Summer Walk at Mbona

An enthusiastic crowd gathered on the Summer Solstice to explore Mbona with Keith Cooper.  The gorgeous sunny day meant the views were wonderful – across Albert Falls dam, to Blinkwater, Gilboa and beyond.

start of our walk at mbona 005 res.

We began with a wander through the forest. Keith is an expert on forests so shared plenty of interesting information for us to consider as we walked.  The Lemonwood (Xymalos)trees are plentiful, probably because they were not prized for their timber by the piooneer woodcutters as the Yellowwood, Black Stinkwood and Sneezewood were.

knobwood at mbona 014 res.

His simple definition of an Afro-montane or Mist-belt forest was: Closed Canopy, Multi-strata, a Plant Community Dominated by Evergreen Trees.  Really easy for us all to remember.  This type of forest is also known as Podocarpus forest as the three Yellowwood species are doninant here.

mbona 030 res.

Keith rattled off the Zulu names of many of the trees and plants, and knew their traditional medicinal uses too.  Lovely evocative names like umLungamabele  (Knobwood or Zanthoxylum davyi)  and  umaPhipha ( Cape Beech or Rapanea melanophloes).  Very often the Zulu name describes the plant use, like Clivia miniata, for instance, known as umayime as it “stops everything” – used to treat fever and snakebite.

clivia at mbona 027res.

On the forest floor, Streptocarpus, Begonia sutherlandii, Peperonia retusa and Impatiens flanaganiae,  were flowering.

begonia at mbona 034.res

Jasmine (probably Jasminum breviflorus) was climbing up the trees. Many ferns, orchids and even Streptocarpus were spotted high up the trunks, obviously getting as much light as possible.

jasmine at mbona 010 rees.

Keith told us that Blue Duiker were once common, but none had been seen for a while now. Theory is that it is due to the increase in Caracal.  Special birds which occur here include Guerney’s Orange Thrush and Delegorgue’s Pigeon.

funghi at Mbona res.

As we emerged from the forest, Keith explained the importance of the ec0-tone in maintaining the forest. This is the vegetation which occurs on the edges and protects the forest from fire. The Karkloof forests are about 600ha in extent, one of the biggest forests of this type in South Africa.

emerging from forest to grassland at mbona 039 res.

The views across the valley and of the hills nearby were spectacular.

views mbona 045res.

This grassland is known as Festuca grassland and is unusual in the area as usually it occurs in the Drakensberg.  We were astonished at the thousands and thousands of Scilla (Merwilla plumbea) which covered the steep slopes.  Everyone determined to return next spring to see them in full flower.

merwilla at mbona 047 res.

Following the path, we rounded the hillside and came across a completely different landscape – facing North West – this was hot, dry habitat. The vegetation changed too – many aloes amongst the dolerite rocks.

on the dolorite boulders at mbona 060 res.

We found this tiny white plant tucked beside the rocks, flowering profusely, which no one could identify.  Any ideas?  Will post on iSpot and see if one of the plant experts can help.  There were a few Satyrium, Hypoxis and Alepidea natalensis in flower too.

unidentified small white flower at mbona 074 res.

Keith pointed out clumps of a Merwilla he had discovered,  which is yet to be described. Certainly, like no Merwilla any of us had seen before. We look forward to hearing it’s name once described (although this can take years).

new merwilla species at mbona 069.res

What a fascinating morning.  A highly recommended walk that takes place on the third Friday of every month. Contact Keith Cooper on 082 574 1958 to book a spot.

Donation: R20 to Karkloof Conservancy

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3 thoughts on “Summer Walk at Mbona

  1. David

    This recent addition to the rapidly-growing popular walks in the Midlands deserves to stay on the calendar for ever. It will enrich so many people’s lives. Thanks to Nikki for publicising them so well; so too the walk leader for the guidance and enthusiasm

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  2. Pingback: Blogging, Botanising and Mbona « Plant Abundance

  3. Ross Haynes

    Thanks for sharing the event in such detail with those of us who could not attend – I felt as though I was actually there.

    Thanks for all you do, Nikki, to keep the enviro-flag flying high in the Midlands.

    Ross

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