The Spurflower and the Spider

The Spurflower and the Spider

One of the highlights of any visit to Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens in April are the carpets of Plectranthus flowers occupying every available shady corner at this time of year. Colours vary from white to pale pink to the deepest dark blues and purples with species of every height, form and variety being cultivated under the shadow of Table Mountain’s eastern buttresses and crags.

Feeding the wolves: Musings about Hyobanche sanguinea

Feeding the wolves: Musings about Hyobanche sanguinea

Mention the word parasite and a number of things may spring into one’s mind: squiggling flesh-eating maggots, blood sucking fleas and ticks, giant nematodes and many other gruesome critters too numerous to mention. It is fascinating to note that there are thousands of parasites within the plant kingdom as well and one of South Africa’s most well-known and widespread examples, Hyobanche sanguinea is pink and furry and really rather beautiful.

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.

Planting endangered cedar trees in the Cederberg

Planting endangered cedar trees in the Cederberg

A bitterly cold winter weekend in June brought us to the Cederberg Mountains which lie three hours drive to the north of Cape Town. This beautiful and rugged range is 100km in length and is known for its spectacular sandstone rock formations (such as the Maltese Cross and the Wolfberg Arch), ancient San rock art and being the home of rooibos tea! The shy Cape leopard is fairly common here but rarely seen. The highest peak in the area is Sneeuberg at 2,026m asl. which is one of only two mountain peaks in the area that is home to the Cederberg endemic Snow Protea (Protea cryophila).