Mist on Mount Gilboa

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.

r disa nervosa gilboaThis 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.

gilboa 084The 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.

gilboa 052Mt 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.

gilboa 177Driving up from our gathering spot at Mbona, we had stopped on the roadside to admire large clumps of Dierama luteoalbidium, lots of Silene sp,

gilboa 018Ledebouria, Wahlenbergia, Senecio, Helichrysum, Papaver aculeatum and delightful Littonia modesta.

gilboa 005We found our first orchid on the roadside too – Disa stachyoides

gilboa 022In the gorgeous grasslands on top of the hill we found the following (and more) in flower:  Psammotropha mucronata, Graderia scabra, Gladiolus longicollis,

gilboa 042Morea inclinata had just finished flowering, this little yellow Morea had us puzzled – Morea trifida perhaps?

gilboa 115Eriosema distinctum, Lobelia erinusGerbera 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!)

gilboa 081Diclis retans, Kouhoutia amatymbica, Vernonia hirsutea, Hebenstretia dura, Senecio oxyriifolius, Geranium wakkerstroomium, tiny dark blue Agapanthus (probably minima)

gilboa 168Lots of indigenous bramble, Rubus ludwigii and Hypericum lalandii

gilboa 173The 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!

gilboa 148Indigofera foliosa were stunning and the large clumps of Aloe boylei were obviously the site of a research experiment – probably on pollinators.

gilboa 158Jamebritennia breviflora, Lotononis sp, Dimorphotheca,

gilboa 190Aspidonepsis flava , Scabiosa, bright pink Senecio (probably macrocephalus), Nemesia, Dipcadi viride

gilboa 224Felix Middleton was very excited at the many different Proteas we saw and photographed the following:

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DSCN2674After enjoying our picnics and paging through our guides trying to id some of our finds,

gilboa 205we drove down to the vlei near Mark’s dam to search for Disa scullyi.

CREW Marks dam

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.

gilboa 258Masses of Dierama, Hesperantha and Gladiolus papillio in full bloom in the ‘Hydropholus Grassland’ (more Keith Cooper expertise.)

gilboa 277Standing tall in the wetland grasses, Kniphofia –  fluviatilis perhaps?

gilboa 268This 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.

gilboa 196After 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.

brachystelma

We also spotted – Knowltonia, Begonia sutherlandii, Impatiens hochstetteri, Scadoxis sp not flowering and Streptocarpus fanniniae,

streptocarpus fainia

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.

r wahlbergia (possible 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.

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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.

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