Tag Archives: grasslands

Grand Adventures on Beacon Hill

Grade 5 Thembelihle Outing to Beacon Hill on 19 November 2015

It was a chilly and damp start to the day and the children looked very apprehensive as they arrived at school. A small group of eco club kids rushed over to me and asked if we would still be going (our last date was postponed) and I replied “we go even if it SNOWS“, which had them laughing. We spent the first 10 minutes reorganising into the previously picked teams, distributing bandanas, clipboards and booklets to each team.


Eve & Dave arrived and we loaded everyone into their vehicles and Leslé, Rejoice, Beverley and I followed in our vehicles. When we arrived on the hill an adult was allocated to each team. After reminding everyone to look for anything tiny and unusual, we set out to climb the hill.


Immediately, the children were engrossed in finding dew laden spider webs, ants, a porcupine hole and lots of varieties of grasses and flowers. each group went at it’s own pace and each group had a different adult with different knowledge. It turned out that teacher Rejoice was a total star and had grown up near a grassland and she identified lots of flowers and plants not necessarily by name but by use, which was fascinating.


She also spotted a shed snakeskin wrapped around a plant which we had all missed. On reaching the top of the hill each group was amazed by the view of Howick, Midmar, Mpophomeni and beyond.


They really enjoyed identifying places and spotting trains moving through the landscape. They also then looked at their maps and tried to figure out the different keys. We took some time to let everyone relax and just ‘breathe’. By the time we reached the beacon everyone was watching where they were stepping, asking questions and being engaged. The weather had changed and it was sparkling sunshine with a light breeze- just perfect! We doled out apples and snacks and the group was allowed some more freedom to enjoy the view and the place.

We finally headed down the hill and back to school and the children settled down to write about what they thought of the day. They really loved the outing and found it amazing that there was such a ‘cool’ place near to their school.

Thanks N3TC (small)

“Today was a cool day, Beacon Hill is a cool place! I saw different plants and flowers and even a crab. We have not seen these before.” – Lwandiswa Shange

“Thanks for an outstanding outing. Much fun, learning, and exploration was had by all the Grade 5 Love Bugs. You guys are superstars” – Beverley Cameron (teacher)

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


  • 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.

How many Oribi are left?

This report was compiled by Dr Ian T. Little & Jiba F. Magwaza. Photos by Ian Little.

The Oribi (Ourebia ourebi) is a highly specialized antelope inhabiting African temperate grasslands. The Oribi is a small antelope with a similar size and appearance to a steenbok and a shoulder height nearly reaching 60cm. Males are differentiated from females by having horns (straight horns that curve slightly forward) and being slightly bigger than females.


In South Africa, their numbers are thought to have declined in recent years based on the reported rate of illegal hunting, and they now exist in only a few formally protected areas, with the bulk of their population occurring on privately-owned land. The Oribi is a useful flagship species for highlighting the value of and threats to grasslands. Only 2.4% of South Africa’s grasslands are formally conserved and over 60% have already been irreversibly transformed. The ever increasing threat from expanding mining operations throughout the biome is likely to increase the amount of irreversibly transformed habitat significantly in the near future. Grasslands are the water and food production centres of the country and also one of the key centres of urban development. It is crucial that we protect the remaining natural grasslands.

For this reason the Endangered Wildlife Trust and a number of partners have been working consistently over the years in order to sustain and manage existing populations and to curb and reduce the impacts of known threats to the species.

The 2013 Oribi Survey, which started in the beginning of September and ended in October marks the third year of consecutive annual surveys of this endangered species. It was good to see more people supporting the survey in 2013 and this increase in participation shows hope for Oribi and the mission going forward will be to encourage more effective conservation efforts through increased awareness and collaboration.

The Oribi Survey is one of the initiatives run by the Oribi Working Group to monitor this endangered antelope across South Africa. The Oribi Working Group, which consists of members from the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), NCT Forestry Cooperative Limited, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), is committed to the conservation of Oribi, whether on protected land or private land.


After sending out forms via emails, calling landowners and the publication of Oribi Survey articles in the media, a total of 219 replies were received and the results follow below.

A total of 2932 Oribi were counted in South Africa and the following numbers were counted in the various provinces:

  • 1429 in KZN
  • 1 in Gauteng
  • 8 in Limpopo
  • 337 in Mpumalanga
  • 1155 in Eastern Cape
  • 2 in Free State

From the 219 returns, 92 were from KwaZulu-Natal, 37 from Mpumalanga, 2 from Gauteng, 1 from the Free State, 1 from Limpopo and 83 from Eastern Cape (please note some returns are combined into regions or districts).


From the 2013 census returns, the common threats facing Oribi were shown to be snaring, organized dog hunting, stray dogs, illegal shooting, jackal and habitat loss.

graph sommon percieved threats to oribi

If nothing is done about it, the numbers of this species will continue to decline. Habitat quality, habitat management and protection from poaching determine Oribi densities, which can range from one Oribi per 30ha to one per 8ha. An increase in reported illegal hunting with dogs over the past five years is of particular concern and it is important to note that while reporting rates of illegal hunting with dogs was high in 2000 to 2005 recent illegal hunting is in the form of large organized gambling syndicates which are considerably more destructive than the local sport or food hunting of the past. The exaggerated spike in reporting of this form of hunting is considered a real increase but may be enhanced as a result of the increased effort into addressing this issue. Either way it is significant concern for this species and many others.


Survey Issues

One common problem faced by participants in the survey is not being able to determine the gender of the Oribi and the fact that they hide makes it difficult to count them. For this reason we have not included the gender in the results of the survey. Oribi almost always occur in groups of 2-5 animals with one male per group.

Graph comparison to other years oribi

An Increase?

The results of the 2013 survey show a considerable increase in Oribi numbers and a consistent population growth since 2007. This result needs to be considered carefully and is unlikely an indication of an actual population growth but rather a consistent improvement in survey effort and improved counting methods. It is also important to note that a number of protected areas within KZN have been included in this survey and were not included in previous years. The 2013 survey showed a total of nearly 3000 Oribi actually counted which suggests that the overall population could be considerably higher than previously thought.

Thank You

The Oribi Working Group would like to thank all the participants for taking part and for their time to complete and return the survey. It is because of these people that we are able to access information to save the Oribi as this information helps us understand more about the threats and location of the threats faced by the Oribi throughout South Africa.

A big thank you again to all who forwarded and spread the word of the 2013 Oribi survey, it is highly appreciated. We are optimistic that in 2014’s Oribi Survey we will reach more people with an increase in number of survey returns.

Picture1 oribi

Rare Asclepias in Flower

On the regular Beacon Hill walk on the last Sunday of November, Eve Hughes was thrilled to discover eight Asclepias woodii plants in flower.  “I spotted them some distance away and wasn’t sure, but on closer investigation, Molly Perret and I were convinced.”  She called Gareth Boothway, Biodiversity Stewardship Manager for Midlands Conservancies Forum, to let him know.  He went up to see the plants and took this photo.


Asclepias woodii (Wood’s Asclepias), a member of the Milkweed family, is listed as Vulnerable in the SANBI Red Data List.  It is a  KZN Midlands endemic which reappeared on the hill recently after not being seen for nearly 100 years.

Kate Fennell, Friends of Beacon Hill committee member said “It’s always such a treat to find new things flowering on the Hill, especially a rarity such as Asclepias woodii

This is an extract from a presentation Kate did on the plant recently:

How do Asclepiads attract pollinators?  Floral scent – Asclepiads produce a number of volatile compounds. A recent study identified between 15 – 57 compounds and a distinct scent profile for each species. Nectar is produced in small to moderate quantities.

How are the flowers adapted for pollination?   Inflorescences are dense and mechanically strong. Coronas are fat and fleshy and store nectar. Inside the cups are hairs (papilla) which are thought to secrete nectar. Pollinaria produce pollen in compact masses called pollinia. These have mechanical clips which attach them to pollinators.

What pollinates the plants? Chafer beetles. The beetles are agile, fast-flying and hairy. Importantly, they do not damage the flowers when feeding. Asclepiads with similar features share chafer pollinators. Because bees are uncommon in grasslands, chafers fulfil the role of large bees.

Asclepias woodii

Join the regular Beacon Hill walk on the last Sunday of each month to see some of the 106 species of plants which flower in this special piece of grassland.

Contact Eve Hughes 082 872 4333

Ice & Fire (and Mud)

Despite the cold, wet forecast for our wilderness weekend at Cobham, spirits were high as we trundled through the Midlands, crossing swollen rivers and passing small towns.  Lungisani commented: “I enjoyed the journey passing new features like rivers and dams and learning their special names.”

After claiming our beds in Pholela Hut at Cobham Nature Reserve, we headed down to the Pholela River in the mizzle. Rocks glistened blue-grey beneath the clouds.

Checking out the Pholela R CGrant

Before we had even crossed the suspension bridge there were cries of “Can we swim?” and six teenagers stripped and jumped right in!

boys swimming R

It was absolutely freezing, but sliding down the rocks, wallowing in the ‘jacuzzi’ and splashing in the pools proved to be too much fun to resist! “Ey, the water was cold. It was hard to breathe and I felt I was not really alive!” laughed Sanele when he got out.

swimming R

“I love the Pholela river with adorable rocks and clean fresh water.” said a grinning Nondumiso.  Christeen huddled under the bridge in her rain-suit keeping the towels dry for when the novelty wore off. It took a while.

Christeen rain suit R

Fortunately, hot showers awaited and after getting dry, we huddled around the fire, chatting about the uKahlamba World Heritage site, san rock art and life.

Reading Wood Ash Stars R CGrant

After supper, Nondumiso read us the enchanting San story “Wood Ash Stars” and we sang songs to keep us toasty.

singing around the fire R

The next morning dawned pretty gloomy too. The party sharing the hut decided to leave, but we stayed put, feasting on ‘happy eggs’ for breakfast donated by Highveld.

happy eggs R

We found an interesting insect on a breakfast banana and after searching through the Insect Book identified it as a Stonefly. Stoneflies occur only in areas where there is no pollution so are indicators of a healthy environment.

Stonefly on banana R  CGrant

We poured over a map of Cobham, imagining where we might walk if the weather improved.  Christeen showed everyone how to use a compass and we discussed how the Drakensberg landscape was formed.  “I learnt a lot. In actual fact, it was the addition of lessons at school – applying skills to reality. We learnt how to use a map, making sure the map is facing North using a compass.  Wildlife, Geology, Ecology and Biodiversity studies took place this weekend.” Said Lungisani enthusiastically absorbing every scrap of information.

mapping R

As soon as we spotted a break in the weather, we dressed up warmly and headed along the path beside the river.  Nondumiso commented (after observing the mix of nationalities in the party sharing the hut, no doubt) “It is important to take care of this beautiful environment because it attracts tourists.”

walking past leucosidea R

We splashed through so many puddles that by the time we reached the big pools in the river, we were drenched anyway. Swimming seemed like a sensible option.  With dry clothes safely stowed in a big orange plastic bag, everyone frolicked and froze.  The river was really high after all the rain.

swimming in deep pools R

Then it was a mad dash back to get warm over lunch around the bonfire in the boma.

afternoon tea. R

Food was all local, mostly organic and meals provided plenty of opportunity to talk about food miles, healthy living and taste new things. The delicious ‘sausages’ donated by Fry’s vegetarian foods, had everyone fooled into thinking they were eating animals. “I learnt that I mustn’t always eat meat, I must also eat veggies a lot.”  said Thabo tucking in, hungrily.

cooking and eating kebabs R CGrant

Despite getting to bed really, really late, when the sun rose on Sunday morning and lit up the snow-capped peaks we were all rearing to go.

wrapped up warm and off we go R

Yay! We can see the mountains! Good morning Mr Sunshine!

Yay! sunshine and snow R

We decided to hike along the second day of the famous Giant’s Cup Trail which we had seen on the map the day before. “I was a little scared to be in the wild, because I am not used to being alone in a place like that.” said Sanele, adding “I was so interested to learn why the Drakensberg is a World Heritage Site.”

SANELE spots something R

It had stopped raining but was still pretty cool. Brisk walking kept us warm.

sun came out R

We added rocks to the cairn markers and admired the view down the valley.

group with Christeen R

There were not many flowers in the grassland, except the occasional Dicoma anomala (below)

Dicoma R

We explored rock crevices and Lungisani was thrilled to find a Watsonia which he recognised from the SANBI CREW Bioblitz held last year in Nottingham Road.

Lungisani discovers a Watsonia R

Naledi carefully noted everything she observed “The best things for me were seeing the animals tracks (jackal and water mongoose) baboons and indigenous plants like Leucosidea serica and protea.  I learnt a lot about nature.”

Naledi taking notes R

We saw eland and baboons across the river and then a troop of baboons on the rocks above us too.  “I enjoyed hiking because we saw animals and I love animals.” commented Thabo who was fortunate to take up the place of someone who fell ill at the last minute. “Thank you for letting me go with you guys even though I am new”  he said.

colourful grasshopper R

To make the most of the break in the weather, we settled down out of sight of one another for a period of quiet.  This was a highlight for all of us.

alone with nature R

Naledi said “You know, a person needs some quiet time. It felt good listening to the sound of nature and the river flowing.  I observed that there were clouds covering the mountain and they were rising. Watching them rise was the best part.”

“During quiet time, I felt peace, love and the presence of the Nature. I just couldn’t resist it, the love of nature grew more inside me. Now I’m in love with Nature.” added Nondumiso

Quiet time R JPG

We decided to be quiet all the way home and savour the majesty of the mountains surrounding us.

walking through grassland R

After a short detour to admire Merxmuellera, the beautiful tufted grass found along Drakensberg streams, and one last swim as the weather closed in,  we had to head home.

Merxmuellera lined stream R JPG

The road had been slippery on the way in and we were unsure how easy it would be to get back to Himeville.  We managed fine until the road was narrowed by a stuck milk truck and we slid into the slush.  Shoes off and out we got to push!

stuck in the mud R

Later someone quipped “you know you are having an adventure when you wish you were home with a cup of tea!”

mudddy feet R

On the trip home, Nokukhanya summed up her experience: “I saw snow, mountains, rocks and rivers. I enjoyed eating vegetables, swimming and staying up late at night by the fire. Being with you is full of joy and we learnt a lot, not only about the environment but also how to treat others when working as a team.   I am speechless, I don’t know what to say or what to do to show you the way I feel about this trip. God bless you until a new generation comes and has your hands and love that you have given us.”

Even her mum, Bonisiwe Zondi, was excited saying afterwards “Nokukhanya has told me about each and every thing that happened at Cobham. She says she didn’t even miss me because she was having such a good time. She is trying to make us all live a sustainable life and I am so impressed.”

“I felt like I was in a new planet, not the ordinary one because of the beauty. I really loved that time and I wish I could be there for much of my existence – in a place where nature is the priority. It is the best , peaceful place.” concluded Lungisani

Thank you N3TC for your continued contribution to enriching the lives of communities on the N3 Route. “They really help us a lot.” said one of the kids after recognising the N3TC logo on the latest edition of N3 Heroes. 

morning snow R CGrant

Birding in Impendle

While the rest of us fossicked for flowers in Impendle Nature Reserve, Crystelle Wilson took the opportunity to check out birds in the Impendle pentad 2940_2950 for the SABAP2 bird atlas project.  Impendle is an Important Birding Area where many “specials” can be found. The vlei is very good for African Marsh Harrier Circus ranivorus, Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum and occasionnaly Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus. The surrounding rolling grassland holds six pairs, perhaps eight, of Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea. Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus, Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami, Southern Ground-Hornbill Bucorvus leadbeateri and Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus melanopterus are also present. The Southern Ground-Hornbill family numbers 6–8. A flock of Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus is often present. The forest is home to Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus, Orange Ground Thrush Zoothera gurneyi, Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix and Forest Canary Crithagra scotops. Other southern African endemics include Cape Grassbird Sphenoeacus afer, Drakensberg Prinia Prinia hypoxantha, Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus and Gurney’s Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi.

This is Crystelle’s report (and pictures): It was a very hot day and bird activity had already gone quiet by 09h00. This was my list for the morning: Amur Falcon, Cape Wagtail, Greater Striped-Swallow, Sombre Greenbul, Black Sparrowhawk, Malachite Sunbird, Wailing Cisticola,

wailing cisticola

African Stonechat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Drakensberg Prinia, Le Vaillant’s Cisticola, Cape Longclaw,

cape longclaw

Cape Batis, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Ant-eating Chat,

Common Waxbill, African Black Swift, Common Swift, Croaking Cisticola, croaking cisticola

Cape Robin-Chat, Speckled Pigeon, Little Swift, African Marsh-Harrier, Cape Crow, African Pipit.

Unfortunately my car may have been responsible for the death of a Puff Adder. When I stopped to take pictures of a cisticola I became aware of a noise of a creature in distress. I didn’t see anything and drove off. On my return I saw a snake in the road and got out to try and move it out of the way so I could drive past. I noticed it was injured and then it curled up and died. Not a good experience.


Afterwards we relaxed with a picnic lunch sharing stories about the plants, birds, insects and other signs of animals which we had seen.  Alex thought it would be a good idea to visit in Spring and Lorenza made plans to bring her bicycle and spend a few days exploring the area.

impendle crew 106 res.

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 gxashim@kznwildlife.com

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 gxashim@kznwildlife.com

Save our Grasslands, Save our Water Sources

MCF is proud to partner with WWF-SA  in the Midlands and we welcome the opportunity to raise awareness of the value of grasslands, which are the first to go when any development is planned, as they ‘appear’ to have no purpose.

Inhlosane and grassland - Barry Downard res.

This letter from WWF-SA CEO Morne du Plessis asks for your support ahead of World Water Day on Friday.

The proposed Pongola Bush Protected environment is under threat from many unsustainable practices, including coal mining. This area (about 9250 ha) is on the verge of declaration as the first Protected Environment in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal area. This region is home to some of the most important and intact grasslands and strategic water source areas in our country. With your support, we can bolster efforts to declare these conservation areas.

We believe that you can make a difference by having your say about this before 22 March and help protect some of the country’s most important grassland areas and “water factories”.

early summer grassland flowers res.

A recent analysis by WWF indicates that only 8% of South Africa’s land surface generates 50% of our rainfall run-off; much of this overlaps with abundant coal resources. Our Enkangala Grasslands Programme works in the headwaters of the Vaal, Pongola and Tugela to protect these remote areas from threats to water and biodiversity. This strategic water source area, spanning the high altitude grasslands between KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Free State, provides clean, potable water for Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, including several major power stations.

Stewardship partners and landowners have already shown commitment in securing this area of irreplaceable biodiversity value, picturesque natural landscape and water security. We ask you to now do the same.

The intention to declare these areas has been published in the Government Gazette. Protection Environment status will assure effective management and protection of this threatened area.

Please help us by supporting conservation and livelihoods through your actions! Make your voice heard online and/or write a letter. You may also send your signed letter to us by email or fax (+27 086 628 7518). The deadline for submissions is 22 March 2013.

Grassland facts:

There is global recognition of the cultural and natural importance of the Grasslands through the establishment of three World Heritage Sites, namely the Cradle of Humankind, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, and the Vredefort Dome.

Our grasslands include about 3370 plant species. The term “grassland” creates the impression that the biome consists only of grass species. In fact, only one in six plant species in the biome is a grass.

The area is home to several animal species, including 15 (or 45%) of South Africa’s endemic mammal species, 10 globally threatened bird species, 52 of the country’s 122 Important Bird Areas, and some endemic fish species

winter grassland.res

Dargle Nature Reserve – Almost There

All four landowners whose properties will form part of the Dargle Nature Reserve have completed the final documents and they have been sent to the MEC for signing.   Barend Booysen (landowner) and Gareth Boothway (MCF Biodiversity Stewardship Manager) are obviously delighted at this progress.Gareth Barend signing res.

Gareth says “The establishment of the Dargle Nature Reserve will contribute to the long term protection of the Critically Endangered Midlands Mistbelt Grassland and the Vulnerable Eastern Mistbelt Forests of the Midlands.  These vegetation types are known to contain a great diversity of plants and animals, some of which are endemic to the Midlands.  The Nature Reserve is placed with in a highly productive landscape on privately owned land, providing the ideal habitat for  a number of iconic species.  Take a walk through the forests and grasslands and you are likely to spot Oribi, one or two of the Crane species, Cape Parrot and Samango Monkey. It is fantastic to see private landowners making this invaluable contribution to conserving KZN’s biodiversity, increasing the green footprint in our country.”

butterfly on plectranthus

Many years ago the Dargle Conservancy, through the vision of Andrew Anderson,  began working towards having a large area of private land officially proclaimed as part of the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme to protect areas which contain critically important habitats. Due to changes in personnel and lack of capacity,  it has been a long road.  Unfortunately along the way, a number of landowners have pulled out,  so the original area of 2000ha has reduced to 890ha.  We are confident however that once this segment is completed, it will grow.  A number of neighbours have already expressed interest in being part of Phase 2.  Andrew comments “The future of biodiversity conservation is in the hands of the landowner. Accolades must go to the landowners who have made such a bold and forward-thinking contribution to conservation in South Africa.”  

Dargle meeting at Old Kilgobbin

Kate Robinson, whose 100 hectare property, Lemonwood, forms an integral part of the Reserve said “I am thrilled to be part of this, as I firmly believe we have a duty to take care of natural resources for future generations.  This means that no one will be able to come and build 20 cottages in this lovely patch of forest, ever.”  

aerial shots of lemonwood res.

Part of Dargle Farm, owned by Graham and Vicky Griffin, will also be protected.


In 2009, in a bold plan to strengthen the food web, 40 Rock Hyrax (Dassie) were reintroduced into an area that was once home to a thriving population on the Dargle Farm. The Dassie is the most important component of the food web that is missing from parts of the Dargle and as this is strengthened, the Conservancy hopes other rare species will return.  Since then, Graham has introduced two more groups to improve the gene pool and reports that they are often spotted, are settled and breeding.

Photos By Trail Camera

Old Kilgobbin Farm, owned by John and Carl Bronner has areas of grassland and forest and many springs and streams – important source of water for millions of downstream users.

pool in ouhout gorge crop res.

The Booysens of Kilgobbin Cottage were the first to offer regular walks in the Midlands. this programme has now grown to include 12 walks. Barend must be thanked for his commitment over many years hosting those who don’t usually have access to the countryside. The walks serve to inspire everyone to cherish biodiversity and to understand the eco-system services which these areas provide humanity. Visitors relish the opportunity to get up close to some of the special trees, which include: towering Yellowwoods, ancient Lemonwoods and majestic Prunus africana, and to marvel at the ferns and mushrooms on the forest floor.

Kilgobbin forest walk.KAREN EDWARDS RES

Chair of the Dargle Conservancy, Nikki Brighton commented. “In the Dargle we take our role as custodians of an important water catchment and some of the most vulnerable biodiversity in South Africa seriously.” 

What is the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme?  Click here to read about the MCF BSP

View of Inhlosane from waterfall -Barry Downard.RES

Hiking around Fort Nottingham

Christie Exall submitted these pictures and this account of the regular walk hosted by Lion’s Bush Conservancy on the third Thursday of every month:

Roy Tabernor, owner of Els Amics Restaurant at Fort Nottingham, lead 5 hikers, on the 17th January, onto the lush and vast grasslands at the top of “his” mountain.

Roy Tabernor

The view from the top always takes my breath away. We could see Kamberg, Mount Erskine and Mount Lebanon, in the Highmoor area, and even Cathedral Peak to the West. To the South the high points of Loskop and Spioenkop and to the East the ever present Nhlosane. We walked across the grasslands, up hills, down valleys, crossed a stream and eventually descended steeply through one of the many indigenous forests, onto steep grasslands which brought us back to the museum.

Fort Nottingham

Horse flies worried us as we descended through the forest.  We hiked a distance of about 9.3 kilometers in glorious weather.

Fort Nottingham hikers 17th January

Wild flowers which we came across:

  • Geranium drakensbergense
  • Monopsis decipiens
  • Watsonia confusa
  • Eulophia clavicornis
  • Utricularia livida
  • Satyrium longicauda
  • Streptocarpus gardenii
  • Agapanthus campanulatus

Agapanthus campanulatus

Question: Which is the natural habitat of the Dais cotonifolia? (Sometimes mistaken for Calodendrum capense -Cape Chestnut)

To book a spot on the next Fort Nottingham walk, contact Roy on 082 487 0922. Donation to Lion’s Bush Conservancy.