Impendle Nature Reserve

The Midlands CREW headed out to Impendle Nature Reserve on 23 March to find some flowers and wander in the grasslands.  Most of us had never visited before, so we were lucky that CREW stalwarts, Christeen Grant, Barbara and David Clulow came along to show us the way. They have had success during past seasons in finding Threatened Species – Asclepias biscuspis, Disa scullyi, Asclepias concinna, Schizoglossum bidens var hirtum, Asclepias woodii, Schizoglossum bidens subsp hirtum,  Asclepias woodii, Bowiea volubilis subsp. volubilis and Sandersonia aurantiaca – in various locations in the Midlands.

Boston Crew Barbara, Christeen, David in impendle res.

The reserve centre lies 11 km due south of  Impendle town, and about 50 km west of Pietermaritzburg. It took about an hour to get there from Howick.  The terrain is undulating, steep and rocky at the highest points, and dissected with small river drainage lines that fall over a minor escarpment as they join the Umkomaas River, which forms much of the site’s southern boundary. Altitude range is 935–1 586 m.  The site is predominantly grassland (about 2 000 ha). Most of this is Highland Sourveld,  with some Southern Tall Grassveld remaining. In its pristine state, this grassland should be dominated by Red Grass Themeda triandra, but the scarcity of this grass indicates that the site has been man-modified in the past – we saw plenty of Aristida and Paspalum.

impendle mountain and berg res.

We headed up the hill from the carpark. There are no paths, so we simply waded through the grass, finding treasures as we went.

heading up the hill.res

The first discovery was Satyrium macrophyllum – shown off beautifully against the dry gold grass

IMG_8812 Satyrium macrophyllum CGrant

then Alectra sessiliflora, which is flowering profusely in the Midlands this year.

IMG_8821 Alectra sessiliflora CGrant

We stopped to photograph everything! Christeen took all the fabulous flower photos in this post.

Peter and Christeen phtographing res.

We saw Disa fragrans, Helichtrysum adenocarpum, Monocymbium ceresiliforme, Habernaria lithophila, Helichrysum glomeratum, Becium obovatum subsp. obovatum var. obovatum.

IMG_8820 Becium obovatum CGrant

Eucomis autumnalis, Veronia natalensis, Searsia (Rhus) discolour, Vigna vexillata, Pachycarpus sp (not in flower), Lobelia erinus, Schistostephium crataegifolium,

IMG_8839 Schistosephium crataegifolium CGrant

Satyrium longicauda (not in flower), Wahlenbergia cuspidata, Haberneria dregeana,

IMG_8843 Habenaria dregeana CGrant

Barleria monticola, Sebaea sedoides (isivumelwane esikhulu), Hermannia gerradii – two plants spreading across the earth below the rocky area which was a first for David and Christeen and cause for much delight. Lobelia erinus

IMG_8838 Lobelia erinus CGrant

Leonotis intermedia,  Striga elegans, Gladiolus sericeovillosus  – this was Lindiwe’s favourite flower of the day.

IMG_8858 Gladiolus sericeovillosus CGrant

Some things we really puzzled over, but half the fun is looking up, discussing and finding the answer.

what is that impendle crew res.

This Senecio had us stumped. Peter thought it might be Senecio dreageana which is listed in the red Data book as vulnerable. He has posted it on iSpot – for assistance from other amateur Botanists – have a look: iSpot record  If it is,  it is pretty special – “It probably occurs at less than 10 locations, based on herbarium records and habitat maps. At least 67% of its grassland habitat has been transformed, and all remaining subpopulations are on small habitat fragments that are subject to ongoing degradation as a result of frequent fires, overgrazing, subsistence agriculture and the effects of fragmentation. Habitat loss has taken place over a period longer than three generations. Data on population size and trends are urgently needed.”  We are uncertain and await specialist identification – it is so easy for us to be over enthusiastic and misidentify things, so we want to make sure.

IMG_8824 Secencio sp CGrant

Crassula pellucida, Kniphofia laxiflora (not flowering), Diospyrus lycoides (not flowering), Scolopia, Berkheya multijuga, Calpurnia sericia (not flowering), Kalenchoe persiflora, Hibiscus trionum,

IMG_8855 Hibiscus trionum CGrant

Merwilla plumbea (not flowering), Cussonia paniculata (not flowering), Argylobium magenta (not flowering), Rhabdiosella calycina, Canthium mundianum (not flowering – stunted amongst rocks),  Buchnera simplex,

IMG_8881 Buchnera simplex CGrant

Ziziphus (not flowering – stunted amongst rocks), Pelargonium luridum (not flowering), Ortholobium polystictum, Asparagus cooperi, Watsonia socium (a few still in flower), Aloe maculata (not flowering), Pimpinella caffra,

IMG_8861 Pimpinella caffra CGrant

Dicoma anomala

IMG_8886 Dicoma anomala CGrant

Ayanda simply loved the wide opens spaces, the quiet and the views.

Ayanda and Christeen impendle crew res.

We couldn’t identify: Small yellow tubular flower with 5 fused petals. Fine 10cm long stem from ground.  Tiny bracts. Anyone have any ideas?


Helichrysum cephaloideum, Zaluzianskia microsiphon, Gladiolus ecklonii,

IMG_8875 Gladioulus eckonii CGrant

We saw a couple of reed buck, lots of butterflies, found a porcupine quill and fell into a few aardvark holes.  This tiny weevil was interesting

IMG_8869 Weevil sp CGrant

Greyia sutherlandii, Grewia occidentalis, Halleria lucida, Scolopia mundii, Schizoglossum bidens (with fruit), Dicomis autumnalis, Eulophia sp (seed pods and caterpillar)

IMG_8889 Eulophia sp with caterpillar

We were very excited to find Bowiea volubilis amongst the Dolerite rocks on the ridge as it is on out Target Species list of Threatened species to look out for.  The Red Data list tell us that it is under severe threat from harvesting for the medicinal plant trade.

IMG_8883 Boweia volubilis CGrant

We also thought we spotted Anenome fanninii (another from our list) in the valley.  Impendle holds one of the largest populations of Blue Swallow remaining in South Africa, however we only visited the Northern slopes, not the area where they nest.

The reserve consists of a series of farms that were first settled by colonists over 100 years ago. Most of the land was devoted to cattle grazing, but small areas have been used for crops.  The farms were purchased in the late 1970s by the government for the purpose of consolidating the old KwaZulu homeland. They have been uninhabited since 1980. The value of this Trust Land to conservation was recognised in 1983 with the proposal to formally convert the area into Impendle Nature Reserve. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has been the management authority for the reserve since 1994.

Should you wish to visit, you need to make arrangements before you go or you may find the gate locked.  Call Michael Ngubo, 072 542 3049 or Nicholas Mndaweni, 082 518 8219.  The Officer in Charge is Mbuyiselo Gxashi – his email address is

6 thoughts on “Impendle Nature Reserve

  1. Peter Warren

    Hi Nikki

    Wonderful blog on the CREW visit to Impendle. Had a great and rewarding time. Christeen’s photographs are wonderful, she clearly has much greater photographing skills than I have.

    I have started to upload my photographs of the species that I took photographs of on the CREW outing. I will continue with the others. Christeen’s photographs are wonderful, she clearly has much greater photographing skills than I have.

    Some issues have emerged.

    1. No takers on the vulnerable senecioI am afraid so we only have my rather uncertain view on the ID. I always get low conformation rates on senecio and helichrysum. Pity. 2. Your yellow starlooks, to naive me, to like a *Wahlenbergia *except that they are only blue or pale white. I spent some time but I am obviously following the wrong leads. 3. I have put a title of “Midlands Crew Field Trip”on all my uploads. Do you think it is feasible and desirable to upload all known photographs? There are copyright issues. 4. As the king of the typos, may I be petty enough to point out two. *Bowiea *and not *Boweia* (in only one place, the other one is right). *Gladiolus s sericeovillosus *and not *Gladiolus sericeoillosus*. 5. Cat’s Whiskers has changed its classification *O**cimum obovatum subsp. obovatum var. obovatum.* 6. What is your idea of how we keep the records of what we have done.

    Love Peter


    1. Nikki Brighton

      Thank you Peter for your comments and for correcting my spelling mistakes. I really need to get the “Botanical SpellCheck” that is apparently available! I think you should upload as many photos as you wish onto iSpot – it is a great space to keep records as I don’t have a better idea. Perhaps the tag should be Midlands CREW Impendle, rather than ‘field trip’? but we can do that on future trips – name them after the place we visit, so they are easy to find. your photos are super too. Please send the iSpot link so others can have a look at your hardwork. We should have taken a specimem of the Senecio so that we could have it properly identified by the Herbarium! We will learn as we go.
      love Nikki


  2. Peter R Warren

    After digging around and some help I am convinced about he identification of Senecio dregeanus .

    It has been found in previous CREW expeditions to Impendle.. Flower and bracts look the the previous photos.
    The ID has been supported by David Styles on Plant Chat…
    It has also been observed on Beacon Hill, Howick where I had a chance to do a more detailed study.
    Leaves support the ID from both sites..
    Chris Wahlberg has supported both IDs on iSpot.
    It has the same bracts and flowers as the picture for the species illustrated in the Red Data List.
    It is not the species Senecio discodregeanus .as illustrated in Pooley. That species has noray florets. (disco… get it).

    That wraps it up for me.


  3. Pingback: In Flower Now – Satyrium macrophyllum | Midlands Conservancies Forum

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