The Fynbos, a unique community of plants

April 27th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

South Africa’s national flower is the protea. Most of us are familiar with the king protea — it’s available in florist’s shops around the world. But finding it in the wild is a totally different experience.

Wild king protea growing in the fynbos, east of Cape Town.

The area around Cape Town, South Africa, is the richest floral kingdom in the world. Protea abound, so many different types that I can’t begin to identify them all.
Identification is particularly tough because the varieties look so different, one from another. That difference accounts for the flower’s name: it comes from the Greek god Proteus, who could change his shape at will.

I think this is Protea compact

Up close, the king protea is a prickle of colours and shapes.

The leaves of the king protea are thick and slightly waxy.

I saw many types of protea — and many other flowers, too, all growing wild on the hillsides in the fynbos. (The name comes from the Dutch words for fine leaf.)  In bloom everywhere was this beauty, colloquially called wild dagga.

A hillside of wild dagga, ericas and multiple other fynbos species.

Up close, the dagga (Leonotis leonurus) has a fascinating form, whether in full bloom,

I love the contrast between the bright orange and green.

or in bud.

The form of this wild flower, with buds spaced along the stem,
reminds me of a plant commonly grown in England.
Who can remind me of the name of that flower?

Gorgeous flowers abounded… but I can’t identify them, so you’ll simply have to enjoy the photos.

I think this is a type of erica. Correct me if I’m wrong.

I love the colour variation in the plant below.

What is it?

Equally striking was the height of this member of the reed family, silhouetted against the ocean in the distance.

One of the many restios growing in the fynbos.

But I must confess that my favourite newly-seen flower was a scraggly looking one I came across at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, one of the great botanical gardens in the world. (More on that in next week’s post.)

Why on earth would I like this flower best?

It’s called Erica patersonii. I’m not sure who Paterson was, only that his, or her, name is the same as mine.  (Pat is short for Patterson, not Patricia.) While it’s true that I spell my name with two ‘ts’ and the paterson of the plant world has only one ‘t’, I still plan to claim it as my personal South African flower.

Or perhaps I’ll claim this lovely leaf from another member of the protea family , Leucospermum patersonii.

Sun highlights the red-tinged edges of the leaf.

Can anyone tell me something about Paterson? I’d love to know who s/he was. 

A Breakfast of African Trees

April 22nd, 2014 | 5 Comments »
For a week I've been out of the loop -- no internet, no email, no phone. (It's been frustratingly wonderful.) Instead of posting blogs, I've been touring game parks in southern Africa, seeing amazing animals and even more amazing trees and shrubs. Here's a sample of some of the vegetation -- a tasty buffet, as it were.Every good breakfast includes an egg. So the first item on our menu of African trees and shrubs is the wild gardenia (Gardenia thunbergia). From a distance, the oval fruits resemble nothing as much as


Following my Tree

April 9th, 2014 | 4 Comments »
I was hoping that on this, my second 'follow a tree' post, the Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic' would have shed its winter coat.  After all, the first week of April is over. But that hasn't happened. Along with all the individuals I met up with, wandering around Montreal last week, (and wrote about here) his Majesty is still wearing his robes. Unlike those tidy city dwellers, however, he is looking quite disheveled.I promise, there is a tree hidden under the burlap.And ground under the snow. There are promising signs. Like these


Season’s Wrappings

April 6th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
In a cold climate, even the trees wear coats. A few days ago, on the 15th day of spring, this elderly woman was putting a brave face on it.Is it just me, or do others see a resemblance to Gertrude Jekyll?These little guys, though, looked so dejected I wanted to give them a pat on the back. The three Arctic explorers are almost done in.Who can blame them? It's a long trek from the steps to the sidewalk.An erstwhile member of the Ku Klux Klan was looking suspiciously across the