Mr Fab's October Fest

This past month has yet again been hectic with several long and exciting field trips. The first one was a 10-day round trip which included searching for the long lost Polhillia connata (CR PE), join the Outramps at Fouriesberg and a few days at Haarwegskloof. The first day of the trip was a long drive from Stellenbosch to Riversdale, followed by a few very productive hours in the field. Before the rain caught me, I managed to find a new population of Erica physantha (CR – only one population known), Euchaetis longicornis (CR), Protea decurrens (EN), Otholobium pungens (EN), Leucadendron teretifolium (NT) and Notobubon collinum (NT). Yet again no luck looking for Polhillia connata, it is most likely extinct, but there are so many small pieces of land and it is impossible to visit them all solo.

The next few days were spent with the Outramps at Fouriesberg and proved to be very fruitful. We found several specials and possibly even a new Centella species up on Fouriesberg, but the undescribed Otholobium remained elusive. The next stop was to look for Polhillia connata on the northern side of the Langeberg. Unfortunately, again unsuccessful and it seems that the chances of finding this species are becoming increasingly unlikely. I arrived later that afternoon at Haarwegskloof and we headed out to visit a population of Polhillia canescens (VU) in full flower. We also made a trip to a burnt area of limestone fynbos south of the reserve. There we found Argyrolobium harmsianum (EN), Wiborgiella sessilifolia (NT), Otholobium sp. nova (Local endemic) and a tall Psoralea in the kloof that I cannot match with any species in the recent Pinnata complex revision.

The next two days were spent monitoring Polhillia canescens (VU) on several farms. We also managed to find several other rares including: Aspalathus incompta (NT), Diosma passerinoides (VU), Gibbaeum haaglenii (VU), Lobostemon capitatus (VU), Aspalathus barbigera (VU) Aspalathus cf pycnantha (VU), Notobubon collinum (NT), Notobubon striatum (EN), Moraea debilis (EN), Aspalathus smithii (EN), and a variety of Haworthia species. We were also treated to a rare glimpse of a Cape Honeybadger, Jannie appeared to have walked too near its burrow and gave a mock charge, leaving Jannie hysterical and me laughing for days. For a change of scenery, we headed for a day to explore around Suurbraak. We had a good day before rain cut the day short finding a new population of the Suurbraak Polhillia taxa, along with Drosanthemum lavisii (EN), Eriospermum bowieanum (VU), Otholobium pungens (EN), Aspalathus incompta (NT), and Aspalathus steudeliana (VU). The final day of the trip was to count Polhillia brevicalyx (CR) at its only known location. We managed to count over 160 plants, most of which had previous not been found in a small kloof downstream of the type site. To top it all off, we also managed to find some more Moraea debilis (EN) and Wiborgiella bowieana (CR). This bringing a very long, but rewarding trip to an end.

The next field trip took place between 21-24 October, a 4-day round trip with Prof Charlie Stirton on a legume (and sedge) hunt. Our first mission was a two day visit to Drie Kuilen with Cape Town CREW team, led by Ismail. Driving towards Drie Kuilen, we stopped at a road cutting to have a look at some Otholobium when we made a great discovery. Growing in the road verge in full bloom was Polhillia involucrata (EN), only known from the Roggeveld escarpment and a single (questionable) record from this area. Other notable finds along the road were Amphithalea spinosa (VU), Otholobium cf rupicolum (NE) and a new locality for Aspalathus rostrata (Rare).
After arriving at Drie Kuilen and pressing our morning’s collections, we set out to explore the recently burnt reserve and track down the Cape Town team. The legumes dried up for a while, and so we spent some time collecting some potentially interesting sedges which will be identified by Prof. Muthama Muasya ITFOT. Just before we headed for home, we were treated to some beautiful Lotononis gracilifolia (EN) in flower. For the second day, we took the long drive towards the top of the mountains and although the veld is very young and dry, we got a taste a what occurs in this wonderful reserve. We feel fairly confident of at least two new Aspalathus species that we are waiting to see in flower, Indigofera cf burchellii (NE), Lotononis argentea (VU), Ixia parva (VU) and this is only the start of it… We then took the long (and hot) drive to Sutherland to stock up on the bare necessities before tackling the 100km of horrible gravel road to reach the Polhillia involucrata on the escarpment. We were duly rewarded with Polhillia involucrata (EN) in beautiful bloom at several places along a stretch of several kilometres of the escarpment road. We also found several other interesting legumes including what may turn into a new Argyrolobium and an interesting Lessertia we somehow neglected to collect (with great regret…) FMC. After enjoying the Polhillia for a few hours, we made the 100km journey on more bad gravel road to our accommodation for the evening, where I prepared a proudly South African braai with steak, boerewors, potato salad and some peas (the tinned kind).

Leaving the Roggeveld escarpment the next morning via Osberg Pass, we made a quick visit to Kanariesfontein. This farm is home to a small (and sadly not very healthy looking) population of Polhillia involucrata (EN) and is home to the only remaining population of Secale strictum subsp. africanum (SA Rye Grass – CR). The very friendly Oom took us around to see both species and we are glad to report that both are still there and that the Oom is doing his best to manage the Rye grass as a livestock farmer in the worst drought in recorded history. The plants have been grazed, but are still looking healthy and will not be grazed until after they have finished flowering. The drive through Tanqua Karoo was hot and there seems to be absolutely nothing alive there. We made a quick stop on Gydo Pass where Charlie showed me his secret legume hunting spot which included Aspalathus desertorum (NT).

Finally, on Saturday 28 October I joined Dewidine to visit the potential Aspalathus ferox (CR PE) plants at Vrojlikheid NR near McGregor to try and confirm the ID. We managed to locate the plants on several koppies and took ample material for specimens. Unfortunately, I can confirm that the plants are not Aspalathus ferox, and are most likely Aspalathus lactea subsp. breviloba (VU). We also managed to find Drosanthemum micans (EN) in flower and not much else in the very dull and dry Karoo.

October was a very successful and tiring month, with more than half the month spent away from home. I must admit that I am looking forward to the end of the field season as my specimen tally for the year already stands at 142, never mind the several hundred CREW site sheets and MSc work that lies ahead too… Enjoy the last month of spring, summer is on the way!
Groete,
The Boy / Mr Fab / Dr Pea (thanks to Tony Rebelo for another name…)

Posted by outramps-tanniedi outramps-tanniedi, November 05, 2017 06:14

Comments

Thanks Brian - what an awesome report! An inspiration to us all. You make us feel like blind invalids.

May the Peas be with you.

Posted by richardadcock over 4 years ago (Flag)

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