Another Thread

Featured this week – Eyed Pansy, GCBR meeting, Rooiberg Massif with the Drifter, Diosma Reserve and the Oxalis ioeides hunt on the Robinson Pass.

Another Thread in the RTOL

Eyed Pansy
Junonia orithya (Eyed Pansy) is a new species for the farm Slakplaas on the Robinson Pass. I thought it might be the first WC record for this butterfly on iNaturalist, but, remarkably, I was pipped to the post by Stuart from Great Brak, who saw one two hours earlier and posted it 4 minutes sooner.
Sally

GCBR Meeting
We left Strawberry Hill at 6.30 in the morning on Tuesday 15th, drove through Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp and over the Rooiberg Pass to the Rooiberg Lodge to attend The Gouritz Biosphere Cluster Reserve meeting. The theme for the day was Wetlands and the presentations were totally enthralling. They just seem to get better and better. If you feel that Ramaphoria is ebbing and that the problems of this beloved country are too great to be solved, come to the next meeting. A small group of passionate and dedicated people have created a miracle. They have accessed generous funding from Europe and have set in motion a number of projects that are not only improving our physical environment, but are busy uplifting whole communities. It is difficult to single out any one person, but let’s concentrate on Andre Britz for now.

For all the world, Andre looks like the archetype right-wing Afrikaner conservative. Well, think again! Andre’s roots are very firmly anchored in Van Wyksdorp, which is truly the middle of nowhere. They don’t even have a petrol pump. He started the “Jobs for Carbon” project and drives it with huge enthusiasm. In a nutshell, the local community are employed to plant Portulacaria afra ( Spekboom) on badly degraded veld. The community have been trained to do the job and have been taught managerial and financial skills. They now have an ATM in the town, a number of them now sit on the PTA committees of the various schools and they have been coached in the art of public speaking. The whole village is in the process of being transformed.

With the European funding, the first stage of VDI (Van Wyksdorp Initiative) has begun. They are building a campus on the outskirts of the town, which will teach all sorts of skills like plumbing, welding etc to the local people. They will be taught how to run small to medium enterprises, which is the only way in which the grinding poverty that prevails in this country will be alleviated. So if you think that there is no hope, take some time and have a look at Van Wyksdorp and what is happening there. And if you have some extra cash, please throw it in that direction.
Casey’s wheel was puncture no1

Rooiberg Massif and the Drifter
Another Thread in the Rich Tapestry of Life (ITRTOL)
This phrase refers to a challenging situation, usually to do with the Buchu Bus. This time, the culprit was the Drifter…..

We left directly after the meeting and drove to the top of the Rooiberg Pass and to the west on the jeep track that leads from the top of the Pass to Bailey Peak. This had been pre-arranged with the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and Tom Barry. The Drifter is a marvellous vehicle and can practically climb mountains, but her capabilities were to be stretched to the utmost on a very difficult road. The first evening we made it to the Rooiberg Peak area, where we stopped, unloaded the car and set up camp. It was a glorious evening with the spectacular, panoramic views that are a feature of this area. We were early to bed on mattresses in the back of the bakkie and up at first light to continue the journey.

The Jeep Track steadily worsened and eventually my nerve failed and I handed over the driving to Bill. When the s—t hits the fan, he is an excellent driver. On ordinary roads his focus is poor and he tends to fall asleep. He negotiated the truly terrifying gradients with competence and aplomb, altho towards the end he was looking a little pale. At this stage I was walking. In sight of Bailey Peak, we decided that “Discretion was the better part of Valour” and turned. I left Bill to drive and walked up and down all the bad bits. I wasn’t being a wimp. My excuse, “I was here to monitor the plants”.

It was on one of the flatter parts that we became aware of a peculiar noise. On investigation, (O donder hier kom n ding) the front wheel was completely flat. It took us ages to change the wheel. We had to dig to get the jack in, the wheel screws were in so tight that it took the strength of both of us to loosen them. We battled to get the spare wheel on and eventually we tied a rope on to it, Bill lifted on the one side and I hauled it up across the bonnet, so that he could position it. This Heath Robinson method worked and after about 2 hours we were on our way - Puncture no2.

When we got to the end of the jeep track, I proposed we take the peopled and safer route home through Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn to George. Bill won that battle and we drove through Van Wyksdorp en route to Herbertsdale. Once again we heard that ominous strange noise. And yes, it was another puncture! What now? About 300m away there was a farmhouse with locked gates. To no avail, we shouted. Bill went to scout and while he was away, I suddenly saw a moving tractor. Much waving and hooting and the gate was opened. In a trice, the wheel was jacked up and a plug was put into the leaking tyre. Clarence Thornley, Samuel and Johnson had saved our bacon. I have no idea what we would have done without them. This time we went via Riversdale with stops in every town to top up the air and we managed to limp our way home in the dark. It was a long day – Puncture no 3

That adventure had everything to do with vehicles, but what about the plants, which were my primary objective? The regeneration post-burn is going well, despite the dry conditions. There were small pockets of unburnt veld in amongst the devastation. Many of the Nivenia inaequalis have survived on the rocky outcrops. Leucadendron sp. nova was scattered sparsely across the massif, with many plants burnt and a few survivors. Some adult Leucospermum pluridens are in evidence, but most of them have burnt. There are lots of small Proteaceae seedlings emerging, giving promise for the future. Cyclopia intermedia is busy resprouting all over the place. There was a magnificent Heliophila that I don’t recognise. We will consult Pieter Winter on iNat. This was a recce trip for a bigger expedition in the Spring. If there are good rains this Winter, who knows what we will find? Looking forward!
Tanniedi

Diosma Reserve & Hospital Erf 19201 - 18 May2018

It is Aloe time in Mossel Bay. Aloe ferox (bitter aloe) is in full flower along the N2 embankment holding their flaming candles up to the sky. Just so beautiful and almost vying with the outline of the Outeniqua mountains clearly etched on the northern horizon.
The Diosma reserve looks less burnt 11 months after the June 7th fire, but is bitterly dry. Hoping to find Diosma aristata (Critically Endangered) seedlings or a flowering survivor at least, we botanised at the lower end of the reserve heading for the tiny unburnt section in the north western corner.
Gail and Rusell immediately noticed an APIACEAE just over flowering. There were several plants scattered about and it seems to be Alepidea cf. capensis. Curious about its common name, Kalmoes, I drew one of my favourite books closer. Smith’s “Common names of South African Plants” gives the lovely common name’s derivation as a corruption of the ’real Kalmoes’ (Calamus acorus). “KALMOES: Several Umbelliferae (now Apiaceae) with rhizomes of balsamic odour are known by this name. The vernacular name is of long standing and was first applied to the real Kalmoes .” There are two varieties for Alepidea capensis. One indicated as DDT on the redlist and the other as Least Concern.
Rusell once mentioned that she had seen Euchaetis albertiniana (Endangered) in the reserve. Once we were in the unburnt patch no surviving Diosma plants were found, but one Euchaetis surrounded by Carpobrotis muirii (Near Threatened) and Erica dispar (Near Threatened) some magnificent white Protea repens (Suikerbos) and equally gorgeous Thamnochortus insignis (Dekriet).
During teaching moments on the Highveld, charismatic Prof Braam van Wyk would often flummox wannabe botanists, explaining the term ‘geoxylic pyrogenic suffrutex’. It refers to the miraculous phenomenon where woody species hideaway underground and survive the Highveld Grassland fires (an example is Lysistemon zeyheri or ploegbreker). Well, we have been puzzled by a resprouting buchu in the reserve. Now there are patches of these little plants surrounded by seedlings. A guess is that it could be Agathosma capensis, sporting a Fynbos version of geoxylic pyrogenic suffritices! No confirmation as yet of Diosma aristata seedlings.
Ann arrived assuming it to be botanising at Robinson pass. However last minute switch around of days and trips meant the benefit of her knowledge of the RESTIONACEAE. She was quite delighted as there are RESTIONACEAE babies galore, in some instances stands of Restio triticeus. She could also id Thamnochortus fruticosa. Hopefully the first of many visits to fill out the species list for the reserve!
Other species of note: Tricochephalus stipularis, Phylica imberbis, Searsia laevigatua, Erica lasciva, Erica pulchella, Erica discolor subsp. discolor, Searsia rosmarinifolia, Agathosma apiculata, Chironia baccifera covered in red berries, Hermannia flammea and an interesting prostrate Psoralea.
Being in the middle of a particularly stressful move (my 24th!!!)…. my camera battery got left behind. At least, the positive upshot of not taking pictures was that like the other three, I could handpull numerous Acacia cyclops (Rooipitjie) seedlings. The resprouting of Acacia saligna (Port Jackson) will have to be addressed sensitively by chemical means.

Erf 19201 -Human awfulising

We hoped to log Gladiolus vaginatus (Vulnerable) on this site, found flowering here mid-May 2017. Erf 19201 was even more dismally dry and abused by human rubbish than Diosma Reserve. At two spots there is the leftover mess of cable stripping (copper theft) and piles of clothing, probably unwanted burglary bounty. We flushed out twenty odd plovers, a hare and two Dikkop, a bright green Padloper and another tiny noenoe, one (Homopus areolatus, but despite their presence we hurried off the site. It is part of the ‘agony’ of Mossel Bay and the botanising in the lowlands, witnessing the magnitude of human awfulising.
Leucadendron galpinii (Vulnerable)(eight alive and six dead plants noted. https://www.ispotnature.org/communities/southern-africa/view/observation/709597/ailing-ld-galpinii-phytophthora-the-villain), Erica dispar (Near Threatened) and Euchaetis albertniana (Endangered) are the 3 specials we encountered.
Sandra

The quest for Oxalis ioeides
The day dawned clear and crisp and we reached Robinson Pass without incident. At this time of year the sun is really low on the horizon and the picnic spot was still in deep shadow. We got out to look for Acmadenia rupicola and Erepsia pentagona both known from the Robinson Pass and walked westwards along the rocky outcrops that are Erepsia’s preferred habitat. The other species we were targeting was the elusive Oxalis ioeides. We were looking for it, as it should be in flower now.

The blood-red flowers of Tritoniopsis caffra dotted the landscape of stony outcrops, boldly outlined due to the fire in November with a few of its sister species Tritoniopsis revoluta present in spots. Many interesting resprouters and reseeders were up but very few were in flower. Oldenburgia paradoxa was in flower and some huge plants probably over 100 years old were seen. Tetraria thermalis was resprouting and we discussed the fireproof leaf bases of this remarkable plant.

On the west slopes we came across a patch that had evaded the fire and there were a few Acmadenia rupicola holding on and also in flower. No Erepsia pentagona plants were found but the habitat was right.
We decided to check out the southern slopes near the northern end of the pass and walked along the trail a way. There were many Oxalis plants but not one that had reddish under the leaves. Not far along below the path, a different Oxalis was sighted, this time with the right characteristics. We got down on our knees (I always seem to be worshipping at the altar of the small plants) and photos from every discernable angle were taken. These will be posted on iNat so that the Oxalis guru (Kenneth Oberlander) can determine if we have been successful in our quest.

Watch this space for a yeah or a nay.
Priscilla

As you can see, the Aunties and Uncles have been very busy. It is getting close to Midwinter and we are already running around like the proverbial blue-arsed flies. One shudders to think what Spring is going to be like. This week we will be doing more post-burn monitoring on the Fynbos Estate in the Robberg Corridor. Warrick from Resilience has been appointed as an evaluator for the CREW programme by SANBI. He will be joining us for the day to see how we operate.
Hamba Kahle
Groete en dankie
Di Turner
Outramps CREW Group
Southern Cape

All id’s subject to confirmation by Doc Annelise and Jan Vlok, Steven Molteno, Dr Tony Rebelo, Nick Helme, Prof Charlie Stirton, Dr Robert Archer, Dr Robert McKenzie, Dr Ted Oliver, Christopher Whitehouse, Derek Tribble, Adriaan Grobler, Prix Burgoyne, Dr Kenneth Oberlander, Dr Pieter Winter, Dr David Gwynne-Evans and Mattmatt on iNat. Thank you all for your ongoing help and support.

Posted by outramps-tanniedi outramps-tanniedi, May 21, 2018 12:46

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