Ninety Minutes

Is all it takes. One of the advantages of living near George – from the coast you can reach the high inland mountains and everything in between in 90 minutes of driving or less. Considering the price of fuel, this is a very good thing. This week was a case in point, with trips to the Langkloof, Brenton on Sea, Camferskloof in the northern Outeniquas and the southern foothills of the mighty Swartberg. We are so lucky to live and work close to this kaleidoscope of different habitats and its wide variety of flora and fauna – although it wasn’t luck, but a choice we made.

Before sunrise on Wednesday, I parked on the Burnsleigh boundary and started up towards the nek in Camferskloof. It was freezing and the frost was thick on the ground, crunching under my boots as I walked. I thought my fingers were going to fall off and I soon had an ‘icecream” headache from the cold. This only disappeared about 2km up the track. It was a spectacular sunrise, flooding the mountain tops with orange light, which made for dramatic photos. Most of WAGS were walking from Sputnik down to Burnsleigh via the nek, presenting Marge with something of a transport problem. Parking the Buchu Bus at Burnsleigh was the solution to that. By the time I got up to the Nek, WAGs had just arrived and we walked back down to Burnsleigh together.

The veld is looking wonderful, despite the dry conditions. Leucadendron salignum (Common Sunshine Conebush) has taken on its lime-green/yellow plumage for the Winter, Protea neriifolia was in full pink and white flower and Allophyllus capensis was a bright burnt-orange in the Fynbos. Erica uberiflora (Taxi Heath) from pink to magenta was bright between the sparkling white flowers of Agathosma mundtii (Jaskkalspisbos). The path has been recently cleared, making it a delight to walk. So thank you Cape Nature. It was a truly “glad to be alive” day with friends in magnificent surroundings.

On Friday, SIM drove towards the Swartberg Pass to explore some of the southern foothills of the Swartberg. To get permission, I e-mailed Jan Vlok, who put me in touch with Wynand Loftus of Aurecon, who gave me Jeff Nel’s number. There was no reply. A little later he phoned back and he was in Washington D.C. in the USA. He was very pleased to give us permission and gave us his manager’s phone number. Jaco Venter manages the farm and was very welcoming. Although we had planned to walk up the jeep track, which goes to the top of the mountain, it starts on the farm next door. So instead, we decided to take the track up to the water tanks. When the track ended, we bundu-bashed up the ridge, until we came to a huge ding. From there we decided that retreat down the western side of the ridge was the best option. We had to cross two fences and were lucky to be able to do so. The first crossing was over, which we did quite easily and the second was under, which took slightly more huffing and puffing at the bottom of a donga.

The geology on the ridge was shale, although the app on Nicky’s phone kept on insisting that it was Cango limestone. The vegetation was renosterveld, with the odd fynbos component like Metalasia acuta. We were hoping to reach some Fynbos, but even at 992m, there was not much in evidence. Three years post-fire, the regeneration is slow. The ongoing low-rainfall scenario is not helping and it was a parched and dry landscape. There was very little in flower. In contrast, the views across to the Swartberg were a blue spectacular.

A silvery-grey Aspalathus, which slightly resembles A. pedunculata was all over the slopes. We think it will turn out to be the Critically Rare, Aspalathus karrooensis. We found five Pteronia hutchinsoniana (Rare) and a tiny Syringodea in colours from white to purple. This amazingly fragile little plant was growing through the inhospitable shale – unbelievable! We think it might be Syringodea longituba ssp. violaceae (Near Threatened) because of loss of habitat. Very few of the huge and iconic Aloe ferox have survived the fire three years ago and we saw no babies. We will be posting the pics on iNat in the coming weeks and will create a place, from which checklists and species lists can be generated. When it is up, we will add the URL to our list of places. We are hoping that good Winter rains will arrive in time to give us a beautiful Spring. So with permission, we will be back to do some more plant exploration in this very interesting and beautiful stretch of the Klein Karoo. Dankie almal.

P.S. We are highly indebted to Jaco. He noticed that I’d left the lights on in the Bus and turned them off. To the great relief of everyone, the BOB started easily. Jaco must have been the most relieved of all. The spectre of landing up with two middle-aged women and one ancient old crone on his hands receded into the distance.

Barnard’s Farm in the Langkloof
LOT were all set to visit Oom Sakkie Barnard’s Farm (Palmiet Drift) at the junction of the George/Uniondale and Oudtshoorn roads on Thursday 14th.

We got there and got directions from Oom Sakkie (who farms fruit and sheep here) as to where we could go for a “skrop-in-die-bos”. It had burned the previous season and we set out. A meter a minute must have been fast in comparison, but in this way we can examine all the interesting stuff.

We found Pelargonium ochroleucum (DDT) which was very cryptic as it was not in flower and we only recognized it because the Garden Route Botanical Garden has a few growing there. There were numerous Oxalis plants growing in the area and though none were flowering, we collected in order to get them flowering in the garden. One of these will be posted on iNat so that Kenneth can cast his eye upon it. The bulbils are dark brown (almost black) and are clearly ridged.

Further along, we came upon a few plants of Pteronia hutchinsoniana (Rare). Euphorbia silenifolia (LC) was in full flower as was Drosanthemum gracillimum(LC). Haworthia arachnoidea var. aranea (Not evaluated) was jammed into the rock crevices looking half-dead as the rainfall has been rather low this season. However the most interesting plant was a small Oxalis with hairy leaf-margins but not in flower. We are waiting to hear from Kenneth Oberlander re the id.

Just as we pulled out there were a few drops of rain – hopefully a taste of more to come to this scenic spot.

It’s going to be a busy week – so what’s new? Megan Taplin of Sanparks heads the Knysna section of the Garden Route National Park. The Kranshoek Trail between Plett and Knysna was badly damaged in the June 2017 fires and Sanparks has been busy fixing it, hopefully in time for the Oyster Festival. Megan has asked us to walk the trail and monitor the post-burn vegetation regeneration on Wednesday 27th. That will make it possible for the trail-fixers to put any necessary finishing touches to the track on Friday 29th. It is not one of our regular field trip days, so we have asked WAGS to join us to inspect the trail. I will look at the vegetation en route. With luck, the protests around Nekkies to the east of Knysna will have subsided and we’ll be able to get through. I will send Megan a trail report on Thursday and a veg report will come out the following Monday in our usual newsletter.

On Friday SIM and LOT are planning to visit the Gourikwa area. With luck, the magnificent Leucospermum praecox (Vulnerable) will be in full flower. The place is teeming with rare and endangered endemics.
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, Dr Christopher Whitehouse, 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.

Outramps Projects and Places on iNaturalist – You can browse through the observations or refer to the checklist which is in alphabetical order eg. Animals, birds etc.

Posted by outramps-tanniedi outramps-tanniedi, June 25, 2018 05:43


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