Of Myths and Fishing Nets: Searching for  Disas at Harold Porter

Of Myths and Fishing Nets: Searching for Disas at Harold Porter

It is that wonderful time again, when the intense red orchid Disa uniflora (Red Disa or Pride of Table Mountain) come into bloom. There is no South African flower that shouts ‘summer’ to me more than this. They grow on stream banks, next to waterfalls and on wet shady precipitous cliffs from the Cape Peninsula eastwards to Bredasdorp in the Overberg and northwards to the Cederberg. The genus is named after Queen Disa, a character from Swedish mythology who according to legend presented herself to the King of Sveas wearing only a fishing net.

The Disa and the Steam Engine

The Disa and the Steam Engine

I grew up a winter baby, born in February in the northern hemisphere. Childhood birthdays were days for hot chocolate, tobogganing in the snow and soggy visits to the zoo watched by various bemused creatures hiding from the horizontal Westcountry rain. Six years ago I moved to Cape Town and suddenly the seasons were ‘back to front’ and my birthday moved to mid-summer and the hottest time of the year. It also now coincides with the flowering of one of the Cape Floristic Region’s most spectacular orchids – The Pride of Table Mountain or Red Disa (Disa uniflora).

Out of the Ashes: Post fire in Table Mountain National Park

Out of the Ashes: Post fire in Table Mountain National Park

In March 2015 the Peninsula burnt. The biggest veld fire since 2000 raged across Table Mountain National Park. People lost homes and businesses. Bees Marais, one of the country’s top helicopter rescue pilots, tragically lost his life in the line of duty while fighting fire at Cape Point. The blaze and the acrid smoke cloyed the air all over Cape Town, turning the sky scarlet and orange as the sun went down each day.

Conserving the triffids…..

Conserving the triffids…..

The photo above shows Drosera regia, the King Sundew, growing wild in its natural habitat. It is incredibly rare, only occurring in one valley in the Cape Fold Mountain Range of South Africa. There are just two populations with a small number of individuals, making this the most endangered species of Drosera in the world and it is threatened with extinction in the wild. Despite this, the species remains absent from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.