“Yes, Yes!” a voice floated through the swirling mist on Mt Gilboa last week. It was John Roff, delighted at finding Disa nervosa in bloom.
This plant mimics Watsonia and in the flower filled grassland certainly looked just like all the other Watsonias from a distance. Apparently, the similar colour and size of the inflorescences on different plants in the same location increases chances of being pollinated. “This is a pollination guild” John explained, pointing out the bright pink Cycnium racemosum near by too – all three plants the same colour and height, “Fooling the insects into thinking they are all the same plant.” Fascinating.
The occasion was a Midlands CREW fieldtrip. 15 flower enthusiasts turned up to explore the Mount Gilboa Nature Reserve owned and managed by Mondi. Mount Gilboa is almost 1800m above sea level and on clear days, the views of the Midlands are magnificent.
Mt Gilboa is located at the headwaters of three of KZN’s important river systems, namely the Umvoti River, the Myamvubu River that flows into the Mooi River, and the Mholweni River that flows into the uMngeni River. It includes extensive functional peat wetlands, which provide significant ecosystem services such as water purification and flood attenuation, and has 283 hectares of ‘critically endangered’ midlands mistbelt grasslands that were the focus of our attention.
Eriosema distinctum, Lobelia erinus, Gerbera ambigua, Albuca setosa, Crassula vaginata, Tulbaghia leucantha, lots and lots of Rhodohypoxis baurii, Delospermum (the vibrant flowers of these succulents always seem incongruous in the mist!)
The rocks which many plants grow close to are all Dolerite. Keith Cooper told us that there are lenses or fissures of bauxite running through these rock formations. Fortunately not in quantities large enough to attract the mining companies!
We didn’t have any luck, but were thrilled to see a pair of Blue Cranes with a tiny chick and this gorgeous little frog.
This plant had us all flummoxed – the flower was familiar, but none of us had seen the flat round leaves edged with red hairs before. Thanks Isabel Johnson for identifying it as Berkheya speciosa subsp ovate.
After a spot of birdwatching , part of the group headed into the mist belt forest in search of Emplectranthus gerradii. The Mvoti CREW had joined us with the specific intention of looking for this rare climber in the Karkloof forest.
Kathy Milford reports: We walked down a bright grassy bank into the soft light of the forest. In no time, John spotted the creeper with heart shaped leaves, but it wasn’t flowering. We walked down to the crystal clear stream flowing over rocks. A shout from Felix, who is like the proverbial sniffer dog, told us he had found flowering Emplectanthus, which had some teeny flowers for us to see.
We also spotted – Knowltonia, Begonia sutherlandii, Impatiens hochstetteri, Scadoxis sp not flowering and Streptocarpus fanniniae,
We then retraced our steps out of the forest and up the grassy slope and saw Anthericum cooperi and lots more Watsonia as we walked along the road towards Benvie. The road winds between indigenous forest and a plantation where the forest plants are happily growing up the bank until they meet the plantation. On the banks we saw Heliophila rigidluscula, Geranium schlechteri, Polygala virgate and this Wahlenbergia that we think might be pallidiflora.
A real treat was finding the creeper Dioscorea sylvatica which is much collected as a muthi plant. It has a large flattened tuber (elephants foot) with divided heart shaped leaves.
We found Diaphananthe caffra low on the trunk of a tree. There are three little plants full of buds which are still not open. A magnificent end to a really great day of flower hunting. Thank you Richard Booth for organising the field trip and everyone for participating so enthusiastically.