage. As a matter of interest, this is the only member of the Ajuga genus which has been recorded in S.A.

The paddle-like leaves of A.ophrydis are basal and rosetted for the most part, measuring 30-170mm long by 15-40mm wide. The margins are covered in fine hairs and are toothed, sometimes slightly roled inwards. The inflorescence measures approx. 200mm long and is spiked. The whorled flowers are relatively small (12-14mm) and are blue-mauve. Each flower consists of a 5-toothed calyx with 1 reduced upper “lip”. 4 brown curved stamens appear as “eyes” on each floret, giving each flower the semblance of a miniature face. Flowering occurs from Oct-Feb. Uses:

Ecological role

The flowers of this plant attract a host of pollinators thus assisting with pollination of both wild plant and food-crop species.

Traditional Uses

This plant has been used in the formulation of traditional medicines and has apparently been used in traditional medicine to relieve menstrual pains.

Gardening

Those who’ve tried to propagate A. ophrydis have found it an easy plant to grow from cuttings.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for A. ophrydis is listed as Least Concern

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Boophone disticha

Boophone disticha.  Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Boophone disticha (Photo: Damien Coulson)

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts.  This week we’re focusing on a member of the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis) family.

Boophone disticha (Bushmans Poison in English, Boesmansgif or Gifbol in Afrikaans & Leshoma in Sesotho) is a perennial geophyte which may grow to 600mm tall. This extremely toxic bulb grows in grassland and rocky areas, usually on hill slopes. B. disticha occurs from sea-level right through to 3000 m A.S.L, distributed throughout S.A. Boophone distich is both drought tolerant and frost resistant. This particular specimen was observed on the Kloof Mountain Trail; however additional sightings above Scilla Walk, Porcupine and the Sky Contour trails have been recorded. Please note (again) that this plant is both highly toxic to people and livestock.

The leaves of B. disticha are arranged in a very prominent fan formation with dark green undulating margins, usually appearing after flowering has taken place. The oh-so-infamous bulb may obtain a diameter of 170mm and is almost always partially exposed to the sun. The bulb consists of layer-upon layer of thick and (highly toxic) dark coloured scales. The round compound flower is red-pink and each floret is held aloft on its own stalklet. A thick stem supports the flower-head. Flowering occurs from Aug-October. Uses:

Ecological role

The flowers of this plant attract a host of pollinators thus assisting with pollination of both wild plant and food-crop species.

Traditional Uses

The Khoisan believed that the leaves of B. disticha had special properties associated with the otherworld. A mummified bushman body was discovered in the Baviaanskloof wrapped in the leaves of this plant. Their belief is that this helps bridge the divide once the soul passes to the other side. The Khoisan thus regard this plant as one of the most mystically potent of all medicinal plants. It is also used by sangoma’s to enter a trancelike state; however since the plant is poisonous, the dosage must be absolutely spot-on or one may end up in I.C.U. or worse. Hunting is another traditional use whereby flint arrowheads are dipped in the poison and facilitate paralyses in quarry. Additional uses include use in psychotherapy and during circumcision as an anti-inflammatory and disinfectant.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for B. disticha is listed as Declining as a result of overharvesting for any number of traditional and medicinal uses. What many don’t realise is that the plant requires a minimum of 10 years to reach flowering stage and even then the plant does not flower every year. Declining status arises when a population has a large geographical range but numbers in the veld dwindle and/or their prevalence on muti markets increases substantially.

Damien1-100x100Article and photograph by Damien Coulson
Head ranger:  Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Myosotis semiamplexicaulis (Forget-me-not)

 

Myosotis semiamplexicaulis. Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Myosotis semiamplexicaulis (Photo: D.Coulson)
Myosotis semiamplexicaulis. Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Myosotis semiamplexicaulis (Photo:D.Coulson)

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on our first member of the Boraginaceae (Borage) family.

Myosotis semiamplexicaulis (Forget-me-not in English, Vergeet-my-nie in Afrikaans & sethutu in Sesotho) is a bushy herb which may grow to 600mm tall. This little bush prefers moist ground amongst scrub and often rock (near ravines or on well-shaded southern mountain slopes) with an altitudinal range of 1400 right through to 3000 m A.S.L.

The genus name Myosotis harks from 2 Greek words – myos meaning mouse and otis meaning ear, most likely referring to the characteristic petal shape. The species name likewise comprises 2 words – semi or “partial” and amplexicaulis or “stem grasping” in reference to the leaves at their basal point closest to the stem.

The leaves of M. semiamplexicaulis are alternate and roughly lanceolate, complete with fine short bristles. The inflorescence is much-branched and the flowers are blue-white with some even tinged pink. These flowers are small, measuring approximately 7 mm wide and the throat of each flower alternates white or yellow scales. Flowering occurs from Nov-Mar. Uses:

Gardening

Who wouldn’t want these little guys as ground cover in their gardens? Planted near a fence or under a windowsill they give a garden a soft welcoming feel.

Traditional Uses

Used traditionally in medicines and in enhancing memory retention in young traditional healers.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for M. ampexicaulis is listed as DDT (Data Deficient – Taxonomically problematic . SANBI declares a species is DDT when taxonomic problems hinder the distribution range and habitat from being well defined, so that an assessment of risk of extinction is not possible).

Damien1-100x100Article and photographs by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Clarens News: 5th December 2014

 

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Cotyledon orbiculata

 

Cotyledon orbiculata. Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Cotyledon orbiculata (Photo:D.Coulson)
Cotyledon orbiculata. Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Cotyledon orbiculata (Photo:D.Coulson)
Cotyledon orbiculata. Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Cotyledon orbiculata (Photo:D.Coulson)

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Crassulaceae (Crassula) family.

Cotyledon orbiculata (Pig’s Ear in English, Plakkies in Afrikaans & serelile in Sesotho) is a succulent shrublet whose stem may grow to 900mm tall. Many of you will have recognised this widespread plant which tends to grow on sandy or rocky soils. In the grassveld around Clarens you’ll generally find C. orbiculata at higher altitudes on the rocky sandstone mountain slopes (approximately 2000-3000m A.S.L.), occurring from the Western Cape through to Mpum.

The genus name Cotyledon comes from the Greek word kotyledon that means cup-shaped hollow, in reference to the leaves of some species. The species name orbiculata comes from the Latin “round circle”. Beware though, unlike other similar appearing families, such as the vygies (Aizoaceae) and most aloes (Asphodelaceae), the sap from the leaves of C. orbiculata are toxic. The variability of leaf size, shape and colour is influenced by the immediate environment; however 5 variants of this spp. are currently recognised in the botanical society. This specimen was observed on the recently established Sky Contour trail (available on the soon-to-be released, new and improved trail map).

The paddle or pig’s ear-shaped (hence the English common name) leaves of this species measure 50-100mm long X 35-60mm wide, are succulent and fleshy with a grey-green tinge. A characteristic red lip is evident on the leave margin. The branched inflorescence is borne aloft a thick stem with each of the nodding red-orange (yellow varieties exist) and tubular flowers measuring 30-40mm. Flowering occurs from Nov-Feb. Uses:

Gardening

Cotyledon orbiculata makes a nice pot plant or garden ornamental in succulent rockeries. It’s also a good plant to have as its tubular flowers are ideal for attracting sunbirds, whose long and curved beaks are specifically adapted to feeding on this form of flower.

Traditional Uses

Used traditionally as a poultice to treat boils, the leaves are heated and applied. The sap is also said to help treat warts, corn and general inflammations. Although toxic (cotyledontoxin), carefully moderated doses of the sap (from one leaf) can be used as a vermifuge. The leaves are also thought to be of use in the treatment of epilepsy. Livestock and domestic animals who eat the leaves suffer from a condition known as cotyledonosis. The Southern Sotho use a dried leaf as a protective charm for an orphan child and as a plaything

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for C. Orbiculata is listed as Least Concern

Damien1-100x100Article and photographs by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Pachycarpus macrochilus


Pachycarpus macrochilus Pachycarpus macrochilus 2

 

Pachycarpus macrochilus (Large-lipped Pachycarpus in English & leshokhoa in Sesotho) is a perennial geophytic herb whose stems grow to 140-330mm tall. In order to observe this species one will need to get on a proper set of hiking boots and head up to the rocky higher mountainous areas of the grassveld (1600-2200m A.S.L.) occurring from the Eastern Cape through to Mpum.

Break the stem of this guy and your fingers will be covered by sticky milky latex (as with most members of this family). The Latin macrochilus is derived from macro meaning large, and chilus, in reference to the lip-like structure of the flower corona.

 

On first inspection one will notice the stems of this little herb are sparsely and coarsely hairy. The leaves measure 30-150mm long by 17-43mm wide. The leave margins (on stalks of 5-15mm) are slightly undulating and also have sparsely distributed coarse hair. The flowers – occurring in clusters of2-6 -are what make this plant really interesting as they are cup shaped. When young the closed flowers are borne aloft, but hang when mature and open. The flowers measure 16-28mm and are green-yellow-clay red. The lobe tips are open and somewhat re-curved and measure 13-25-9-17mm. Flowering occurs from October-Jan. Uses:

Food

This species has been known to be browsed by goats in summer despite the plants milky latex.

Photography

Although not a “beautiful” plant per se, P. macrochilus is certainly an interesting and unusual plant to observe, and thus makes for a remarkable specimen for photography.

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger:  Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Asclepias stellifera

Asclepias stellifera. Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Asclepias stellifera (Photo: D.Coulson)

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Asclepias stellifera (Common Meadow-star in English & khola-ntja in Sesotho)  is member of the Apocynaceae (Milkweed) family and a perennial geophytic herb whose stems grow to 120-300mm tall. One will find this herbaceous species in grassland and often among rocky outcrops at altitudes of 2200 m A.S.L., occurring from the Eastern Cape right through to Botswana.

Break the stem of this guy and your fingers will be covered by milky latex. In almost all cases this says one thing about the seemingly meek little plant: Do not ingest me! I’m toxic! As its name aptly suggests, the florets have been likened to the clichéd rays of stars harking from children’s books. 

The flowers of A. stellifera occur in 4’s and have 5 petals enclosed by as many skirt-like sepals. Each petal appears almost rolled inwards along its length forming what resembles a partially closed tube and is tinted purplish-black towards the centre. The stems can measure up to 50mm and the flowers measure between 4.5-7mm long by 3-4mm wide. The inflorescence is panicle-esk. The fruit resemble cushion-star capsules of length 6-10mm by 5-12 and are slightly beaked but touch-smooth. The leaves by comparison are long and thin (10-105mm X 0.5-2mm wide) and have a prominent midrib. The margins are rolled under and the whole blade is covered in short, fine & tufty hairs. Flowering occurs from September-Jan. Uses:

Ecology

These small geophytic perennials endure annual regrowth of their stems, particularly (and shortly) after fires followed by the first spring rains. Their presence in the veld may act as an indicator of the biological diversity of the landscape. In truth only 1 in 3 plants in the grassland actually comprises grasses. The rest can be grouped into geophytes, annuals, trees and shrubs. Milkweeds are an important nectar source for bees and other nectar-seeking insects and use three defences to limit damage caused by caterpillars: hairs on the leaves, toxins, and latex fluids.

Gardening

Milkweeds are beneficial to nearby plants as they repel certain pest invertebrates. The leaves of Asclepias species are the primary food source for monarch butterfly larvae and other milkweed butterflies and thus draw butterflies to gardens. Many Milkweeds also reportedly give off a pleasing fragrance in the early parts of an evening.

Hunting

Natives of South America and Africa used arrows poisoned with glycosides from Milkweeds during hunts.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for A.stellifera is listed as Least Concern.

by

Damien Coulson (Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve)

Sebaea leiostyla

Clarens Village Nature Reserve:  Sebaea leiostyla
Sebaea leiostyla (Photo: Damien Coulson)

This is the first Plant of Interest picture  taken using the new Powershot SX520.

Sebaea leiostyla is an annual herb whose stems grow to 100mm tall. One will find this herbaceous species in moist grassland areas often in close proximity to cover shrubs and streams at altitudes of 2600 m A.S.L., occurring from the Eastern Cape right through to Mpum.

To spot this little herb one must be prepared to follow one’s curiosity and really get in close to the subject. A camera with a good macro function is useful and could help aid in the identification. The word leio is Latin for smooth, styla Latin for style, in reference to the bare style on which the flowers are born.

The oval leaves of S. leiostyla measure approx. 10-15mm by 6-8mm wide, are scattered and oppositely arranged and appear dark green and somewhat waxy or glossy. The inflorescence is dense and held aloft by simple or branched and mostly bare stems. The flowers are small (5-15mm diam) with a corolla tube that’s usually longer than the petals. The flowers comprise 5 light-mustard yellow petals, partially enclosed by yellow-green sepals. Flowering occurs from Oct-Jan. Uses:

Gardening

Small they are, but they make a brilliant pot plant or alternatively planted against a wall they make great ornamentals.

Medicine

Many spp. of the Genus Sedoides have medicinal properties. S. leiodstyla is used by the Sesotho as a snake-bite remedy

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for S. leiostyla is listed as Least Concern.

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger:  Clarens Village Nature Reserve

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Hibiscus aethiopicus (Common Dwarf Wild Hibiscus)

 

 Hibiscus aethiopicus. Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Hibiscus aethiopicus (Photo:D.Coulson)
 Hibiscus aethiopicus. Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Hibiscus aethiopicus. (Photo: D.Coulson)
 Hibiscus aethiopicus. Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Hibiscus aethiopicus (Photo: D.Coulson)

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Bi-weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a member of the Hibiscus or Mallow family (Malvaceae), from the widely distributed Hibisus genus.

Hibiscus aethiopicus (Common Dwarf Wild Hibiscus in English & lereletsane-le-leholo in Sesotho) is a small herbaceous species that grows to between 140 & 350mm depending on topography. This small Hibiscus grows in grasslands as well as along steep mountain slopes at recorded altitudes of up to 1800m A.S.L. H. aethiopicus grows from the Western Cape right through to Zimbabwe.

A little known fact about the derivative word Hibiscus, is that the original Greek ibiskos stems from the name given to the Marsh Mallow plant (now Althaea officinalis and yes, the root sap from the plant was used in ancient Egypt to make a rudimentary form of the popular medicinal confection and was also used to treat coughs an sore throats).

The stems of H. aethiopicus are covered in rough hairs. The leaves are 10-80mm long X 6-40mm wide with blunted apices and 3-5 veins from the base which may or may not have hairs. Leaf stalks measure 5-15mm. The flowers are not easily mistaken and measure approx. 50mm across. The colour is off-white – creamy /faded yellow (colouration is highly variable). The epicalyx (false calyx) bears 7-9 short bracts. Flowering takes place from Nov – Jan.

Garden

This species, although not necessarily a garden plant, is known to attract its fair share of butterflies and could therefore be worthwhile cultivating.

First Aid

In light of the plethora of medicinal properties ascribed to many plants of the Hibiscus genus; new studies have confirmed that “H. aethiopicus may contain an endogenous inhibitor of venom-induced haemorrhage” (basically extracts obtained from the plant have been proven to bind and render null the neurotoxic and haemotoxic components of certain cobra venoms and thus prevent death in the unfortunate recipient of the bite). Hope they get that antivenin up and running soon!

Medicinal Uses

Traditional medicines and remedies have been made from this plant. Although the exact uses could not be ascertained at the time of writing, rumour points to use as treatment for coughs, sore throats.

Conservation Status

According to SANBI, H. aethiopicus is classified as of Least Concern.

Damien1-100x100Article and phtography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

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Lessertia thodei

 

Clarens Village Nature Reserve, Lessertia thodei Clarens Village Nature Reserve, Lessertia thodei Clarens Village Nature Reserve, Lessertia thodei

 

This week we’re focusing on a member of the Leguminosae (Pea) family.

Lessertia  thodei is a perennial herb whose stems grow to 200 mm long. One will find this herbaceous species in moist grassland areas often in close proximity to seeplines and rocky flats at altitudes of 2100-2900 m A.S.L.  It is also an endemic to the EMR, occurring from the Free State to Mpumalanga.

The pods are characteristic of the Pea family and are visible from late spring through summer. 

The leaves of L. thodeiare hairless, in contrast with those of the similar spp., found growing in the region, such as L. depressa. The leaflets measure approx. 7mm X 3mm and occur in pairs of 5-9 and bear rounded tips. The inflorescence measures 30-75mm and individual flowers measure 10mm.  Flowering occurs from Nov-Feb.

Uses:

Gardening

An altogether attractive plant, it may find a suitable position in the garden as a hedge or pruned to form an ornate pathway through the garden.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for L .thodeiis listed as Least Concern.

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson
Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Geranium pulchrum

Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve:Geraniium pulchrum
photo: Damien Coulson

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Geraniaceae (Geranium) family.

Geranium pulchrum (no common names), is a hardy shrublet that grows to around 1.2m in moist areas (marshland, stream-banks, at the bases of cliffs and near seeplines), as with many geranium spp. This geranium grows at an altitudinal range of 1500-2285 m A.S.L.

G. pulchrum tends to form dense stands in higher altitudes and is endemic to the EMR. The Latin “pulchrum” means “beautiful”, in clear reference to the heart-shaped florets. At first glance it may resemble several local geranium spp., but when in doubt take a glance at the leaves and compare to those of similar spp.

G. pulchrum has stems that are basally woody & silky textured and flexible near the apex. The leaves are fairly large for a geranium and measure 80-120 mm in diameter and have 5-7 deep notched lobes. The leaves are hairy above and appear silvery and silky below (the hairs trap moisture and act as an anti-desiccation mechanism), with stalks longer than the leaves. The inflorescence are moderately sized and singly/occurring per stalk. The 5-heart-lobed flowers are really a small-marvel and grade from a light-deep pink with deeper pink/purple veins leading to the white corona. The flowers measure 20-35 mm in diameter and flower stalks measure approx. 60 mm, appearing silvery.  Flowering occurs from Dec-March.

Uses:

Photography

This herbaceous plant and the art of photography go together well. Be prepared to take your camera into moist areas and make sure of your footing where slipping is likely to occur.

Gardening

As far as geraniums go, this one is definitely worthy of the garden and makes an attractive ornamental or hedge-plant.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for G. pulchrum is listed as Least Concern.

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Diascia integerrima

 

Diascia integerrima.  Clarens Village Nature Reserve
Photo: D. Coulson
Diascia integerrima.  Clarens Village Nature Reserve Diascia integerrima.  Clarens Village Nature Reserve

This week we’re focusing on another member of the aptly named Scrophulariaceae(Snapdragon) family.

Diascia integerrima (Swinspur in English, Pensies in Afrikaans and Leilanenyana in Sesotho), is a slender, erect and tufted perennial herb attains a height of between 200-500mm. It grows in a variety of ecotypes including cliffs, rock faces, dry gritty soil, and along stream-banks. In Lesotho these flowers can become fairly prominent along roadsides. D. integerrima occurs throughout the Eastern Free State, northeastern Cape and the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal, and grows at altitudes of up to 2865m A.S.L.

Observing these flowers in mountainous areas is really a must-see, especially as it often grows among other high-altitude plants in summer, such as Kniphofias, geraniums, aloes and of course the Blue-Scilla. The genus Diascia, is only found in southern Africa and comprises 70 species. Diascia is derived from a combination of the greek “di” or 2 and “askos” or sac, which refers to the 2 oil containing spurs.

The leaves of D. integerrima differ somewhat from its brethren in that they are lanceolate (as opposed to roughly obovate), but may be slightly serrated at the base. Leaf measurements are 13-40 mm long X 1-3mm wide and are usually clumped at the base of the stems with a few smaller leaves towards the top. The flowers are a dull-bright pink, measuring approx. 10mm wide by 20mm long with rounded petal lobes, a raised keel and often show numerous tiny gland dots on the mouth and a yellow and maroon window (concave patch at the flowers centre). The 2 spurs are incurved at the tips orientated vertically with spreading calyx lobes. These are found at the back of the flower, and give rise to the English common name. The stems are square, blue-green and somewhat woody although still touch-soft. This plant flowers Dec-late March

Gardening

This lovely wildflower is also a jewel in the garden as it is relatively hardy and flowers throughout summer.

Ecological service

These flowers are pollinated by specially adapted oil-collecting bees. The bees modified front legs are designed to allow them to scoop oil from the 2 spurs. Several weeks later round seeds form in green capsules, which when brown, split open releasing the ripe seed.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for D. integerrima is listed as Least Concern.

 

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Article and photography by

Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

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Alecta pumila

Alecta pumila

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Monthly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Scrophulariaceae (Snapdragon) family.

Alecta pumila (seona in Sesotho), is dwarf haggard appearing herb of 40-80 mm tall found scattered in grasslands, usually at higher altitudes on cliff faces and proximate to rocky areas. This herbaceous spp. is endemic to the Eastern Mountain Region and grows from the Eastern Cape to Botswana at altitudes of between 1650 – 1980 m A.S.L.

A. pumila is a hemiparasitic herb meaning that it survives through 1 of 2 strategies: reliance on a grass host for nourishment or alternatively through photosynthesis as most plants do. The Latin Alektor (from which Alectra is derived), means rooster or cock, in reference to the yellow-orange colouration of the inflorescence often observed on the birds plumage. Members of the genus turn dark purple or black if bruised. Pumila is Latin-derived for small, puny or tiny, in testament of the dwarfish stature of the plant. The photo below was taken along a section of the Leucosidea trail, and is the only known specimen to have been recorded in the Clarens Nature Reserve.

The leaves of A. pumila measure 15 by 5 mm, are overlapping, covered in fine hair, stalkless and blunt tipped. The fruit occur as purple-green and ridged capsules. The inflorescence is a compacted spike with bracts that appear to have a few teeth. The flowers are dull, sometimes mustard-orange tinged with red veins and come complete with bearded filaments. Flowering occurs from Jan-Feb. Uses:

Photography

If nothing else, this specimen makes for an attractive photography subject and is one of the less-oft observed specimens found growing in the CNR.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for A. pumila is listed as Least concern.

Damien1-100x100Article and photography

by Damien Coulson

Head ranger Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

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Printzia laxa

 

Printzia laxa Printzia laxa 2

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Monthly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a member of the Asteraceae (Daisy) family.

Printzia laxa (Giant Daisy Bush in English, and Sephomolo in Sesotho), is a perennial herb which grows to around 2 m tall. This plant grows in moist scrub below Clarens Formation sandstone cliffs and in close proximity to streams. Growth has been recorded at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.L from the EC through to Mpum.

The name laxa; is derived from the Latin laxus and refers to the drooping growth-form of this species. P. laxa makes use of an unusual flowering timing (but by no means isolated) in that it is one of few plants in the province to flower in winter. The advantages of this system are that there are fewer other plants with which to compete for pollination services, and could theoretically result in increased reproductive success. The flowers of this species are highly variable and may appear pinker in certain regions.

The leaves of P. laxa measure 70X45 mm; are thin with a rough texture and have coarsely toothed margins. The stems are much branched from the base. The inflorescence are moderately sized and borne aloft leafy side-branchlets. The flower-heads measure around 30 mm across with usually 12 ray florets of a white or very light pink hue and when crushed give of a sweet honey-like scent. Flowering takes place from April – October.

Gardening

P. laxa makes for a pleasant garden plant as it grows easily, gives of a pleasing scent and grows readily from seed.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for P. laxa is listed as Least Concern.

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson,

Head ranger Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Delosperma lavisiae

Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Delosperma lavisiae
Photo: D. Coulson
Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Delosperma lavisiae
Photo: D. Coulson

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-monthly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a succulent of the Mesembryanthemaceae (Vygie/Ice Plant) family.

Delosperma lavisiae (Mountain Vygie in English, Bergvygie in Afrikaans and Mabone in Sesotho), is a perennial succulent herb which tends to form mats in higher attitude rocky areas. This succulent is endemic to the Eastern Mountain Region and grows at altitudes of up to 2650 m A.S.L.

D. lavisiae can be differentiated from similar spp. such as D. sutherlandii (covered in an earlier issue) by comparing characteristic features such as the number of flowers/plant (several vs. 1-3 for D. sutherlandii) as well as leaf morphology, size and colouration. The photos below were taken on a top of a mountain ridge in close proximity to a section of the Kloof Mountain Trail during the summer of last year. Most plants die when exposed to too much salt – D. lavisiae thrives in these conditions and it’s believed that the salt-content of the leaves lowers their freezing point to reduce the likelihood of frost forming  in winter and damaging them.

The leaves of D. lavisiae are spreading and measure approx. 5-17 mm long by 3 mm wide. They are borne on prostate stems of around 1 mm in diameter. Characteristic features of these leaves are their morphology which ranges from rounded to roughly 3 sided with a blunt tip. The leaves range from grey-green with a brown-red tip (when water stressed) to deeper green when water is abundant.  The flowers are around 20 mm in diameter with purple-pink petals and flower from Nov – March. Uses:

Gardening

This adaptable evergreen plant is relatively hardy and thrives with little maintenance. It makes for a good groundcover and is a much-valued garden succulent.

Survival

This little guy is the go-to of those who find themselves without water in the heat of summer and may even save one’s life. Ironically it is also said to have diuretic properties and has been used to treat dysentery, liver and kidney diseases and pneumonia. Been stung by a bee or caught too much sun? When the leaves are broken and the salty liquid applied to the skin it can relieve itchiness, swelling and pain from stings as well as discomfort from sunburn.

Food & drink

The leaves of this plant are said to make a spinach-like vegetable-stew and the fermented leaves chewed by the Sesotho. Sodium carbonate found in the ash of the plant was even used to make soda in the early 1900’s on the Canary Islands.

Photography

The brilliant pink flowers make for an attractive photography subject.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for D. lavisiae is listed as Least Concern.

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson

Head ranger:  Clarens Village Nature Reserve

 

 

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Schizoglossum atropurpureum subsp. atropurpureum

Clarens Village Nature Reserve Schizoglossum atropurpureum Clarens Village Nature Reserve Schizoglossum atropurpureum

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-monthly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a less-oft observed specimen  of the Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed) family.

Schizoglossum atropurpureum subsp. atropurpureum (Red-Milkwort in English, Melkwortel in Afrikaans and sehoete-moru in Sesotho) –what a mouthful, is a moderately sized erect geophytic herb of 600 – 1300 mm. It occurs in grasslands where there is a low fire incidence, but more often closer to streams where scrub and boulders are found. This herbaceous plant has been recorded at altitudes of 2040 m A.S.L. from the E. Cape through to Mpum.

This specimen was photographed along the Mallen Walk, but be quick if you want to take a happy-snap of the little bugger – the flowers are only in bloom for around a month and a half – 2 months. The stems of the genus spring-up annually from a small carrot-like tuber, which if pierced may exude a milky latex.

The flowers of S. atropurpuream subsp. atropurpureum, are borne aloft a single (occasionally 2) unbranched stems. The leaves are cross-opposite with slightly undulating margins and measure 30-50 x 8-20 mm. The inflorescence stems may sometimes be branched with 8-15 flowers per stem. The lobes are a deep maroon but may even appear almost black. There are 5 tepals per flower which are reminiscent of Christmas bells but are slightly wider than they are long (6×4 mm).  Looking closely one may notice an oblique apical notch, and taking a whiff of the flower may yield a caramel-like scent.  Flowering Jan-Mar. Uses:

Food

The root may be eaten raw and is reportedly sweet-tasting.

Traditional Uses

The roots may be bundled together and smoked to preserve them. They can then be used as a form of charm to protect against lightening.

Conservation Status

This species has been recorded as of Least Concern by SANBI.
Damien Coulson head ranger Clarens Village Nature ReserveArticle, photography and research by Damien Coulson

with input from Wim Wybenga

Disa versicolor

Disa versicolor Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-monthly Plant of Interest”. This time we’ve decided to focus on a specimen from the Orchidaceae (Orchid) family.

Disa versicolor (Apple-blossum Orchard in English), is a robust orchid of between 300 & 600 mm tall usually found in damp grassland at altitudes up to 2400 m A.S.L. It’s widespread throughout S.A. and also occurs in Mozambique and Angola.

It is interesting to note that unlike most plants which grow from seed alone, D. versicolor also spreads via an underground rootstock or sucker-system. The exact origin of the word Disa is unknown; however some have postulated that it stems from dis meaning “double” which refers to the 2 large “wings” on the flower style. Alternatively Disa may mean “rich” or “plush”, referring to the spectacular display of the original specimen recorded for the genus. The direction in which the spurs point is a useful means of spp. identification. Versicolor means “variably coloured” referring to the changing of colour of the florets through the flowering season. This specimen was photographed on the Scilla Walk.

Another interesting feature of D. versicolor is that the shoot on which most of the leaves occur is separate from the flower bearing stem. The leaves are elongate and basal measuring approx. 200 by 20mm and tend to fold over backwards, tapering to an acute point. Few leaves grow on the flowering stem, and these are usually thin and overlapping thereby providing a protective sheath for the flowering stem. The inflorescence is very dense, with the lower portion of the bracts often dry. The flowers are small pinkish-white and usually face downwards. The typical flower shape is derived from one sepal forming a hood at the top and the other two resembling  spreading wings below. The spurs (5 – 7 mm) are hooked upwards and downwards and may be faintly vanilla scented in the evenings. Flowering Jan-Feb. Uses:

Traditional uses

Used as a protective charm although the particular form of protection is unknown.

Ecology

This spp., like many others of the Disa Genus, is pollinated by bees (mostly of the Amegilla species – pictured below). The short nectar producing spurs have been likened to the mouthparts of the bees which pollinate this plant. For healthy ecosystems, including agro & natural ecosystems both diversity and abundance in the bee fauna is important, both for biodiversity and production purposes.

Amegilla species Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Conservation Status

This species has been recorded as of Least Concern by SANBI.

Damien1-100x100Article and photographs by Damien Coulson,

with input from Wim Wybenga

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Zalusianskya microsiphon (Short-tubed Drumsticks)

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Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-monthly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a less oft’ observed member of the endemic Scrophulariaceae (Figwort) family. Zalusianskya microsiphon (Short-tubed Drumsticks in English, Kortbuis-Zaluzianskya in Afrikaans and malithungthung in Sesotho), is a perennial herb which grows up to 400 mm tall. It grows in the altitude band 1525-2745 m A.S.L., in rocky grassland areas. Z. microsiphon grows from the EC – Mpum. The Latin Microsiphon  translates to “small tube”, referring most likely to the very narrow stalked pollen tube of the flowers. This particular solitary specimen was photographed this week on a section of the Porcupine Trail prone to partial shade in the autumn season in which it grows. Interestingly enough, several references have stated that the flowers only open in full sun. The leaves of Z. microsiphon are arranged in a basal rosette, are tufted and may appear blue-green to grass green. Basal leaves measurements are 35-90 mm by 8-20 mm; stem leave measurements are 20-65 mm by 4-8 mm (stem leaves overlap with entire to faintly toothed margins with fine hairs present on the margins and midrib). Up to 3 stems may be visible however a solitary stem is also common for this species. The inflorescence can be dense, with flowers along the length of the stem but with a greater density towards the stem tip. Petals are held aloft a corolla of variable length – depending on where the plant grows. One will always see 2 lobes up, 2 to the sides and one facing down (reminiscent of an old lady in a night-gown with her arms open for a hug). The lobes themselves are deeply notched and white inside and reddish-pink outside.   Flowering Late Dec-April.

Uses:

Ecological Importance

According to some sources, the evening fragrance implies that the species in question are pollinated by moths, whereas day-pollinated species often have little or no obvious scent. Research is in progress on the ecological relationships between some members of the genus and specially adapted long-tongued pollinators (particularly night flying hawk moths). Day-flying hawk moths also seem to be significant pollinators of many species of Zaluzianskya.

Gardening

Until recently the plant had not been cultivated; however it has now begun to be recognised for its ornamental value in gardens.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for Z. microsiphon is listed as of Least Concern.

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photopgrahps by Damien Couls0n

with input from Wim Wybenga

Protea roupelliae

 

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Weekly Plant of Interest Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. Well it’s been some time since we’ve included a woody plant in our line-up of must-see-plants, thus this week’s plant hales from the Proteacea (Protea) family. Protea roupelliae (Silver Protea in English, Silversuikerbos in Afrikaans and seqalaba in Sesotho), is a small tree that grows to between 3 & 7 m tall. This plant is found on grass slopes in close proximity to rocky outcrops, usually at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.L. P. roupelliae is endemic to S.A. One also gets the feel that they are in a totally different part of the country when walking among the Protea’s. The photos below were not in fact taken in the Clarens Nature Reserve but on private farmland within 10 km (or 5 minutes’ drive) of Clarens.     The leaves of P. roupelliae are a bluish green measuring 60-160 mm X 15-45 mm and held in terminal rosette stems. Young leaves are covered in silvery hairs, while older leaves are hairless. The bark is thick and black, with narrow furrows observed on older bark. Flower-heads are 80-120 mm in diameter with brown outer bracts. Inner bracts are spoon shaped, deep pink and edged with silvery hairs.  As the flower-heads age they grade to pale pink-red then brown-purple/black. Flowering Feb-Apr. Uses:

Food

The nectar is probed from the flower-heads by sunbirds, in particular the spectacular malachite sunbird and Gurney’s sugarbird. Also used for fuel during cooking.

Ecology

A favourite nesting spot for the above-mentioned nectar-sucking birds as well as a few small mammals. Proteas’ are a Fynbos species of plant which rely on fire for their seeds to germinate. A fire interval of 10 -15 years is generally favourable for the growth of this species, any shorter and seed banks will not be able to accumulate sufficiently for the maintenance of the spp., any longer and the plants become senescent and no further seed are produced. The presence of this spp. in grassland could therefore act as an indicator of veld which is in a relatively healthy state.

Gardening

This plant can be grown from seed – and for those who enjoy birding and photography – a few of these in your garden will bring birds of stunning plumage to your doorstep. P. roupelliae is relatively frost tolerant and hardy. It seems to proliferate in wind-prone areas on shallow, slightly acidic soils.

Traditional Uses

The bark has been used in traditional medicines.

Conservation Status

This species has been recorded as of least concern by SANBI.

Eriospermum ornithogaloides

Eriospermum ornithogoloides

Weekly Plant of Interest

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’re focusing this week on a small plant of the from the Eriospermaceae family.

Eriospermum ornithogaloides (khonggoana-tsingoana in Sesotho), is a small plant that grows to between 100 & 250 mm in height at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.L. This unusually shaped plant is found growing in colonies on the edges of rock sheet and sparsely grassed rocky areas – often nearby or among succulent plants. Occurs from  the EC to FS.

E. ornithogaloides photographed here were observed growing just above the Scilla Walk – apparently unharmed by errant goats. It’s not often that one sees a plant growing with no stem and just a single above-ground leaf…Interesting.

 

 

E. ornithogaloides possesses a single solitary leaf which lies closely against the ground and measures approx. 35 X 25 mm. The leaf is roughly heart-shaped with red margins, sometimes fringed by hairs. The inflorescence is not often observed as it occurs separately from the leaves – on the same below ground plant. The flowers are 10 mm in diameter, with spreading outer tepals and white erect inner petals with a blue-green midvein. Flowering Oct – Dec. Uses:

Traditional Uses

Has been known to treat earache and even infertility in women of the Sesotho culture.

Conservation Status

This species has been recorded as of least concern by SANBI.

Delosperma sutherlandii

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Damien1-100x100Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we’re focusing on a striking member of the Mesembryanthemaceae (Vygie/Ice Plant) family.

Delosperma sutherlandii (Sutherland Hardy Ice-plant in English), is a succulent herb growing to 120 mm high. The Latin Delos translates to “conspicuous”, whilst sperma translates to “seed”, referring to the large capsule-shaped seeds produced by the plant. In grasslands between KZN and Mpum it grows at altitudes of up to 2100 m A.S.L.

The seeds of D. sutherlandii require only a sufficient quantity of rainfall to open. One can “trick” the dry capsule into opening by sucking on it for a short while or dripping several water droplets on the capsule. The capsule opens before your eyes but will soon close as it quickly dries. Interesting to know that the vibrant looking flowers are among the largest of any Ice-plant. The photo below was taken on a section of the Kloof Mountain Trail during the spring of last year.

The leaves of D. sutherlandii are opposite, flat and somewhat joined near the base. The measurements are 50-80 mm long by 15-20 mm wide. The leaves tend to taper towards the end and are keeled on the ventral surface. The margins are covered in fine short hairs and the water-holding cells are clearly visible, giving the leaves a leathery appearance. One generally observes 1-3 flowers of 35-60 mm diameter in terminal clusters at the ends of stalks of length 50-100 mm. The colour of the flowers is a purple/pink colour fading to yellow white with white stamens. Flowering Late Oct-Dec. Uses:

Gardening

Heat, drought and salt tolerant, this adaptable evergreen plant thrives with little maintenance. It may be used as a groundcover or added to rock gardens.

Photography

The brilliant pink flowers complete with yellow “eye” make for an attractive photography subject.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for D. sutherlandii is listed as Least Concern.

Leonotis leonurus

Leonotus 2 Leonotus 1 Leonotus 3

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at an attractive specimen of the Mint Family or Lamiaceae.

Leonotis leonurus (Wild dagga in English, Wildedagga in Afrikaans and lebake in Sesotho), is a shrub that typically grows to 2 – 3 m in height. Leonotis is derived from the Greek words Leon –“lion” and Otis -“ear”. Leonurus means “lion coloured” referring to the mane-like appearance and also colouring of the inflorescence. It is widespread throughout S.A – from the W Cape – Mpum., and tends to grow in grassland amongst rocky outcrops up to 2000 m A.S.L..

The specimen photographed was observed on the Kloof Mountain Trail. It is one of few plants adapted to growing on very shallow and nutrient poor lithic soils. The stem of L. leonurus is 4 sided, woody and velvety from the base. The leaves are long and narrow (approx. 60- 70 mm by 20 -30 mm), rough above and velvety below with serrated edges. Inflorescence is whorled in compact clusters (up to 3) on the stem. The flowers are tubular (approx. 70 mm long) and a bright-burnt orange colour. Flowering take place in autumn – End Feb/early March – Sep. Uses:

Cultural uses

Used in traditional medicine to treat fevers, headaches, coughs, dysentery and many other conditions (see uncle Google for more – he knows everything.). It is also used as a remedy for snake bite and as a charm to keep snakes away.

Gardening

Makes for an attractive garden plant which is well suited to the Eastern Free State as it is relatively hardy and frost resistant. It also attracts a variety of birds and insects as a result of the copious quantities of nectar it produces. L. leonurus can be propagated from both seed and cuttings.

Food

The nectar is sucked by children as a type of natural “sweet”.

Ecology

The flowers are pollinated by insects and birds of various species, which in return are privy to the flowers nectar. Insects and birds often pollinate several plant species and their presence ensures the continued existence of these species, thus helping to maintain the ecological integrity of an area and preserving local biodiversity.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for L. leonurus has been recorded as of Least Concern.

Damien1-100x100Article and photographs by Damien Coulson

Head ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Bidens formosa

 

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Damien1-100x100Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. Well it’s that time of the year again – and so how could we not include this very popular specimen of the Asteraceae family!?

Bidens formosa (Cosmos in English, Kosmos in Afrikaans and moqhoboqhobo in Sesotho), is a bushy herbaceous species that grows up to 2.5 tall. The Latin word (bi)dens means 2 – toothed, referring to the hook-like awns on the fruit, whilst formosa means beautiful. Occurs in the Eastern Cape – Gauteng in S.A. and is a native of C America and the W Indies – also occurs in several African countries.

B. formasa may be observed in stands so large that they often resemble huge and rather dazzling multi-coloured mats on road verges, fields or even across entire landscapes. The Cosmos flowers depicted here were actually photographed on a back-road in Fouriesburg, however they can be observed throughout Clarens and surrounds.

B. formosa leaves are opposite, measure approx. 100 mm X 50 mm, are deeply lobed, very fine in appearance and soft to the touch. The flowerheads are medium – large, measuring around 90 mm in diameter; occur solitary on mostly long bare stalks and whose ray florets are usually light pink, deep pink or white. The disk florets are sunflower yellow. Flowering Late Feb – May. Uses:

Photography

Makes for an attractive and in fact rather spectacular focal point for amateur and pro-photographer alike.

Food

This particular species of the Bidens (formerly Cosmos) genus was originally introduced from the U.S.A. in the late 1890’s as a fodder source for livestock.

Ecology

Cosmos is in fact not indigenous to S.A., but is rather a naturalised alien weedy species proliferating in disturbed landscapes. B. formosa is so widely distributed and occurs in such densities that elimination is practically impossible. Each plant produces hundreds of highly viable seed which are distributed with the greatest of ease. One may surmise that the presence of B. formosa could in time lead to a loss of biodiversity, however their ephemeral existence in the autumn landscape has thus far (to my knowledge) not led to any significant ecological degradation.

Gardening

The attractiveness of its flowers make it one of those “must-haves” for avid botanists and keen gardeners. Easy to grow strains have been developed for this purpose. Check out https://www.mweb.co.za/gardening/PlantDetailsView.aspx?pn=Cosmos%20bipinnatus%20(=Bidens%20formosa)&type=BotanicalNames for more info.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for B. formosa has Not Been Evaluated as Naturalized exotics are not assessed for the National Red List.

Oxalis smithiana

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Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at an attractive specimen of the Sorrel family or Oxalidaceae.

Oxalis smithiana (Narrow-leaved Sorrel in English, Klawersuring in Afrikaans and bolila in Sesotho), is a herb that typically grows to 250 mm in height. Oxalis is derived from the Latin words oxys, meaning acid or sour and als meaning salt, and likely refers to the taste of the flower if eaten. This wildflower can become a prominent feature in damp grassland and even among moss-covered rocks in forested areas. The plant has been recorded at altitudes of up to 2560 m A.S.L., and is relatively widespread from the W.C. through to Mpumalanga.

This particular specimen was found growing on a section of the Mallen Walk trail. The fusion of pink, white and yellow on the flower makes it an attractive subject for photography.

The 3 leaflets of O. smithiana are deeply divided with narrow lobes and measure approx. 20 mm by 3 mm, all held in a basal rosette. As is typical for the family, the flowers possess 5 petals, however unlike many wildflowers these flowers occur solitary rather than clumped. The petals are a bright pink grading to white in the calyx (throat) with a short yellow stamen and slender stalk of around 120 mm. Flowering in Nov – end Jan.

Uses:

Cultural uses

Used in traditional medicines as a remedy for tapeworm.

Gardening

Makes for an attractive garden plant or may be otherwise transplanted as a pot-plant.

Food

The leaves and bulbs of the plant are eaten by the children of the Sesotho whilst the entire plant is consumed by cattle.

Ecology

The flowers are pollinated by butterflies of various species, which in return are privy to the flowers nectar.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for O. smithiana has been recorded as of Least Concern.

Scabiosa columbaria

Scabiosa 1 Scabiosa 2 Scabiosa 3

 

DamienGreetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a not-so-familiar wild flower that is currently in full bloom…and has something to do with all the Meadow White butterflies Pontia helice helice we’ve been seeing lately.

Scabiosa columbaria (the Wild Scabious in English; Bitterbos in Afrikaans and tlhako-ea-pitsi in Sesotho), is a perennial that obtains an average height of 750 mm. It is usually found growing in grasslands and on basalt rock at altitudes of up to 3200 m A.S.L. This interesting wild flower is widespread all the way from the Western Cape through to Europe and Asia where it is believed to have originated from.

The leaves are arranged in a rosette formation arising from the base and are 40 – 180 long X 40 mm wide. The margins may be entire or deeply lobed. The flower heads are white – off-white/cream, 10 – 25 mm in diameter on a solid yet branched stem of 120 – 300 mm long. The flowers are actually white-pink, when viewed more closely and hermaphroditic. The calyx is easily recognisable with 5 purple-red lobes. S. columbaria flowers from end Oct – early Feb. After flowering, the seeds develop in interesting rounded bristle-heads, which gradually fall apart as the seeds ripen and are ready to be redistributed by the wind.

While photographing the small white flowers of S. columbaria, the author observed several small invertebrates, from beetles to wasps to bees to butterflies perching on the inflorescence. In fact several thousand of the Meadow White butterfly were observed in one location obtaining nectar exclusively from this flower despite many other flower spp. being present in relative abundance in the CNR. It appears that the Meadow White butterfly may have been selecting flowers preferentially based on the colour white. Uses include:

Grazing

A preferred snack of our favourite trail-roaming domestic animals; the cow, the sheep and the goat.

Traditional medicine

The plant is dried and used in traditional medicines.

Gardening

Makes for an attractive garden ornamental.

Conservation

It appears that the existence of the Meadow White butterfly and S.columbaria are inextricably linked. The Meadow White appears to provide an important pollination service to the flower and in return receives nectar which provides it with the energy needed for flight and reproduction. Without S. columbaria it seems that the annual migration of the Meadow White may not be possible.

Conservation Status

According to SANBI, S. columbaria is classified as of Least Concern.

Disa chrysostachya

Disa chrysostachya - 1 Disa chrysostachya - 2

DamienGreetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a member of the Orchid family recently spotted in relatively low abundance at just 2 localities in the CNR.

Disa chrysostachya (the Torch Orchid in English; and mametsana in Sesotho), is a perennial that rises to between 250 & 650 mm tall. It usually occurs in damp grasslands, marshy areas or below cliff seep lines at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.L., and occurs from the Eastern Cape to Limpopo.

 D. chrysostachya has on average 3 – 5 densely overlapped leaves arising from the base of a thick fleshy stem. The inflorescence is tall and cylindrical and slender. The flowers are small, bright orange/yellow with a reddish tinge. A spur is present on each flower and hangs straight down. The flowers are 5 – 11 mm long, flowering from late December to mid Jan. This plant hasn’t been observed growing in great abundance, which would rather obviously make any sightings all the more dear. It’s growth form is also rather unusual and makes for an interesting observation.

Uses:

Ecology:

The flowers are often pollinated by sunbirds and a multitude of insects and offer a nectar rich meal in return for the pollination service provided by these animals.

Conservation Status

According to SANBI, D.chrysostachya is classified as of Least Concern.

 

Gladiolus dalenii

Gladiolus dalenii 1 Gladiolus dalenii 2 Gladiolus dalenii 3

 

 

DamienGreetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a rather useful and aesthetically pleasing wild-flower recently spotted along isolated segments of the Spruit trail & Mallen Walk.

Gladiolus dalenii (African Gladiolus in English; Papegaai-gladiolus and khahla-e-kholo in Sesotho), is an indigenous species that rises to between 1m and 1.5 m tall. The Genus name Gladiolus (of which 14 species occur in the DMR) can be translated as “small sword” and refers to the appearance of its leaves. This easily-identifiable plant is found growing in grasslands and sometimes among scrub at altitudes of up to 2500 m A.S.L., and occurs from the Eastern Cape to Central Africa and even Western Arabia.

The leaves of G. dalenii are arranged in a loose fan formation, erect, approx. 20 mm wide, up to 320 mm long and grey-green in colour. The inflorescence may have support up to 7 flowers born on red-brown to green bracts. The flowers appear hooded and the colour is variable (although a red-fleshy orange colour is common). The flowers are considered “large” at 60 mm long by 30-40 mm wide, flowering from late Dec to early Feb. Uses:

Ecology:

The flowers are often visited by sunbirds (and insects)who are attracted to the flowers’ copious nectar. The sunbirds in turn provide an important pollination service to the plant.

Food

The corms of this plant are harvested and eaten by the Sesotho. The dug-up corms (known by locals as itembu or “fruits of the Earth”) are protein rich and provide a valuable source of energy to those who eat of them. The flowers are also said to be edible (Raw or cooked. The anthers are removed and the flowers are added to salads or used as a boiled vegetable) and yield relatively large quantities of nectar. A recent study however has shown the corms and leaves to be mildly cytotoxic in certain instances.

Traditional uses

Used in traditional medicines, placed in the medicine horn of traditional healers and also used as a lucky charm. It is rumoured to treat diarrhoea, chest ailments “caused by sorcery” and even sterility in women.

Gardening

Cultivars of this plant are grown in gardens throughout S.A. and in many overseas countries. It a popular garden plant and is easily cut and transplanted.  Some people have noted that the seeds are easily dispersed and may require careful tending to avoid garden contamination.

Other human use

The corms have been used as spinning tops by the Sesotho in children’s games.

Conservation Status

According to SANBI, G. dalenii is classified as of Least Concern.

 

Ranunculus multifidis

Rananculus multifidus 1 Rananculus multifidus 2 Rananculus multifidus 3

 

DamienGreetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a wild flower that seems unremarkable, yet as always when dealing with nature – there’s always something of interest to be discovered.

Ranunculus multifidus (Common Buttercup in English, Botterblom in Afrikaans and hlapi in Sesotho), is an erect perennial herb that grows to around 150 – 300 mm in height, is commonly found in damp ground near streams or wetland areas at altitudes of up to 2900 m A.S.L., and is widespread throughout S.A. It should be noted that a dwarf variety (at just 70 mm) of these species can be found at the upper reach of its eco-band/altitude.

R. multifidus may or may not have hairy leaves. One could deduce that the hairy leaves function as to trap moisture thereby retarding desiccation. If so, it is more likely that one would observe the hairy variety at higher altitudes where moisture is harder to come by. The leaves are a bright green with 2 – 3 pairs of deeply divided leaflets with heavily toothed margins. The inflorescence is branched and stems are hollow. Solitary flowers may be observed on small plants. The flowers are 15 – 25 mm in diameter and the 5 petals are a glossy mustard/rich butter-yellow colour. Flowers October – early Feb.

The Latin word multifidus means “divided or segmented” and likely refers to the appearance of the petals. The rangers have observed this plant at only 1 locality in the C.N.R., which despite its common name makes it not so common in the area. It is possible that the low density of this plant may be correlated with disturbed veld as a result of overgrazing or possibly overharvesting by traditional healers. Whatever the case one must exercise care in determining the cause of decline of a species. The pictures above were taken on a section of the Leucosidea Trail in close proximity to the Ridge Estate. Uses:

Gardening

The plant is simple yet attractive, and makes for an especially good garden plant in damp areas.

Traditional Uses

Used in traditional medicines to treat a variety of ailments including cures for headaches, urinary problems, ulcers, coughs, etc. The aqueous extract of R. multifidus shows high antimicrobial activity although the right concentration of the plant must be used in conjunction with several other medicinal plants or adverse effects may arise.

Conservation Status

According to SANBI, R. multifidus is classified as of Least Concern.

Habenaria falcicornis

Habanaria 3 Habenaria 1 Habenaria 2

 

 

DamienGreetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Bi-weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a member of the orchid family, Orchidaceae, from the widely distributed Habenaria genus – sometimes referred to as “bog orchids”.

Habenaria falcicornis is one of only a small group of wild-flowers that have featured in the bi-weekly Plant of Interest columns without an English common name. One could only surmise that the very reason for this upset is that the plant is really not all that common –at least not to the casual observer, and for that it earns its place as one of our “interesting” plants. It does however have a Sesotho common name: uklamkleshe. This not-so commonly observed wild-flower may be found in marshy or waterlogged grassland areas at altitudes of up to 2900 m. A.S.L., and its range extends from the Western Cape all the way through to Zimbabwe.

The Latin word falcicornis means “sickle shaped”, whilst Habenaria can be broken down into Habena meaning “strap/belt” and aria meaning “possessing”. Together these words refer to the strap like/long spur characteristic for each flower of the genus.

H. falcicornis is relatively hardy, growing to between 220 and 800 mm tall – likely as a result of the environmental conditions prevalent in the area in which it grows. It has a stout light-green leafy stem with long lanceolate shaped leaves of 4 – 20 cm in length. The inflorescence is rather loosely arranged on short stalks. The flowers are white – light green with yellow stamens. The spur is longer than the flower at 20-40 mm which tells it apart from its close relative H. dives, who’s spur measures a mere 8-15 mm. The former species flowers from Jan – March.

Uses:

Gardening

This plant would make an attractive garden ornamental and be well suited to gardens that border on marshy or seasonally waterlogged areas in the grassveld regions of S.A.

Conservation Status

According to SANBI, H. falcicornis is classified as of Least Concern.

 

 

Crocosmia paniculata

 

Crocosmia 3 Crocosmia 1 Crocosmia

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “bi-Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at an attractive specimen of the Iridaceae family.

Crocosmia paniculata (Falling Stars in English, Vallende Stetetjies in Afrikaans and khahla-ea-Bokone in Sesotho), is an evergreen herbaceous species that typically grows to between 1 – 1.8 m, usually in clumps rather than solitary. Krocos – saffron and osme – smell, refers to the saffron-like aroma of the dried flowers once placed in warm water. This vivacious wildflower bares an affinity for moist grassland areas and may be observed in close proximity to rivers, streams and forest margins. The plant has been recorded at altitudes of up to 1500 m A.S.L.

This particular specimen was found growing on a section of the Spruit hiking trail just above Lake Clarens adjacent to one of the recently installed wooden bridges (also in close proximity to an old willow covered in a form of bracket fungi/mushroom – giving the area a sort of magical ambiance and a slightly disconnected sense from the rest of reality).

The leaves of C. paniculata (not Cussonia paniculata as covered in an earlier PoI), are crimped and measure approx. 750 mm by 60 mm. The inflorescence is dense with ZigZaging (alternative common name) branchlets. These beautiful flowers are curved, tubular orange/yellow- scarlet red and around 75 mm long with 3 short (30 mm) tepals and sepals and 3 yellow anthers. Flowering Dec – end Feb. Uses:

Cultural uses

Used as a traditional medicine in the treatment of dysentery and infertility.

Gardening

Makes for an attractive and in fact rather spectacular garden plant when planted in the front garden, so long as sufficient moisture and semi-shade is provided. Many plants of this genus have been domesticated and hybridised for this very purpose. Has been known to become invasive in grasslands; however this has not been observed to be the case anywhere within the C.V.C.

Conservation Status

The SANBI conservation status for C. paniculata has been recorded as of Least Concern.

 

Article and photographs by Damien Coulson (Head Ranger: Clarens Village Nature Reserve)

Aloe maculata (Common soap aloe, Bontalwyne)

 

 

Aloe maculata 1 Aloe maculata 2 Aloe maculata 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we are looking at a succulent from a well known genus with a few cool medicinal uses.

Aloe maculata or the Common Soap Aloe (known as Bontalwyne in Afrikaans or lekhala in Sisotho) is a small aloe of up to 1 m in height. A. maculata is commonly found growing on north-facing rocky slopes in grasslands & open savannah, at altitudes of up to 2000 m A.S.L. This succulent is widespread throughout S.A. and has even been observed along the coast in the Western Cape’s Garden Route (Pers. Obs.). Its wide distribution range indicates that it can tolerate a variety of soil types and moisture regimes.

The leaves are green-red (redder when more water stressed), with pale white spots on the leaves surface. The leave tips are dry and the margins are often brown with small hard brown teeth.  The inflorescence is bright orange -pale orange/yellow, flat topped and appears to resemble a mop. The flowers are typically 45 mm in length and can be seen from June through to September. This plant adapted along with sugarbirds which have long slender beaks with which to access the nectar at the base of each flower. It is an ecologically important plant as it attracts sugarbirds to the area, and its presence in a landscape therefore has good implications for ornithologists. Uses for A. maculata include:

Medicinal

  • Used to treat colds
  • Soothes burn wounds, scratches, stings and insect bites
  • Natural mild “sun-block” , soap & facial rub to smooth skin

Cultural

  • Believed to protect against lightning as a lucky charm

Horticultural

Popular as a garden ornamental (hybridizes readily with a number of other aloes, both in the wild and in gardens).Weekly Plant of Interest

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. This week we are looking at a succulent from a well known genus with a few cool medicinal uses.

Aloe maculata or the Common Soap Aloe (known as Bontalwyne in Afrikaans or lekhala in Sisotho) is a small aloe of up to 1 m in height. A. maculata is commonly found growing on north-facing rocky slopes in grasslands & open savannah, at altitudes of up to 2000 m A.S.L. This succulent is widespread throughout S.A. and has even been observed along the coast in the Western Cape’s Garden Route (Pers. Obs.). Its wide distribution range indicates that it can tolerate a variety of soil types and moisture regimes.

The leaves are green-red (redder when more water stressed), with pale white spots on the leaves surface. The leave tips are dry and the margins are often brown with small hard brown teeth.  The inflorescence is bright orange -pale orange/yellow, flat topped and appears to resemble a mop. The flowers are typically 45 mm in length and can be seen from June through to September. This plant adapted along with sugarbirds which have long slender beaks with which to access the nectar at the base of each flower. It is an ecologically important plant as it attracts sugarbirds to the area, and its presence in a landscape therefore has good implications for ornithologists. Uses for A. maculata include:

Medicinal

  • Used to treat colds
  • Soothes burn wounds, scratches, stings and insect bites
  • Natural mild “sun-block” , soap & facial rub to smooth skin

Cultural

  • Believed to protect against lightning as a lucky charm

Horticultural

Popular as a garden ornamental (hybridizes readily with a number of other aloes, both in the wild and in gardens).

Eucomis autumnalis (Autumn pineapple, herfspynappelblom)

Eucomis autumnalis

 

Eucomis autumnalis : Autumn pineapple

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. Sightings of the often semi-cryptic species are less common – rare, making it a valuable find for keen botanists or avid photographers.

Eucomis autumnalis or Autumn Pineapple Lily (known as herfspynappleblom in Afrikaans or Umbola in Sisotho), is a small  bulbous perennial of up to 60 cm that may be found growing in clumps near damp grassy montane gullies, and on stream banks. The plant has been found growing at altitudes of up to 2800 m A.S.L., and has a widespread distribution from the Eastern Cape to KZN/Mpumalanga.  The word Eucomis hails from the Latin word meaning “beautiful hair” or “topknot” (looking at the images one understands why).

The leaves are usually a dark – grass green colour with some purple mottling at the base and measure 600 X 100 mm on average. The leave margins are often wavy with a purplish – red tinge. The flower tepals are white – green or mauve. When the flowers have been fertilised they gain a green tinge. The stamens bear an unpleasant odour. A characteristic inflorescence is visible above the tepals, with large terminal bracts. The following uses have been recorded for E. autumnalis:

  • Tradition medicines to treat colic
  • Garden ornamental ( natural form or cultivar) which has been honoured with the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Not many sightings of this plant have been reported from within the Clarens Village Nature Reserve and the CVC rangers have only observed E. autumnalis in 2 or 3 localities thus far.

Euphorbia clavaroides (Lions spoor, Melkpol, Fingerpol)

Euphoria clavaroides 2 Euphorvia clavaroides 3 Euphorbia clavoides 1

Euphroba clavaroides  (Lions spoor, Melkpol or Fingerpol) Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to the first of many “Weekly Plant of Interest” snippets.

This week we introduce for the first time Euphorbia clavaroides commonly known as Lions Spoor, Melkpol or Fingerpol – a cryptic succulent species that appears from a distance to resemble the smoothed sandstone rocks that is typical for the eastern Free-State area. This plant is only revealed from afar when it is in flower with many small yet spectacular bright yellow flowers. This plant although small, is important in the ecosystem and to humans due to its many uses. These include:

  • A source of nourishment for local baboon  populations and other animals
  • Dried sap has a historical use as an alternative to chewing gum by children
  • Used in the preparation of bird lime
  • Use in traditional medicines.

It is found only on steep rocky cliffs and rock faces at altitudes of up to 2750 m A.S.L. and has a widespread distribution, occurring from the Eastern Cape right through to the Limpopo Province. The plant was observed for the first time last week by the rangers on the sandstone cliffs above the Scilla Walk hiking Trail in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve.  The unusual growth form of the plant is in part due to its location on cliff faces and is a biological protection mechanism used to prevent excessive amounts of evaporation and protection from the wind and other elements.

Zantedeschia albomaculata

Zantedeschia 1 Zantedeschia 2 Zantedeschia 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a monocotyledonous species of the Araceae family that many of you may already be familiar with and could probably recognise growing in your own garden. Heck, many of you may have probably even planted it there intentionally!

Zantedeschia albomaculata  (the Arrow-leaved Arum in English; Witvlekvarkoor in Afrikaans and mothebe in Sesotho), is a deciduous plant that obtains an average height of 750 mm. It is usually found growing in moist or marshy soils or on moist rocky mountain slopes at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.L. Rather unusual is the fact that the so-called “petal” is actually a modified leaf called a spathe, in botanical terms. Minute male and female flowers are carried on one central column or spadix. 8 endemic species occur in S.A., of which 2 species have been recorded occurring in the Eastern Free State.  The word maculata means “spotted with white” or “white-spotted”.

The author has often observed small creatures stowed away in the relative safety of the spadix. These include but are not limited to the Arum-lily Frog and an assortment of bees, beetles and other such animals. This unusual little plant is widespread throughout S.A. all the way to Central Africa.

The leaves of Z. albomaculata are roughly arrow shaped and usually occur with white spots, although some have been recorded without.  The spathe is usually an off-white – cream or even pale yellow colour, cyclindrical (approx. 170 mm long) and has a relatively narrow mouth when compared to some other spp. of the the Zantedeschia genus. The spadix is 40 mm long and a bright mustard yellow. A deep purple spot may be present on the inside base of the spathe.This pleasant looking plant flowers from  Nov – Dec. The fruit are green and cause the stem to bend towards the ground. Uses include:

Culture

A yellow-green dye is derived of the plant.

Commercial value

Due to high demand, Z. albomaculata has been harvested extensively in certain areas of the country in years gone by.

Kniphofia ritualis

IMG_70889153061455.jpg Knifofia

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a striking monocotyledonous plant of the Asphodelaceae(Red-hot poker) family that is just now coming into flower.

Kniphofia ritualis (leloele-la-Lesotho in Sesotho), a hardy perennial, ranges from around 0.8-1 m tall. The name Kniphofia is derived from the Surname of a Professor of medicine JH Kniphof. Ritualis refers to the fact that the plant is used by Sesotho girls in Lesotho during traditional initiation rituals.

K. ritualis is generally solitary, occurring on wet grassy slopes or in loose damp soil at altitudes of between 1800-3000 m A.S.L., and is endemic to the Eastern Mountain Region from the Free State to KZN.

The leaves of K. ritualis are 400-900 mm long by 12-24 mm wide, soft, v-shaped and the margins are finely toothed. Running ones finger against the grain may result in a papercut that although superficial is painful nonetheless. The inflorescence range from 90-140 mm in length by 40-50 mm wide. The buds are a bright orange and the flowers a bleached yellow – 25-35 mm long. This striking plant flowers from  late December through to March. Uses include:

Culture

Used in traditional rituals during rites of passage for Sesotho women.

Gardening

Makes a striking ornamental garden plant.

Medicinal use

It’s thought that the roots of the plant may possess pain relieving properties.

Other human use

The leaves of this plant have been used to plait rope.

Conservation Status

According to SANBI, K. ritualis is classified as of Least Concern.

Rosa rubiginosa

rosa 1 rosa 2 rosa 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a non-indigenous species of the Rosaceae family that many of you may already be familiar with, but is of great interest nonetheless.

Rosa rubiginosa (known as the Eglantine Rose or Sweet Briar in English, Wilderoos in Afrikaans & mamarosa in sisotho), is a deciduous shrub of around 2-3 m high. The name eglantine is from Middle English eglentyn, from Old French aiglantin or from aiglent meaning ‘sweetbrier’. Sweet refers to the subtle fragrance of the leaves which are reminiscent of the scent of apples, while briar or brier refers to the plant being a thorny bush. R. rubigonosa may be found growing in dense groves in disturbed areas and near rivers or streams, and even on moist south facing slopes in the Eastern Free State. Widespread from the WC – Kwa-Zulu Natal. The leaves of R. rubigonosa are pinnate and vary between 50-90 mm in length with 5-9 oval leaflets with serrated margins and bearing small hairs. The stems are green-reddish brown, approx 1 cm in diameter and have numerous small hooked thorns. The flowers are 18-30 mm in diameter, with 5 petals – white in the centre grading to pink with multiple yellow to burned-orange stamens. The flowers are usually produced in clusters of 2-7. Flowering occurs from Oct – Dec. The fruit – called “hip” (hence the common rose-hip association) are globose to oblong, deep red and 10-20 mm in diameter.

 

Uses include:

Cultivation

R. rubigonosa can be trimmed to make a stunning and effective hedge. Many also value the plant for its pleasant scent.

Food & Drink

The petals can be used to draw an infusion of sweet scented flower-water. The hips can be used to make, jam, jelly, syrup, rose hip soup, beverages, pies, bread, wine, and marmalade. They can also be eaten raw, like a berry, if care is used to avoid the hairs inside the fruit. The young flexible green stems can be peeled-back to reveal a succulent section of the plant reminiscent of cucumber in taste and texture (edible –chew and swallow). The hips and stems have often been used by herdsmen and young boys of the Sesotho culture to appease their appetites, especially during summer.

Medicinal

The hips are a nutrient-rich source of nourishment. 100 grams of the hips may contain up to 710% the r.D.A. of vitamin C. Hips are also rich in vitamin A, (86%), Calcium (16%), B-6 (5%), D, E, iron (6%), magnesium (17%), K, Protein, sugar, fibre, essential fatty-acids and flavonoids . Rose-hip syrups were developed during World War 2 at a time when citrus was difficult to import and soldiers needed a dose of vitamin C to stave of colds and flu. Rose-hips also possess compounds found to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis – apparently due to both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Conservation Status

According to SANBI, R. rubigonosa is a declared category 1 invader species in S.A. and has become naturalised in the EC, WC, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpum, North-West and Limpopo.

Papaver aculeatum

Poppy 1 Poppy 2 Poppy3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a small dicotyledonous plant from the Papaveraceae (poppy) family.

Papaver aculeatum (known as the Orange Poppy in English, Doringpapaver in Afrikaans or sehlohlo in sisotho), is a small herb of around 0.1 – 1.5 tall depending on the surrounding geology. It may be found in rocky places, among scrub, in dry riverbeds and on cliffs, often proliferating in areas of disturbance.  P. aculeatum grows at altitudes of 1600-2950 m A.S.L. and is generally widespread throughout S.A. Spp. Of the Papaver genus are all moderately frost tolerant. This small herb is interesting as it is the only poppy originating from the Southern hemisphere.

 This is not a herb that one would generally hand-pick without gloves as it is covered in stiff yellow spines and fine hairs and could result, if nothing else in itchy hands. The leaves are approx. 120-130 mm in length and are deeply lobed, with the toothed margins appearing almost tattered.  The flower, although simple in design is an attractive light-burnt orange, flowering from October through to March. The fruit are tiny (10-20 mm wide), ribbed and oval.

Human uses

P. aculeatum, distant relative of the Opium Poppy, are used as a pot herb by the sotho culture, having been grown from seed.

The Papaver genus is synonymous with several illicit activities but also has many beneficial medicinal uses. I find that a wealth of information on this interesting genus may be found online.

Coprinellus disseminatus

Fungi 1 Fungi 2 Fungi 3

 

DamienDamien Coulsen

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. Interestingly enough these little fellows don’t actually belong to the Plantae kingdom at all…

Coprinellus disseminatus (known as Fairies’ Bonnets in English or Bondelinkmus in Afrikaans) belong to their own unique kingdom – Fungi. Fungi can be classed into 2 major groups – micro (scopic) or macrofungi. Fungi are either saprobic (deriving nourishment from decaying organisms) or pathogenic (disease causing) and in essence facilitate the cycle of life to death to life again. Fungi have been associated with plants, wild animals and humans since time immemorial.

C. disseminatus may be found growing on woody material, such as fallen logs and the likes and even grows on ground in close proximity to decaying wood. The fruit bodies are clustered in groups and are attached to the substrate by a stipe. Unlike most coprenoid class fungi, these do not dissolve into a black-gooey ink-like mess when mature.These little mushrooms are widelly distributed throughout S.A. and “fruit” (refering to the development of the visible section of the fungus above-ground)  in summer. The cap (up to 20 mm) is roughly oval or hemispherical. The margin or rim is even with a grooved surface that is cream-white and eventually fading to grey-brown with a brownish central spot. The stipe or fungal stem, is both central and slender and always short. It is also cylindrical, white, hollow, ringless and fragile. The lamellae (underside of the cap) is white and fades to either grey or black with time. The flesh of the cap is very thin and almost odourless.

Human uses

C. disseminatus are actually edible, however they shrink so much during cooking that unless you have access to a large grove of them, they are virtually useless for that purpose.

Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus

Dianthus 1 Dianthus 2

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest” where we’ll be looking at a member of the carnation family.
Dianthus basuticus subsp. basuticus (known as the Lesotho Dianthus, Lesotho Carnation or Drakensberg Carnation in English, Lesothose grootblom-wilde angelier in Afrikaans or hlokoa-la-tsela in Sisotho), is a dicotyledonous herb which often forms small mats on rocky grass slopes, crevices of rock sheets and on cliffs. “Dios” refers to divine (scent) whilst “anthos” refers to the flower, most likely referring to the heavenly scent of some species in the genus. What makes it interesting is that there are only 4 species of Dianthus growing in the entire Eastern Free State. D. basuticus subsp. basuticus was photographed on the Kloof Mountain Trail (Distr. Eastern Mountain Region – Mpumalanga) which would make sightings of this species rare unless you are eager for a bit of a climb. This little herb grows at altitudes of between 1400 and 3050 m A.S.L.

 

The leaflets are basal (arising from the base of the plant) and resemble a dense tuft of grass. From a biological perspective this is interesting as it ensures that the plant remains well concealed for the part of the year when its not in flower. The leafes measure approximately 100 mm long by 15 mm in diameter.The flowers are always solitary on their flowering stems (110 – 450 mm long) but may occur in their myriads in one specific location. The flower is relatively small (30 mm diameter) and shades from white to pale to bright pink. What makes it attractive is the toothed or even long fringed margins which gives it a somehow almost feminine or elegant appearance. Flowering occurs from late November – March.

Human uses:
Traditionally used in the sisotho culture as a love charm (ahem single ladies and gentlemen). Also used in other traditional medicine’s and magic.

Live-stock
D. basuticus subsp. basuticus has reportedly been used to increase the fertility rate of bulls.

Conservation Status:
Although no status was found it is most likely classified as of Least Concern (LC).

Searsia divaricata – Fire thorn Karee, Common Currant-rhus

 

Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Searsia divaricata Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Searsia divaricata Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Searsia divaricata

 

Searsia divaricata (known as the Rusty-leaved Currant or Mountain Kuni-bush in English, Berg-koeniebos in Afrikaans or kolitsana in Sisotho), is a shrub with multiple stems that grows up to 3 m tall.  The word divaricata is translated as spreading in English and refers to the spread of its branches. This shrub grows among rocky outcrops and cliff bases. This currant reaches the highest altitude of any currant at up to 2750 m A.S.L and occurs from the Eastern Cape through to Gauteng.

The leaflets are somewhat leathery, a dark olive green above, with grey-green to redish-brown hairs below. The margins are slightly rolled under and the leaf apex varies from flat to pointed.  Leaf sisez vary from 28 mm long by 13 mm wide to 51 mm long by 28 mm wide in adults.  The flowers are often red-brown and grow in small sprays (up to 30 mm long) on the leaf axis in January. . The midrib and the secondary veins are conspicuous and raised below. The fruit are very small (3 – 5 mm) and are reddish-brown, round and glossy when mature. Expect to find them from October – January.

Human uses

Traditionally the heartwood has been used for making “knopkierries” and has its uses in the sisotho culture as one of several plants that is believed to induce rain during traditional rain-making ceremonies.

Medicinal

The leaves are dried and crushed and then smoked as a means of alleviating symptoms of coughs and colds.

Conservation Status:

Classified as of Least Concern (LC) according to CITES database.

Geranium robustum

Geranium 1 Geranium 2 Geranium 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a plant from the Geraniaceae family that has just recently come into full bloom.

Geranium robustum (known as Cranesbill in English), is a medium sized shrub of up to 1 m tall. The Greek word Geranos is translated as “crane” in English, referring to the shape of the seed, which resembles a crane`s bill. This plant grows on moist shrubby mountain slopes and along stream at 1600-2590 m A.S.L., and grows from the Eastern Cape through to Mpumalanga.

 The leaves of G. robustum are around 50 mm in diameter and usually 5 lobed right down to the base. Each lobe is sub devided several times with venation of a peculiar appearance on the upper basal surface. The leaves have a silky texture and a silvery hairy upper surface whilst they are yet more silvery below. The leave stalks can be up to 100 mm long. The flowers’ elegance lies contrary-wise  in their simlicity as they consist of 5 light purple petals with purple venation which draws focus to the off-white centre colouration. Flowers are approximately 25 mm in diam. Flowering occurs from November  – March.

Uses:

Gardening

G. robustum makes a lovely natural looking cover and the trailing stems look very effective growing through shrubs, large perennials and over or even between garden fencing. Geraniums generally take some shade, particularly in the afternoon and are one of the most sun tolerant, only needing protection in the hottest of summers. G. robustum is one of the few Geraniums that can be propagated by cutting and rooting a terminal or lateral shoot from the parent plant in autumn. May spread relatively easily if not kept in check.

Conservation

Forms a beautiful matt-like ground cover and could therefore be used with the duel-function of stabilisation of eroding stream banks as well as increasing the aesthetic appeal of mentioned banks.

Conservation Status:

Although no definitive status could be sourced, this plant is capable of growing in harsh conditions amongst other shrubs, and is therefore likely to be of least concern.

Helichrysum callicomum

Helichrysum 1 Helichrysum 2

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a relatively conspicuous plant that many of you would have seen if you’ve recently found yourself walking our trails.

Helichrysum callicomum (known as motoantoanyane in sisotho – English common name not available), is a medium sized perennial tufted herb, growing up to 400 mm tall.Kalli is Greek for beautiful, kome is the Greek word for hair and likely refers to the numerous flowering branches and golden inflorescences resembling a beautiful hairdo. This plant grows on river flats, gravelly banks, and overgrazed areas at 1800-2400 m A.S.L., and grows from the Eastern Cape to Zimbabwe.

H.callicomum has thin, flexible and tufted woody stems. The stems range between a grey-white and the leaves are densely tufted. The leaves are 25 long by 6 mm wide, are blunt tipped, felted and a light grey. The inflorescense is is usually 60-80 mm in diameter and is roughly rounded. The individual flowerheads are 4 mm long by 1 mm wide and bracts are close to straw coloured. Flowering occurs from Feb – May.

Uses:

Used traditionally as a protective charm. Indicator of veld condition and recent disturbances as it tends to proliferate in overgrazed areas.

Conservation Status:

Least concern (CITES), as it proliferates in disturbed veld.

Gnidia capitata (Gifbos)

Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Gnidia capitata Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Gnidia capitata Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Gnidia capitata

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at another plant of the Gnidia genus (family of Brandbos which was published in one of the very first PoI snippets).

Gnidia capitata (commonly known as Gifbos in Afrikaans and setele in sisotho), is a medium sized perennial shrublet of up to 300 mm tall. The genus name Gnidia is derived from Knidos – an ancient Greek city. This plant grows in rocky grasslands at up to up to 1800 m A.S.L., and is widespread throughout the eastern regions of S.A.

The leaves on G. capitata are blue-green to grey, sharply tipped, relatively narrow (30 mm long X 3-6 mm wide) and appear tufted. The plant is generally multi-stemmed. The infloresecens is surrounded by a somewhat wider collar of leaves and the flowers are small (aprox 6 mm diameter with calyx tube of around 15-25 mm long), glossy and five lobed. Fine silky hairs cover the flowers and the sepals are a mustard orange-yellowand silky hairs below. The petals are smaller and scale-shaped. The flowers are in full bloom from Oct- Dec.

Medicinal uses:

Traditionally G. capitata has been used in the treatment numerous ailments. Laboratory analyses indicates over 90 secondary compounds that have known medical value. Consumption has resulted in livestock casualties and is also fatal if ingested by humans.

Other uses:

Indicator of veld condition and recent disturbances as it tends to proliferate after fires.

Conservation Status:

Not threatened (CITES), however caution is advised as this plant is widely harvested for its medical values.

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photography by Damien Coulson (Head ranger Clarens Village Nature Reserve)

 

 

 

Click here for more articles on the plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Dichoma anomala (Fever bush, Aambeibos)

Dichoma 1 Dichoma 2

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a small perennial herb that grows in summer rainfall areas and tends to conceal itself between tufts of grass.
Dichoma anomala (commonly known as Fever Bush in English, Aambeibos in Afrikaans and hloenya in sisotho), is a small monocotyledonous plant with stems approximately 50-600 mm long. Dichoma means “two-tufted” (Di-two & coma – tuft of hairs) and refers to the hair-like appearance of the floral bracts. Anomala is Latin and means irregular or deviating from the normal. D. anomala is widespread, growing in stony poor-soiled grasslands and in the crevices of rock sheets up to 2075 m A.S.L.

D.anomala is a reclining herb, with long narrow leaves (90mm long by 2-10 mm wide) which are green above and velted white beneath. The most noteworthy part of the plant is its conspicuous flowerheads (30-50 mm diameter) of a bleached purple-pink hue with sharply pinted narrow bracts. The small branchlets tend to curve upwards. The flowers are in full bloom from Jan – May but are visable in their dried state through most of the year as an off-white colour.

Medicinal uses:

Traditionally the plant has been used in the treatment of a wide-variety of human and plant ailments, some more in-depth descriptions of its uses may be found online. Interestingly enough a compound (identified as dehydrobrachylaenolide) in this plant has recently gained interest in the pharmaceutical industry as it has been found to bear anti-plasmodial properties that act against the malaria microbe.

Other human uses:

Consumed in a beverage as a variation of herbal tea. Could potentially make for an interesting household ornament in its dried state. Can be planted in gardens under variable soil conditions.

Conservation Status:

Not threatened (CITES), however caution is advised as this plant is widely harvested for its medical values.

Albuca pachychlamys (Soldier-in-the-box)

Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Greetings to all our  Clarens Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”  found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve.  We’ll be looking at a small geophyte that requires a keen eye and a bit of an adventurous spirit to locate.
Albuca pachychlamys (commonly known as Soldier-in-the-box in English, and mototse in sisotho), is a small monocotyledonous plant of approximately 250 mm in height, usually occurring singly. A. pachychlamys is widespread, growing in grasslands near rocky outcrops up to 2400 m A.S.L.

A. pachychlamys is a bulbous plant, with a brush of dark bristles topping the bulb and several thick tunics. Bulbs function as food storage devices for times when conditions are adverse, thereby acting as a protection mechanism in times when most other plant forms begin to deteriorate. The leaves are narrow (often less than 3mm wide). The flowers are located atop long erect pedicels with 10 – 15 mm long white tepals which are green striped, flowering from September – December. The flowers scent is also said to resemble a spicy variety of vanilla.

No medicinal uses have been attributed to A. pachychlamys as it appears that information relating to species of the Albuca genus is limited. It is this very fact that makes the plant interesting – there is still much research to be potentially conducted around the plant and until then it’s possible uses remain a mystery. The unique growth form of this small bulbous plant makes it also of aesthetic interest and could possibly make an interesting pot-plant.

Merwilla plumbea – Blue Scilla

Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a bulbous perennial that has in recent years been much targeted and depleted in the Clarens Nature Reserve by domestic goats.

Merwilla plumbea (commonly known as the Blue Scilla in English, Blouslangkop in Afrikaans and kherere in sisotho), is a small sized plant of approximately 1 m in height, sometimes occurring in “colonies”. M. plumbea is widespread in the eastern summer rainfall regions and grows on cliffs and rocky slopes from 1675 – 2100 m A.S.L. This striking plant is frost resistant and may be grown from seed.

A large quasi-above ground bulb is always visible and is covered in layers of purple-brown sheathes, somewhat resembling an oversized onion. The plant possesses few leaves as these are usually shed annually. The leaves are erect prior to flowering and broad, tapering to a point. After flowering the leaves become much larger (30-80 mm X 10-35 mm) and appear wilted until they turn a coppery gold in autumn and are finally shed. The flowers are small, less than 10mm in diameter and are born in great numbers on a single erect green stem (approx. 15 mm diameter) of up to 2-3 feet. The flowers are a purplish blue colour with white filaments. It’s worth mentioning just how visually striking this plant is, even at great distances. The Blue contrasts rather nicely with the earth toned rocky surrounds and the stem appears to “reach for the heavens” in defiance of the barrenness of the apparently water scarce surrounds.

Animal Interactions

Despite its strikingly attractive appearance, the Blue Scilla is toxic to animals such as sheep, although goats frequently make a meal out of the poor plant. This is usually the case with both plants and animals in nature. Striking beauty (or aposematic colouration in scientific terminology) is often a visual cue that warns potential predators of the unpalatable and potentially lethal nature of the organism (sounds like the human dating game – guys take note!). Any animal trying to take a bite soon learns from its mistake.

Medicinal uses

Parts of M. plumbea have been used to treat internal tumours, boils, bone fractures and even in the treatment of lung disease in cattle.

General Human Uses

The bulb has been used to make soap.

Gymnosporia buxifolia (Pioneer spikethorn)

Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve Plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

DamienGreetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest” (based on plants found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve.)  We’ll be looking at a woody plant species that is part of the spike-thorn family.

Gymnosporia buxifolia (commonly known as the Pioneer Spikethorn in English, Gewone pendoring in Afrikaans and Sephatwa in sisotho), is a medium sized plant of 2 – 3 m in height and is widespread throughout Africa. Gymno is Greek for naked and spora means seed. Buxifolia refers to the shape of the leaves (similar to the Boxwood Buxus). G. Buxifolia grows in a wide variety of habitats including forests and grasslands – often among rocks. This tree grows alone or in dense intermingled clumps at altitudes of up to 2100 m A.S.L.

G. buxifolia has a single stem with an angular, untidy outline formed by haphazardly upward growing branchlets. The bark of mature trees is rough, dark grey to brown and is deeply furrowed, forming regular, protruding blocks. Spines of variable length are common and leaves may grow on the spines themselves. Simple pale grey-green leaves are clustered on the end of short, stubby twigs, forming “sleeves” around them. The clusters of conspicuous, white star shaped flowers have a smell that is reminiscent of decaying meat. Tough, yellow to brown –red capsules grow in clusters and each capsule encloses 3 seeds which are covered in a fatty pulp (aril).

G. buxilfolia is evergreen and a combination of leaves, spines and bark are characteristic of the tree. Flowers are in season from February – June and the capsules from December – May. Leave size and shape is variable but always have a shallowly toothed margin. Young leaves have red-edges (10 – 90 X 4-50 mm). Flowers grow on thick twigs with male and female flowers on separate trees. Spines may be absent on some branches and from some young trees though in general young trees have more spines than older specimens, which grow from below the leaf-bud.

Gardening

Even though it looks very attractive when flowering, G. buxifolia is not generally used as a garden tree and the smell of the flowers can be off-putting for some. It has however been used to make a suitable bonsai.

Human Uses

This irregular plant has been carved into musical instruments, used for stools, spoons as well as in making knobkerries. The fruit are edible however they will not be replacing the tastier supermarket options. There have been accounts of the use of G. buxifolia as a medicinal tree and the bark has been used to treat dysentery and diarrhoea and the roots and thorns utilised for colds and coughs. Rumour has it that the plant may be used in the treatment of snakebites.

Animals

Flies are attracted to the putrid smelling flowers which they then pollinate and the fruit is eaten by birds such as the Cape White-eye. The flowers and young shoots are often browsed by cattle and goats. This plant is therefore of some minor ecological importance in the landscapes in which they are found to occur and of great botanical interest.

To read about other Plants of Interest found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve

Moraea stricta

Moraea

Damien

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a plant at the far end of the spectrum as opposed to last week’s PoI – this time around we’ll be looking at a small bulbous wildflower that has only been observed in 2 localities over the last month.

Moraea stricta (commonly known as Bloutulp in Afrikaans), is a small plant of between 15 & 25 cm in height and is widespread throughout Africa. Stricta refers to the straight or upright appearance of the flower. M. stricta grows in grasslands in close proximity to rocky outcrops and slopes at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.LM. strictais interesting in that the leaves are usually absent during the flowering stage (Sept – Nov). A single long narrow leaf (600 mm X 1.5) will appear after flowering. The flowering stem is erect with 3 – 6 short branches. The flowers themselves are small, with the outer petals 19 – 24 mm in length and very in colour from pale lilac to blue-violet. Each petal has a small yellow-orange spot which is thought to function as a nectar guide which helps pollinators to locate the flowers nectar. Around 3 flowers will open simultaneously and close at sunset. This small wildflower is often found in greater numbers in areas that have been recently burned and therefore plays an ecological role as an indicator of disturbed or recently disturbed veld. Another interesting habit of M. stricta is its propensity to appear towards the end of the dry season (it is drought tolerant); just before the first spring rains (could this be regarded as another one of nature’s peculiar ways of keeping us “sophisticated” humans in the loop?).  Keep a close lookout for a similar looking species, M. alpina which flowers from Oct – Dec.

Gardening

This interesting little wildflower can be grown from seed and from transplanting the corms, although most report a low survival rate – thumbs up to those persistent gardeners that manage to grow the little devil!

Cussonia paniculata

Cussonia 1 Cussonia 2 Cussonia 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at woody species whose unique growth form and bark make it a visually striking plant, thus enabling it to be easily recognisable all-year round.

Cussonia paniculata or the Mountain Cabbage Tree (commonly known as Suidelike Bergkiepersol in Afrikaans, or Motšhethše in Sisotho), is a medium sized tree of up to 8 meters. Cussonia is derived from the name of a French professor – Pierre Cusson (1727 – 1783), who studied botany at Montpellier, France. paniculata refers to the form of the branched flower head. Cussonia occurs singly in most instances, or in widely scattered colonies found at up to 2000 m A.S.L. It is found at higher altitudes on warm north and west facing slopes in Kloofs and at lower altitudes in Low-Altitude Grassland among Rocks.

 Cussonia has a central trunk with a dark gnarled looking bark and a canopy of variable size. The hand shaped compound leaves are pale blue-grey to green and form clusters at the ends of thick stubby branchlets. The margins of each leaflet are so coarsely serrated that the leaflets look gnawed (which may actually be the case in certain instances).  Fruit are small capsules which are purple when ripe and grow on conspicuous spikes. The tree is Deciduous or evergreen. Greenish yellow flowers are densely packed in conspicuous spikes. Flowering occurs from Jan – Apr and the capsules form between May-June. The leaves have fairly long leaf-stalks and are crowded towards the end of the twigs. The 7-9 leaflets all grow out of the same point on the leaf-stalk. Leaves are around 600 mm in diameter, leaflets are 100-300 long X 20-60 mm wide, leaflet stalks are on average 200-500 mm.

Human uses

C. paniculata heartwood has historically been utilised for the construction of brake blocks which are then fitted on ox-wagons.

Gardening

This is an attractive plant to be grown in large gardens or along pathways in botanical gardens (if visiting the Western Cape’s Garden Route, the Bot. Gardens in George are a must see). C. paniculata is heat and drought resistant but may succumb to thick frosts and is thus relatively hardy. This plant grows slowly so gardeners should intent to reside at their current dwellings for a good deal of time before the plant can be observed at its full size and glory.

Wildlife & livestock

This plant makes for good fodder while still in its sapling stage. Appropriate barriers would need to be put in place around the tree if animals such as goats occur on the same property.

Rhamnus prinoides

Rhamnus 1 Rhamnus 2 Rhamnus 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a shrubby “bling” species that is easily distinguishable from the majority of the surrounding grassland vegetation.

Rhamnus prinoides or Dogwood (commonly known as Blinkblaar in Afrikaans, or mofifi in Sisotho), is a scrambling shrub of up to 2-6 m in height. Prinoides is derived from the Latin for like the holm-oak (it is possible that both plants share similarities in bark morphology). R. prinoides is generally found growing on forest margins, stream banks and among scrub at altitudes of up to 2150 m A.S.L. This shrub is both widespread, growing from the Western Cape – Ethiopia, and is relatively abundant.

The most characteristic feature of R. prinoides is its conspicuous glossy deep green-blackish leaves.  The leaves are alternate at 30-100 mm long x15-40 mm wide. Flowers are small, greenish and in clusters, usually flowering in summer (Nov-Jan). The fruit are small (5 mm) and round, fleshy and purplish to red in colour.

Food

The fruit of R. prinoides attract frugivorous birds to any garden in which it grows. The flowers and their sugary nectar also attract pollinators such as bees.

Garden

This shrub is frost resistant and makes for a sturdy hedge. It grows quickly and easily and makes a good bonsai.

Medicine

Certain parts of the plant are used in traditional medicines. Root infusions are said to purify blood and treat pneumonia. Parts such as the leaves have been used to treat rheumatism and colic. Leaves have been applied as liniment to treat sprains. The heartwood and root can be applied to beer to produce a narcotic effect. It was also used as a snuff to treat mental disorders.

Chrysanthemoides monolifera

Chrsanthemoides 1 Chrsanthemoides 2 Chrsanthemoides 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a shrubby species that many of you who have ventured out onto our trails will no doubt have noticed, and whose importance will soon become apparent.

Chrysanthemoides monolifera subs. canescens or the Bush-Tick Berry (commonly known as Bietou or Boetabessie in Afrikaans, or ntlou-ea-lekhoaba in Sisotho), is a succulent bushy shrub of up to 2 m in hight. Monilifera is derived from the Latin for necklace (it refers to the arrangement of the fruits on the plant). The word canescent is the Latin for grey.  C. monilifera is generally found growing around the rocky bases of cliffs, among boulders and sandy slopes at altitudes of generally between 1880 and 2240 m A.S.L. This shrub is widespread, growing from the Eastern Cape – Mpumalanga in S.A. and from Namaqualand – tropical Africa. C. monilifera has undergone several name changes since first identified.

Small white and woolly hairs can be observed on the leaves and stems of C. monilifera, giving it a soft felted appearance and texture. The leaves vary in length from 15 – 75 mm and width from 5 – 40 mm in mature plants and narrow until they resemble short stalks.  The leaves are generally thick and slightly leathery with coarsely toothed margins. Flowers are sunshine yellow at approximately 30 mm and occur in small terminal clusters. C. monilifera is unique in that it flowers all year round – an interesting and costly strategy that could possibly serve to increase the chances of seed dispersal. The berries are small and green to glossy black when ripe and fruit from March – July. Some common uses of C. monilifera include:

Food

The fruits are often eaten by birds and humans and the leaves are browsed by antelope.

Garden

This plant is relatively hardy and makes a good windbreak when used in hedges. It can also be grown from seed or cuttings.

Medicine

Certain parts of the plant are used in traditional medicines.

The importance of C. monilifera in an ecosystem cannot be understated as it attracts insects such as ants and beetles which are known to disperse seed, as well as pollinators such as bees and butterflies that are essential to the life-cycles of many flowering plants.

Felicia filifolia

Felicia filifolia Felecia filifolia Felicia filifolia 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a semi-cryptic herbaceous species that may, with a sharp eye be observed on several of the Clarens hiking trails when out of season. In season however spotting is much, much easier.

Felicia filifolia or the Fine-leaved Felicia (commonly known as Draaibos or Wilde Aster in Afrikaans, or sehhalahala-se-seholo in Sisotho), is a small shrublet of between 80 cm and 1 metre when fully grown. Felicia is reputedly named after Herr Felix, a German official who died in 1846 (the genus name could also be derived from the Latin word felix meaning cheerful). The species name filifolia means leaves like fern fronds (referring to the fineness of the foliage). It is usually found on stony flats and slopes as well as amongst the boulder beds of dry rivers. F. filifolia can be found growing at altitudes of up to 2400 m A.S.L. and its distribution ranges from the Western Cape through to the Limpopo Province. It is therefore widespread throughout much of S.A.

The stems of this aromatic little shrub are much branched with tufts of fleshy, needle-like leaves. The flower-heads, of approximately 15-20 mm, are arranged in a radiate manner and grade from blue-faded mauve in colour. The disk is yellow with 3 – 4 series involucral bracts on stalks of up to 50 mm. One feature of this plant is its massed flower-heads that put on a spectacular display during its flowering season from September – November. Some common uses of F. filifolia include:

Fuel

Often used as a substitute for firewood by the locals of Lesotho.

Garden

Makes a good frost resistant, attractive and aromatic garden ornamental. There is a good deal of information on the cultivation of F.filifolia available online.

F. filifolia is known to occur prolifically in overgrazed areas and is thus an ecologically important species as an indicator of misused veld. It is also toxic to sheep and thus does not make for suitable grazing. The toxins serve as an anti-feedant which helps protect this seemingly delicate plant from becoming fodder for an assortment of game and domestic animals. The slightly aromatic flowers will attract a multitude of pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies, which in turn helps to attract insectivorous birds, thereby playing another ecologically important role in all areas where it’s known to occur.

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photographs by Damien Coulson

Buddleja salviifolia (Quilted Sagewood, Saliehout)

 

Buddleja salviifolia Buddleja salviifolia 2 Buddleja salviifolia 3

 

Buddleja salviifolia, Quilted Sagewood, Saliehoud

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a woody species that most of you will have already seen in the reserve and on several of the C.V.C. hiking trails.

Buddleja salviifolia or Quilted Sagewood (known as Saliehoud in Afrikaans or Lelothoane in Sisotho), is a small tree of 3 – 8 m tall. It is usually found on forest margins, along rocky stream-banks and near cave sandstone overhangs.B. salviifolia can be found growing at altitudes of 1800-2435 m A.S.L. and its distribution ranges from the Western Cape through to East Africa.The twigs are roughly rectangular and woolly and the leaves are oppositely arranged. Leave dimensions are a maximum of 30-140mm and a minimum of 7-40mm. The leaves are soft and textured above and a velvety white beneath with a deeply lobed, stalkless base. The flowers of B. salviifolia are white – mauve and arranged in long dense spikes of 120 mm. They give of a subtle sweet scent and flower from August – October.

The Quilted Sagewood has several uses, these include:

Medicinal

The leaves are dried then crushed and boiled for several minutes and drank as an herbal tea. The roots are also used for medicinal purposes.

Fodder

The leaves are sometimes browsed by livestock and game.

War

The dark brown heartwood has often been used for assegai shafts as they are heavy and sturdy.

Fuel

The wooden stems and branches have often been used in fires for cooking.

Food

The heartwood makes for suitable fishing rods.

Erica alopecurus (Foxtail Erica)

Erica alopecurus 2 .png Erica alopecurus Erica alopecurus 3

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest” where we will be looking at a dwarf-shrub species that is most prominent from summer – mid-winter.

Erica alopecurus or Foxtail Erica (also known as Chalbeke-e-nyenyane in sisotho), is a small and compact shrub that grows up to 300 mm. It is often observed in damp grassy stream banks and on marshy grasslands or near grassy montane seep-lines. E. alopecurus grows from 1370 – 3000 m A.S.L. and is distributed widely from the Eastern Cape to Mpumalanga.

The leaves grow in 3’s with an erect and incurving midrib visible beneath. The inflorescences are dense cylindrical spikes while the flowers are tiny, tubular and pink fading to brown out of season. The Latin word Alopex refers to the inflorescence that some say resembles that of a fox’s tail. The uses of E. alopecurus include:

– Burned for fuel by rural communities

– Garden ornamental

– Makes a good subject for photographers wishing to add a unique composition to their photographs.

This particular shrub offers a unique and visually stunning hiking experience along the CVC hiking trails during its flowering period. The rangers suggest that residents indulge themselves and their photographic talents with E. alopecurus once it begins its late summer bloom.

Leucosidea sericea

11th July 2013: Leucosidea sericea

 

Plant of the week 1 Plant of the week 2 Plant of the week 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest” where we will be looking at a plant species that most of you will be familiar with (although you may be surprised with some of its uses)

A woody species, Leucosidea sericea (commonly known as Old-wood, Ouhout in Afrikaans, or Che-che in Sisotho) is derived from the Greek word leukos meaning white – the overall appearance of the leaves, and sericea refers to the silky texture of the leaves. Ouhout is a prominent plant and is therefore easy to spot in and around Clarens – there are no similar looking naturally occurring woody plants that it could be confused for. It is visible on most of the hiking trails and throughout the reserve and riparian areas in the eastern Free State region. L. sericea grows from 1000 – 2400 m A.S.L. and has the ability to dominate areas of disturbance, erosion and overgrazing, thereby playing a role in landscape management. Habitats where it grows include high altitude grasslands, kloofs, north and west facing slopes, along rivers and streams and wooded rocky ridges. The tree has a gnarled windblown appearance and the leaves are compound, some turning a characteristic yellow in autumn. Ouhout has several human health, gardening and animal related uses including:

– Used as a durable fence-pole in permanently wet places

– Crushed leaves are soaked and used to treat eye infections

– Makes a good fire-wood

– Believed to bare magical properties such as protecting the inhabitants of homesteads

– Used as a wind break or garden ornamental in frost prone areas

– Grows quickly from seed and cuttings and therefore makes a suitable bonsai

– Browsed by cattle, goats and eland

It goes to show that nature has more planned than often meets one’s eye, even with a plant that is as abundantly growing and seemingly plain as the way under-valued Ouhout.

Article and photographs by Damien CoulsonDamien1-100x100

Gnidia anthyloides (Brandbossie)

Gnidia anthylloides

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. The rangers recently photographed a plant species that many of you will recognise from within the Clarens Nature Reserve and it may occasionally be observed on farmlands. This plant has become of interest in scientific literature, for reasons you will discover below.

This week we introduce Gnidia anthylloides, commonly known as Brandbossie (a close relative of Gifbosssie for which it is often mistaken) in Afrikaans. Many of the species from the Gnidia genus have historically been used in traditional medicines to treat multiple ailments (headache, sores, nightmares, snake bites, tonsillitis, etc.). Unfortunately ingestion of parts of the plants of this genus without proper preparation may result in severe irritant effects as well as death in humans and animals due to several types of toxins (hence the common name). Scientists are now rediscovering some truth in the use of plants of the Gnidia genus as extracts have shown antileukemic properties and several of the compounds may also prove helpful in the synthesis of analogs for treating various ailments. It is not eaten by livestock (for the obvious reasons) and may therefore become a problematic plant in overgrazed veld.

G. anthylloides is a slender silvery silky shrub that grows to between 0.4 and 1.2 m in height. It is commonly observed on steep grassy, rocky or shrubby slopes amongst boulders or rocky sheets at altitudes up to 2425 m A.S.L.  The leaves are 15-30 mm long, and appear to be crowded into a star-like formation on the upper stem. The flowers are hoisted by a slender calyx tube and are an unmistakable bright yellow and are observed in clumped heads.

Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric, Vlieegifswam)

Amanita muscaria   

Plant of the week 3

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Although the days are still growing colder, the rangers have been hard at work and keeping their eyes peeled for any “Weekly Plants of Interest” that they may encounter on our trails or in the reserve.
This week we introduce Amanita muscaria commonly known as the Fly Agaric or Vlieëgifswam, in Afrikaans. Strictly speaking, the Fly Agaric is not a plant at all but it is classified as a form of fungus. This species is widespread throughout South Africa (the author has observed A. muscaria in the Garden Route of the Western Cape), and occurs in combination with certain plants in gardens and even plantations. The Fly Agaric “fruits” (think blooms) in summer up until late autumn/early winter. The cap is globose to flat, with small white “dots” and an overall orange to yellow colour. The stipe is white, firm and cylindrical.

Some of the uses of the Fly Agaric include:
– The fruit body was used traditionally as a natural fly trap (hence the common name)
– As one of the “magic mushrooms” it intoxicates the system inducing hallucinations.

Warning: This week’s PoI has poisoning symptoms that may be fatal in large doses and include nausea, vomiting, giddiness, hallucinations, convulsions and loss of consciousness.
Fungi occur in 2 major groups: macro and microfungi, the latter is only observable with the aid of microscopic lenses. The roles of fungi in nature are often overlooked but they nonetheless play a crucial role in most ecosystems. Some of their many functions include the decomposition of soil, dead wood and dung, controlling certain plant populations and some fungi may even be the cause of diseases in animal populations including humans.  Fungi have also had a profound influence on humans in the medical industry (think of penicillin), as culinary delights and have even been used in beverage production.

Selago galpinii (Tsitoanenyana)

Selago galpinii 2Greetings again to all our Village plant enthusiasts.

This week we introduce Selago galpinii, the Sesotho common name (this species has no English common names) is Tsitoanenyana.

It is a perennial herb that grows to between 150 and 300 mm in height. The leaves are small and semi-needle shaped, occurring in clusters. The inflorescence is slender with small rounded heads of approximately 10 mm in diameter. The flowers, although small are a blue – violet colour which contrasts pleasantly with the hues of the surrounding winter vegetation, making it especially visible during the cooler autumn/early winter period.

S. galpinii flowers between January & May but may be observed in bloom up until late June. This plant is named after Earnest Galpin (1858 – 1941), a South African naturalist renowned as a “prince of plant collectors”.
S. galpinii occurs in rocky grasslands at an altitude of 1500 – 2600 m A.S.L. It is a species with limited distribution as it is endemic (only occurring within/limited to) the Eastern Free State/Mountain Region. Don’t let it fool you – despite its meek appearance the plant is relatively hardy, surviving on shallow lithocutanic (rocky/coarse) soils.

No known medicinal uses have as yet been attributed to this small gem, but the flowers make for good sport for budding and keen photographers.

 

 

Damien1-100x100Article and photograph by Damien Coulson

Euphorbia clavaroides

 

Euphoria clavaroides 2 Euphorvia clavaroides 3 Euphorbia clavoides 1

Euphrobia clavaroides  (Lions spoor, Melkpol or Fingerpol) Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to the first of many “Weekly Plant of Interest” snippets.

This week we introduce for the first time Euphorbia clavaroides commonly known as Lions Spoor, Melkpol or Fingerpol – a cryptic succulent species that appears from a distance to resemble the smoothed sandstone rocks that is typical for the eastern Free-State area. This plant is only revealed from afar when it is in flower with many small yet spectacular bright yellow flowers. This plant although small, is important in the ecosystem and to humans due to its many uses. These include:

– A source of nourishment for local baboon  populations and other animals

– Dried sap has a historical use as an alternative to chewing gum by children

– Used in the preparation of bird lime

– Use in traditional medicines.

It is found only on steep rocky cliffs and rock faces at altitudes of up to 2750 m A.S.L. and has a widespread distribution, occurring from the Eastern Cape right through to the Limpopo Province.

The plant was observed for the first time last week by the rangers on the sandstone cliffs above the Scilla Walk hiking Trail in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve.  The unusual growth form of the plant is in part due to its location on cliff faces and is a biological protection mechanism used to prevent excessive amounts of evaporation and protection from the wind and other elements.

Searsia erosa: Broom Curry, Besem Keree-rhus

 

 

Broom curry 2 Broom curry 3 Broom curry 1

 

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest” where we will be looking at a less well known shrubby plant species found in the Clarens Village Nature Reserve.

Searsia erosa or Broom Curry-rhus (known as Besem Keree-rhus in Afrikaans), are large shrubs with multiple stems that are densely branched. The overall appearance is round, compact and with a soft outline. The leaves are a distinctive lime – olive/Khaki green that is noticeable from a distance. The bark is reddish-brown and wiry. The leaves themselves are trifoliate (compound with 3 leaflets), have jagged edges, sharp points and covered in a sticky resin. The flowers are a creamy white and occur in small stalked heads.
The Broom curry-rhus grows at altitudes of up to 1900 m A.S.L., and is endemic to the Besem Karee Koppies habitat type. It grows in Grassland plains; Rocky areas and on warm, stony and dry hill slopes. The plant was named after Paul B. Sears and the Latin word erosa means toothed or gnawed (referring to the shape of the leaves). It is also a hardy plant that is drought and frost resistant. Some of the uses of S. erosa include:
·       Historically used as a substitute for brooms (hence the common name)
·       Used as a soil erosion control mechanism
·       Used as a garden ornamental
·       Said to be used by the Sisotho people and burned in traditional ceremonies to chase away evil spirits and to encourage rain
·       Some parts of the plant were reportedly used to treat diarrhoea in humans as well as cattle.

Damien1-100x100Article and photography

Damien Coulson