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.
Since I begun my studies in Botany I have found myself using all sorts of weird and wonderful objects for the purpose for which they were not intended in the name of scientific research. I have processed seed collections using a toilet brush. A car floor mat is also an excellent and most useful tool for this. In this spirit about 18 months ago I was on the hunt for corner markers for vegetation survey plots that could be hammered successfully into concrete hard Renosterveld clay soils.
I dedicate this post to my Mother. After several years of breast cancer she sadly passed away in February. The following month was spent at my family home in England sorting out all to be done. As spring arrived in our rural corner of the Westcountry’s Dorset I begun the long journey southwards to Cape Town once more. While sitting in Doha airport in the dark and early hours of the morning, a plan was hatched. We were going to Swaziland for Easter.
“I’m chilling in the tent…..in both senses”. Camping on Namaqualand’s Bokkeveld Plateau in August is not for the faint hearted or those lacking in strong constitution as we were soon to discover! At that time of year it is COLD! Snow on the nearby Hantamsberg is not uncommon in winter and spring and known locally as ‘kapok’ meaning cotton in Afrikaans.
Sometimes living life on a student budget drives one to do things a little out of the ordinary in the name of travel and exploration. One of the university societies that has inspired and challenged me the most is the University of Cape Town’s Mountain and Ski Club. It is one of the largest mountain clubs in Africa, second only to the Cape Town branch of the MCSA. One of its core philosophies is to encourage and support its members in exploration of the diverse and exquisitely beautiful mountain ranges of the Southern African subcontinent.
Last week saw one of the largest gatherings of people working in the landscapes of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region. I was lucky enough to attend. The annual Fynbos Forum conference brings together everyone from academic researchers, students, conservation managers, landowners and numerous others from all over the world together in a friendly and welcoming space to exchange ideas, knowledge and progress in all connected fields. It is run by a dedicated team of volunteers and hosted in a different town within the CFR each year.