Category Archives: Threatened Species

Threatened Plant Species – Aloe dominella

ASPHODELACEAE: Aloe dominella (Near threatened)

The vibrant Aloe dominella is a succulent plant that propagates on the rocky outcrops and hill slopes of central KwaZulu-Natal. It ranges from Escourt and Mooi River to Vryheid.

Aloe dominella photographed by Philip Nel

Aloe dominella photographed by Philip Nel

The stems grow in tight groups, hidden by dried leaves, and are about 150 mm long. The leaves are dull green, many, upright, expanding and gradually narrowing over a long distance. The inflorescence are simple, about 350 mm long, and capitate (like the head of a pin).

The flowers lack a stalk and are about 40 mm long and 80 mm wide. They are yellow, sweetly scented, and capitate. The bracts, which are reduced leaf or leaflike structures at the base of a flower, are egg-shaped and gradually narrowing to a long point, thin, dry and brown in colour. The perianth (corolla) is bright yellow, 18 mm long, and blunt to club–shaped. It is supported on a special stalk at the base.

Aloe dominella photographed by Philip Nel

Aloe dominella photographed by Philip Nel

Aloe dominella flowers in June to October. The flowering usually occur after fires followed by the rain. Aloe dominella is associated to Aloe chortolirioides var. woolliana in terms of growth conventions, such as the growth of stems in constricted groups and size of leaves’ rosettes, however, A. dominella is distinguished from A. chortolirioides var. woolliana by its flower size and colour. A. chortolirioides var. woolliana produces pinkish-reddish flowers about 40 mm long, while Aloe dominella produces yellow flowers of about 18 mm long.

If you have seen these naturally occurring plants, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za.

References:

  • Van Wyk, B-E. and Smith, G. 1996. Guide to the aloes of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • Reynolds, G.W. 1938. Plate 36. A new Aloe from Natal. Journal of South African Botany. 4: 101-103
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Threatened Plant Species – Moraea hiemalis

IRIDACEAE: Moraea hiemalis [Near threatened]

The elegant Moraea hiemalis is a solitary plant that grows to heights of 450 mm in open grassland, with its distribution restricted to parts of Pietermaritzburg, Richmond and Kamberg. The second part of the binomial name “hiemalis” means “of the winter”, which refers to the mid-winter flowering season that falls between the months of July and August.

Moraea hiemalis

Moraea hiemalis

Plants produce an underground storage stem (corm), 12 mm diameter that has dark brown tunics (coat of the bulb) with netted-veins. The stems are 150 mm long, upright, single, gradually narrowing over a long distance and brown at the apex, and contain enveloping and enclosing bract leaves .

Leaves are solitary and lengthier when compared to the stems. The leaves are scale-like, whole, brittle and brown in colour on the surface and ribbed and silver-purple beneath. The leaf margins are rolled inwards and cylindrical with a groove on the side towards the axis, 5 mm diam. The large enveloping and enclosing leaf bracts are herbaceous, desiccated, gradually narrowing over a long distance and light brown at the apex. The interior leaf bracts are 10 mm long and the exterior bracts are equivalent to or shorter than the interior bracts.

The flowers of the Moraea hiemalis are yellow with deep apparent veins and intense yellow nectar guides that are clearly visible on the outer tepals (a segment of a perianth which is not differentiated into sepals and petals). Outer tepals 50 mm long, limb 30 mm long and 20 mm wide. The flowers are marginally curved backwards. The inner tepals are 35 mm long and 12 mm wide, upright, narrowly egg-shaped and tapering to a point on the axis.

The filaments are 7 mm long, attached midway downwards. The anthers are 8mm long. The Ovary is 15 mm long, protruding out of the scale-like leaves. The style is 20 mm long, 10 mm wide and tubular. Seeds are flat like a disc or plate.

Have you seen this beautiful plant growing naturally? If so, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager: s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

References:

  • Goldblatt, P. 1986. The Moraeas of South Africa: a systematic monograph of the genus in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Transkei, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Annals of Kirstenbosch Botanic gardens. 14: 1 -224. National Botanic Gardens.

Threatened Plant Species – Disperis woodii

ORCHIDACEAE: Disperis woodii [Declining]

Disperis woodii commonly known as Wood’s Disperis was named after John Medley Wood (1827 – 1915), a botanist and collector who became the first curator of the Natal Herbarium. Many people will know him through his numerous publication on KZN flora. The exquisite orchid is a declining species, which is under threat from urban development and sugarcane cultivation.

Disperis woodii is found in the damp, sandy grasslands of KZN and the Eastern Cape, growing to heights of between 40 – 150mm. Disperis woodii contains two leaves that are alternate, sharply pointed, dark green with silvery veins, egg-shaped with the wider part below the middle and are situated at the base or on the stem.

Wood's Disperis - Disperis woodii. Photograph by Geoff Nichols

Wood’s Disperis – Disperis woodii. Photograph by Geoff Nichols

Flowers are solitary, whitish or pink, in the axil of a small bract on a red stalk. Median sepal are egg-shaped with an upright, tubular spur (a slender hollow extension of the perianth, often containing nectar), 10 – 15mm long and dark yellow-green. Lateral sepals are broadest at the middle with two equal rounded ends, gradually narrowing to a long tip, however, the spurs are not pointed and are 4 – 6mm long, marked with a longitudinal pink streak. The petals are attached to the median sepal, curved like a sickle and divided into two unequal parts. They are long and rounded in outline, gradually narrowing to a long tip of 5 mm long and 3 mm wide. The ovary of Disperis woodii is egg-shaped and about 4 mm long.

Disperis woodii can be seen flowering between March and August.

Please report sightings of these naturally occurring plants to Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

References:

  • Kurzweil, H. & Victor, J.E. 2005. Disperis woodii Bolus. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2014.1. Accessed on 2015/06/04
  • Linder, H.P. & Kurzweil, H. 1999. Orchids of Southern Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam.
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Threatened Plant Species – Hydrostachys polymorpha

HYDROSTACHYACEAE: Hydrostachys polymorpha [Vulnerable]

Meet this unusual plant, Hydrostachys polymorpha, a perennial aquatic fern-like herb which is unable to survive without the turbulence of the water. Living life on the edge takes on a whole new dimension with this plant that has found a perfect formula for adhesion, nature’s very own super glue, allowing it to cling onto the rocks and thrive in the white waters which give rafters a thrill.

Hydrostachys polymorpha by Alexander Rebelo

Hydrostachys polymorpha by Alexander Rebelo

This plant is found on the rocks in the fast flowing fresh water within the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve, Umvoti and Krantzkloof Nature Reserve and the presence of the species is greatly affected by habitat degradation, river pollution, harvesting for medicinal use and most importantly reduced water flow.

Hydrostachys polymorpha grows up to 400 mm high. The leaves of the plant are basal and remain submerged in water. Leaves are 100 – 400 mm, contain small leaflets that are curled up, which gives the leaf a coarse wart-like appearance. The petiole and axis of the compound leaf are flat and coated with several wart-like outgrowths that are sometimes winged. Pinnae (leaflets of a pinnate leaf) are sub-opposite, numerous, spreading and 30 mm long.

Photograph by D. Gwynne-Evans

Photograph by D. Gwynne-Evans

Hydrostachys polymorpha flowers from May to August. The plant contains a spike inflorescence with alternate and sessile flowers along a common unbranched axis. The spike is erect above the water and dioecious (male and female flowers are borne on separate plants). The male and female are similar, strong, and occasionally smooth, grow to 300 mm long and occur from the base of the plant. The stalk is leafless, strong, and occasionally smooth. The male flowers have overlapping bracts that are broadly egg-shaped with very small bumps near the pointed apex and recurved margins. The female flowers have bracts that are shaped like bivalve molluscs, 3 mm long and a lip-like tip with a central nerve extending downwards.

The fruit of Hydrostachys polymorpha are flattened, smooth, egg-shaped and hidden inside the bract. The seeds are small and orange.

Remember to report sightings of these naturally occurring plants to Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

References:

  • Obermeyer A.A. 1970. Flora of Southern Africa 13: 211
  • Sieben, E., von Staden, L. & Raimondo, D. 2006. Hydrostachys polymorpha Klotzsch ex A.Br. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2014.1. Accessed on 2015/06/04

Making Sense of Oribi Census

Jiba Magwaza of the Endangered Wildlife Trust discusses the results of the most recent Oribi census which many farmers and landowners participate in annually. Please contact the EWT should you have any oribi on your land and consider participating in their annual survey.

Jiba Magwaza of the Endangered Wildlife Trust

Jiba Magwaza of the Endangered Wildlife Trust


The Oribi census is an exercise used to monitor animal numbers in private and protected areas. The period September to November is chosen because this is when the grasslands that have been burnt are flushing green making the Oribi easier to see as they are attracted to this green flush. Unfortunately in 2014 this was rather difficult with delayed rain leaving landowners skeptical of burning, thus making it difficult to count animals since they hide in the standing tall grass.

Female Oribi standing in tall grass.

Female Oribi standing in tall grass.

Oribi (Ourebia ourebi) surveys have been conducted in South Africa for over fifteen years and for that the Oribi Working Group would like to thank each and every landowner who has been involved since day one of this long-term survey effort. The Oribi Working Group saw a need to monitor Oribi because of the rate at which the population was perceived to be decreasing. Oribi face a lot of threats and require ongoing conservation attention in South Africa, as a working group we are committed to working with private landowners and protected land managers to ensure the conservation of this beautiful species.

Oribi - Ourebia ourebi

Oribi – Ourebia ourebi

In 2014 a total of 3006 Oribi were counted in South Africa from 266 survey returns, these numbers include protected areas and privately owned properties. When comparing between provinces KwaZulu-Natal submitted more surveys and has the highest number of animals, 1583 from 149 returns. KwaZulu-Natal is followed by the Eastern Cape with 1103 animals from 88 returns and then Mpumalanga which submitted 29 surveys and had a total of 320 animals.

Total national survey results and number of records as compared to previous year’s results. EKZNW reserve counts were included in 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 1998-2003 only included KZN province, thereafter the survey had a national focus. All of these values have been revised based on the discovery of historical data records previously not included.

Total national survey results and number of records as compared to previous year’s results. EKZNW reserve counts were included in 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 1998-2003 only included KZN province, thereafter the survey had a national focus. All of these values have been revised based on the discovery of historical data records previously not included.

Oribi surveys data to date have shown a high level of fluctuation of animal numbers with an increase in recent years of years back to similar numbers as recorded at the change of the century. This fluctuation in numbers is a result of varying survey efforts resulting from changes in the survey team and shifting levels of capacity. The crux of the story is that overall numbers in the country sit at just over 3000 animals and regionally populations have declined dramatically. The KZN population has about halved since 2001.Of concern is the high number of properties who are not sure of their population trends coupled with a high reporting rate of decreasing numbers. Mpumalanga submitted only 29 returns and the Oribi Working Group would like to see more returns from this Province in order to assess the overall trend.

Dr. Ian Little, Manager of the EWT's Threatened Grassland Species Programme

Dr. Ian Little, Manager of the EWT’s Threatened Grassland Species Programme

Unfortunately Oribi are faced with many threats. These animals are an easy target for predators and humans. As grassland specialists they need good quality grasslands to survive, if it is disturbed in any way Oribi will have a hard time surviving. The 2014 Oribi survey reported that poaching with dogs is by far the most prominent threat, followed by stray dogs then snaring and illegal shooting. Another major threat to Oribi is habitat destruction, with considerable development (including widespread mining and agriculture) taking place in grassland areas. From our experience these threats are not confined to any province in particular and are significant throughout the region.

Oribi

Oribi

The issue of poaching with dogs is a serious threat and has seen a significant recent increase with the shift from hunting as a hobby to poaching and gambling in large numbers (also called taxi hunting). The EWT, EKZNW, The KZN Hunters and Conservation Association and SACAN are working closely with each other to tackle all these issues by working directly with landowners and communities at large. Environmental education and awareness is very important for all of us to achieve our conservation goals. Collectively we can do more and make a difference by tackling all the problems faced not only by Oribi but all of our natural resources.

For more information or to report poaching with dogs contact SACAN on 08-616-72226.

Threatened Plant Species – Clivia gardenii

AMARYLLIDACEAE: Major Garden’s Clivia – Clivia gardenii [Vulnerable]

The Major Garden’s Clivia was named after Major Robert Garden who was a soldier and naturalist stationed in KZN from 1848 to 1853.

These plants are usually between 800 and 1300 mm in height and are known from Ngome Forest to KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. It is harvested for traditional medicine use, which poses a major threat to this magnificent species.

Clivia gardenii by Sthembile Zondi

Clivia gardenii by Sthembile Zondi

The 10 to 12 bright green leaves are in a compact clump at the base. The leaves are long and than, 25–60 mm wide and 350–900 mm long, narrowing to a sharp point.

Individual flowers are often organised into a larger group or cluster, termed an inflorescence.The inflorescence stalk is 300–450 mm long and the flower stalk 25–40 mm long. The hanging flowers are tubular, with 10–25 flowers per umbel (a common point from where the stalks arise similar to an umbrella). The colour of the flowers vary from yellow to brownish red, usually orange-red with green tips, curved and not drooping.

These Clivia flower from May–July each year. Their fruits are berries, longer than broad, one or two-seeded, ripening the following winter after about 12–15 months.

Clivia gardenii by Sthembile Zondi

Clivia gardenii by Sthembile Zondi

If you have seen this plant, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

Reference: SCHEEPERS, G. 2011. Clivia gardenii adopted from Hooker, W.J. (1856) The Clivia Society. Accessed on 2014-08-02.

Threatened Plant Species – Senecio dregeanus

ASTERACEAE: Senecio dregeanus [Vulnerable]

Perennial herb with flowering stem up to 1m tall, single not in clusters and simple. It is found in KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and southern KwaZulu-Natal coastal areas, from Greytown to Umdoni Park.

Senecio dregeanus Stirling Mar 2011

Senecio dregeanus

Leaves egg-shaped and gradually narrowing to a point at the leaf tip, leathery, bracts narrow to narrowly egg-shaped, embracing the stem. Heads arranged around, few to many on long surrounded with bracts, peduncles more or less flat-top arranged.

Senecio dregeanus_Midmar2

Senecio dregeanus

Involucre bell-shaped, bracts about 20, a little longer than the disc flowers, with the scent, heavily rowed by small bracts around the base of the calyx. Rays long, spreading, purple, disc purple. It flowers in March to April.

Senecio dregeanus_Midmar

Senecio dregeanus

If you have seen this plant, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

References
HILLIARD O.M. &BURTT. 1985. Notes from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 42(2): 171−225.

The Three Cranes and their Landowner Custodians

Article from the KZN Crane Foundation‘s Summer Newsletter and written by Charlie MacGillivray, Chairman of the Karkloof Conservancy and KZNCF Committee Member.


"First world and hi-tech farming operations, with high input and high output (yields), can operate cheek by jowl with some of the endangered (red data) species of birds such as the Blue, Grey Crowned and the criticalled endangered Wattled Cranes" Charlie MacGillivray

For many Farmers, there is a very real sense of pride and more importantly “ownership” of the flocks of some, or in fact where fortunate, all three of these stately birds occur.

Grey Crowned Cranes on Loskop farm in the Karkloof

Grey Crowned Cranes on Loskop farm in the Karkloof

This privilege is often recognised by Custodian signs and ought to be regarded as a fulfilment of symbiotic co-existence and success.

Many farmers in the Karkloof are recognised as Crane Custodians.

Many farmers in the Karkloof are recognised as Crane Custodians.

Cranes are truly magnificent birds and beautiful to behold. They depict humour in their behaviour, grace in flight and delight in song.

Grey Crowned Cranes gossiping - By Patrick Cahill

Grey Crowned Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

Blue Cranes dancing on Colbourne farm - By John Hill

Blue Cranes dancing on Colbourne farm – By John Hill

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre - By Patrick Cahill

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

The real thrill for me and I know for many landowners fortunate (thoughtful) enough to have these graceful inhabitants, is that with a little care and courtesy, there is room for ALL of us. Our yardstick being their continued proliferation, with increasing flock sizes in as many different localities as possible.

Large flock of about 50 to 60 Grey Crowned Cranes are often seen in the Karkloof.

A large flock of about 50 to 60 Grey Crowned Cranes are often seen in the Karkloof.

The real threat and the cause of the dire dearth of the flocks of yore, is because their ideal habitats have been transformed by agricultural (and lifestyle) use and in some cases misuse. Here forestry is also seriously implicated.

This delightful picture by the learners of Gartmore Primary School depicts the 3 crane species in an agricultural environment. A common sighting for most of the children.

This delightful picture by the learners of Gartmore Primary School depicts the 3 crane species in an agricultural environment.

It is not always blatantly wilful actions, but often through ignorance by failing to ask ourselves the obvious question, “What will be the consequence if I proceed with what and how I/we do things?”

Blue Crane at the Karkloof Conservation Centre - By Patrick Cahill

Blue Crane at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

We need to be more attuned to the dependence and interdependence of ALL components of our environment to ensure the integrity of bio-diversity. More emphasis on the primary organisms of our eco-systems, and the role played in ensuring sustainability further up the “food chain”.

Ren Stubbs, a member of the Karkloof Conservancy, showing the earthworms which is No-Till farmings greatest ally.

Earthworms are No-Till farmings greatest ally.

Landowners hold the trump card in the proliferation of our precious Cranes, and it is our role to help where there is some ignorance, encourage and assist where there is uncertainty, and to exercise influence on as many people as possible, to ensure the future of our threatened populations.

Blue Cranes on Gartmore Farm

Blue Cranes on Gartmore Farm

The respective calls of the three Cranes serve as our commentary on the success of our endeavours, and should remain the highlight of any day.

A pair of Wattled Cranes with their offspring on Gartmore Farm.

A pair of Wattled Cranes with their offspring on Gartmore Farm.

Threatened Plant Species – Aloe saundersiae

ASPHODELACEAE: Aloe saundersiae  [Critically endangered]

Smallest of all aloes in South Africa, they are found in rocky places, crevices  and open ground amongst short grass within central KwaZulu-Natal.

Aloe saundersiae

Aloe saundersiae

The plant grows up to 15 mm high. They are small plants becoming stemless with spindle shaped roots, solitary or small tufted groups. Leaves rosulate, narrowly linear 10-16 to a rosette. Upper surface slightly channelled with longitudinal groove, green without spots, lower surface green, and few white spots near base.

Aloe saundersiae

Aloe saundersiae

Margins soft white triangular teeth, distant near base, smaller and crowded upwards. Inflorescence simple 140-180 mm high. Flower pale cream-pink. Flowering in February to March.

Aloe saundersiae

Aloe saundersiae

If you have seen this plant, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager s.parbhoo@sanbi.org.za
Reference: JEPPE, B. 1969. South African Aloes. Purnell. Cape Town.

A very dedicated Suvarna Parbhoo of CREW

A very dedicated Suvarna Parbhoo of CREW

World Wildlife Day

Today the world will celebrate the first ever World Wildlife Day. The 3rd of March was chosen by the United Nations General Assembly because it is the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international treaty that aims to ensure global trade does not threaten the survival of listed species. r milestone midlands dwarf chameleon In the KZN Midlands, we have a wide range of special fauna and flora to celebrate and care for.  These include many species listed on the IUCN Red Data List as Threatened, Endangered and Critical.  There is the Cream Spotted Mountain Snake, the Midlands Dwarf Chameleon and the Long Toed Tree Frog.  This bright green frog avoids trees and lives in grasslands and marshy areas.  It earned its name from its abnormally long fingers and toes with reduced webbing.

r long toed tree frog

The Karkloof Blue butterfly is one of the more famous 50 invertebrates in danger.  This tiny butterfly is endemic to the region and particularly rare as its grassland habitat has largely been destroyed. Dr Adrian Armstrong of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife:  “Many lycaenid butterflies such as the Karkloof Blue (Orachrysops ariadne) have mutualistic relationships with ants and each butterfly may only lay its eggs on one particular species of plant, the larval food plant (in this case Indigofera woodii). The absence of the ant or the food plant means the absence of the breeding butterfly.  These sites may be distant from one another, linked only by dispersal of adults who move between colonies to ensure their continued survival. Obviously, small colonies are prone to extinction though habitat change caused by drought, fires at the wrong time of year, or prevention of fire in vegetation that requires fire for regeneration.”

STRUIK S75 473A

Fourteen bird species are in danger, including, in the Vulnerable category:  the African Grass Owl, African Finfoot and Crowned and Blue Cranes and Southern Ground Hornbill.  The Cape Parrot and Spotted Ground Thrush are Endangered , Yellow-breasted Pipit, Blue Swallow and Wattled Crane are Critically Endangered.

r wattled crane by Karen Edwards1

Six Red Data List mammals are found in the Midlands – including the Oribi, Serval, Striped Weasel, Samango Monkey.  The Samango is endemic to the evergreen Afro-Montane forests of Southern Africa – moist forests. These forests cover less than 1% of this sub-region and are severely fragmented.  They live in troops of up to 30 members and are active during the day, resting in the tree tops at night.  They feed on a wide range of wild fruits, flowers and leaves as well as caterpillars and other insects.

samango monkey crop res.

Many plant species, including – Senecio dregeanus (below) – which has been found in Impendle and on Beacon Hill; Asclepias woodii which occurs on Beacon Hill; Alipidea amatymbica and Anemone fanniniae found at Mbona and in Impendle.

acrea butterfly.res

Only a small proportion of this diversity, however, and only 53% of priority species,  receive protection within the existing protected area network.

Judy Bell, Chair of the Midlands Conservancies Forum:  “Conservation of these species and their habitats is vital to ensure the ecosystems in which they live can continue to provide us with essential goods and services.   Human wellbeing depends on healthy ecosystems which provide many things we take for granted – clean water, fresh air, pollination, carbon storage, flood attenuation, modulation of extreme temperatures, and so much more.   The KZN Midlands is situated within a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area. It is rich in wetlands, springs, streams and the grasslands, forests and other ecosystems which form the fabric of our life-support systems or biodiversity that underpin the economy of the province.” r rocky stream impendle 175 Currently, at  least 80% of the important biodiversity lies outside formally protected areas,  on privately or communally owned land, making strategic partnerships with landowners  crucial if our natural heritage is to be conserved. The Biodiversity Stewardship Programme is a good tool for improving the conservation management of sites of biodiversity significance while  maintaining the productivity of the landscape for landowners. Proactive  partnerships and cooperative management are the key ingredients of natural  resource management and custodianship. A further aim of the programme is the creation of a  network of protected areas, linked as corridors across the landscape, in order to  improve the ability of species to adapt to climate change.  Stewardship processes identify land of  critical importance for biodiversity conservation and/or the provision of  ecosystem services, and encourage landowners to engage in  biodiversity conservation and other sustainable land use practices. r biodiversity survey