Journal archives for December 2017

December 04, 2017

The Buchu Bus causes Consternation

And this time it wasn’t even her fault. Getting the aged Buchu Bus up the Swartberg Pass is always something of an adventure. On two occasions, we have had high drama. The first time her radiator exploded about 1km from the summit on the southern side, spreading thick green slime over the windscreen. With no engine, getting turned and towed back to Roelf and Jacks in George was fraught with danger, high emotions and tensions. Some years later having got to the top, she point blank refused to start on Die Hel Road. Once again, she had to be towed back to Roelf and Jacks, this time with a broken starter motor. Being towed down the Swartberg Pass with no engine, is the stuff of which nervous breakdowns are made. And I was visualising this scenario again on Friday. She sailed up the Pass and dropped Sandra, Nicky and I at the top to start up towards Waboomsberg. Peter and Sally (younger and fitter) drove down to Ou Tol and parked her with strict instructions to avoid reversing. If you’re unused to her shenanigans, reverse gear presents some problems. And it did. Peter had a real struggle with her towards the end of the day. The flipping old cow always likes to have the last word.

There was a chilly wind on Waboomsberg, but as the day progressed the conditions became perfect. The Swartberg is looking very dry and we found little at Breakfast Rock, other than Rafnia rostrata ssp. pluriflora in full flower - consistent with her ssp name. Berkheya francisci was sparsely scattered along the length of the hike. Having walked up from Ou Tol, Peter and Sally caught up with us before the Nek and went ahead to climb to the summit. We had lunch and explored the kopje opposite to see Protea venusta in early bud, lots of Protea montana and Spatalla confusa, which was a first for Peter. There were a number of Aspalathus that need id-ing, with a couple of Ericas tbc. On the descent, Nicky found Disa ocellata and we saw both Cyclopia bolusii, C. burtonii and a very dried up Helichrysum saxicola. It is a “moerse downhill (as they say in the classics) and we took a long time. Sally and Peter had sped ahead to Ou Tol to fetch the Buchu Bus and park her under the old Cork Oak, which is resprouting happily after the fires. We were almost down, before she hove into sight. By that time I was imagining the worst and having a “nervous”, visualising another towing episode. But the explanation was simple. “I decided to run up to the top of the Pass to have a closer look at Ld album, before driving down on to the Gamkaskloof Road”, said Peter. Well young man, “You aged me a good 10 years”!! Peter will be getting his Honours degree in Mathematics early this week. Next year he will be doing Masters. The Outramps are very proud of his stellar academic performances. So, two of our young will be at Stellenbosch doing Masters – one in Botany (Brian) and the other in Maths (Peter). Wow!!! Brian is currently writing up his final field trip report of the year.

En route home, we popped into “Kobus se Gat” for a cool one together with about a dozen bikers and a host of Europeans enjoying the magnificent surroundings. Despite my anxiety about the Buchu Bus, it was a wonderful day. Waboomsberg never disappoints.

Here is a provisional list of some of the rares seen on Waboomsberg. Once we have confirmed id’s, there will be others to add.
Rafnia rostrata ssp pluriflora (Rare)
Otholobium swartbergense (Rare)
Indigofera sp. nova (DD – single Leaf)
Berkheya francisci (Rare)
Leucadendron dregei (Endangered)
Protea venusta (Endangered)
Protea montana (Vulnerable)
Cyclopia bolusii (Vulnerable)
Cyclopia burtonii (Vulnerable)
Helichrysum saxicola (Rare)
Syncarpha montana (Rare)
Disa ocellata (Rare)
And our Erica haul from Sandra - tbc
E discolor
E imbricata
E fimbriata
E nervata (at and in P venusta)
E glandulipila (all over the nek and in P venusta too!)(Rare)
E calycina (Sally this is the one you also saw up on the summit)
E strigilifolia
Di’s very tiny white one setting seed
E petraea and E oreotragus not in flower

Earlier in the week and closer to home, we did a series of walks along the Fern Trail at Strawberry Hill. It is looking good after the recent rains. A mat of succulent-leafed plants on the bank of the Silver river had me puzzled. I have no idea what they could be. I have never noticed them before, so hopefully, someone will put me out of my misery soon.
Di

A Guided Walk in the Cola Beach Conservancy
At the end of October last year, Jean and I lead members of the Cola Beach Conservancy and other locals on a flower walk around an area of coastal thicket, which is in danger of being engulfed by new development on the eastern side of Sedgefield. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Karen Rotherham, a member of the conservancy committee who asked if we would to lead another walk. As Jean has now moved to Cape Town, I approached Sandra who kindly agreed to lend a hand (voice), so we set a date.

On Tuesday we met a group of residents in the Cola Beach parking lot where we handed out plant lists and headed up the hill and down into the ‘bowl’, talking ‘plants’ all the way. Our audience was enthralled with Sandra’s knowledge of the uses of the plants and enjoyed the common names. I spoke about some of the derivatives of the ‘Latin’ names (actually on this occasion mostly Greek) and Lichen. There were a lot of questions and we did our best to provide answers. After climbing out of the bowl the way we had come, we made our way to view some Satyrium princeps (VU) plants – although past their prime, there were one or two red flowers still open, Erica glandulosa subsp. fourcadei (VU) had more flowers but there was no sign of the Erica glumiflora we had seen last year.

Thank you to Karen (we were sorry you couldn’t join us) and Marion for once again asking us to ‘talk plants’ and we wish you success in your efforts to fend off development and maintain the biodiversity in this patch of green on the eastern side of Sedgefield.
Nicky

Witfontein Reserve
On Wednesday HAT Evie joined in on the WAGS meander starting from Witfontein Forest Station. A pleasant morning in and out of the Pine forest (thankfully also some indigenous trees), and as we gained height we entered mountain fynbos. Great views of George Peak above us as we filed along. Sadly, up on the slopes reminders of the impact of “man the builder” - a doomed restaurant venture -now abandoned to slowly crumble; a “Mast” with all its accompanying structures; and lastly a memorial cross.

Despite these structures, the fynbos carries on! Plenty of russet brown on some tall tree-like Erica canaliculata. Pink flowers on Erica uberiflora, scabriuscula, seriphiifolia. The highlight of the day was - pockets of Erica unicolor subsp georgensis (Rare) with its bright red and green tipped tubes. Closer to the cross –huddled together, a cluster of both male and female Leucadendron conicum (NT) trees. Obvious November flowers showing on tall peach coloured Watsonia fourcadei, and blue Aristea (both A. bakeri on the slope, with A. racemosa on the forest edges). Fairly abundant and thriving well – are the pretty white Berzerlia intermedia, as well as numerous Metalasia sp. in full flower.
Evie

It is that time again! We have almost reached the end of the year. We will be having our end-of-year party at Sally and Pam’s farm at Slakplaas on the Robinson Pass on Friday. This has become a tradition with the Outramps. We will do a short walk on the farm before the festivities begin. After that, we will officially shut down, although I will be involved with Robbie and Ben of Fossil Plants and a trip to Mannetjiesberg from the 11th to the 13th December. It is going to be a very busy off-season with the Kammanassie trip and Family arriving from France shortly afterwards.
Hamba Kahle
Groete en dankie
Di Turner
Outramps CREW Group
Southern Cape

All id’s subject to confirmation by Doc Annelise and Jan Vlok, Steven Molteno Dr Tony Rebelo, Nick Helme, Prof Charlie Stirton, Dr Robert Archer, Dr Robert McKenzie, Dr Ted Oliver, Christopher Whitehouse, Derek Tribble, Adriaan Grobbler, Prix Burgoyne, Dr Kenneth Oberlander, Dr Pieter Winter, Dr David Gwynne-Evans and Damion. Thank you all for your ongoing help and support. The South African community is busy migrating to iNaturalist and we will soon have projects etc up and running. When they are ready, I will provide you with the links.

Abbreviations Glossary
MCSA – Mountain Club of South Africa
MSB - Millenium Seed Bank based at Kew in the UK
WIP – Work in Progress
HAT – High Altitude Team
LOT – Lowland Team
SIM – Somewhere in the Middle Team
WAGS – Wednesday Adventure Group
VB – Vlok Boekie “Plants of the Klein Karoo” and our Plant Bible
ITRTOL – Another thread “In The Rich Tapestry Of Life”(It describes a challenging situation, usually to do with the Buchu Bus)
ITFOT – In the fullness of time
WOESS – Fair Weather Hiker
FMC and JW – too vulgar to translate, but the equivalent is “Strike me Dead” An expression of surprise and delight on finding a new “Rare”
Kambro – same as above
Fossick – A meter per minute, scratching around looking for rares
SIDB – Skrop in die Bos – Another name for a field trip, this one coined by Prix
BAFFING – Running round like a blue-arsed fly
SYT – Sweet Young Thing - Anyone under the age of 40
TOMB – Get a move on
Mayhem - Needless or willful damage or violence
SESKRYNG – “Sit en staan kry niks gedaan” ,with thanks to Brian
SOS – Skelms on Scramblers
FW – Idiot
BOB – Another name for the Buchu Bus when she’s misbehaving.
CRAFT – A symptom of Old Age
DDD - Metalasia tricolor (Damned Diabolical Daisy)
VP – Vrekplek – Retirement Village
Qàq – Self-explanatory Inuit word describing some of our local problems
Mr Fab – Our Fabaceae specialist, Brian Du Preez – originally Boy 1
Muisvoel -The Mathematician – Peter Thompson
Boy 2 – Kyle Underwood who works on Orchids and is still at school
Sharkie – Finn Rautenbach – Our latest SYT is a surfer in his spare time
Sicko – Someone who suffers from Car Sickness. With 4 in the Group, allocating seating in the Buchu Bus is tricky
VAG – Virgin Active Garage, which is our meeting place when we head north
MATMUE – Meet At The Mall Under E - Meeting place when we head West
WG – Waves Garage in Wilderness East. - Meeting place when we’re going east.
VU- Vulnerable
DDT – Data Deficient and Taxonomically ?
NT – Near Threatened
EN – Endangered
CR – Critically Endangered
PE – Presumed extinct
LC – Least Concern
TBC – To be Confirmed
TLC – Tender loving care
JMS – An expression of absolute disdain
FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
Milk – the fruit of the vine
Condensed Milk – Scotland’s finest export
Full Cream Milk or Fat Milk – Any product of Humulus lupulus eg. Milk Stout
Milk of the Gods – Rooibos and Brandy
Milk Shake - Sparkling Wine
NS – Species of conservation concern new to the Outramps
PS -Priority Species allocated to the Outramps by our CREW Cape Co-ordinator , Ismail Ebrahim
iNFD – iNaturalist for Dummies as compiled by Sally

Posted on December 04, 2017 05:46 by outramps-tanniedi outramps-tanniedi | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 07, 2017

1,2,3 and Spring is Done

Although being in the midst of one of the worst droughts on record in the Cape, this spring has been the most productive of my career thus far. I’m not sure whether I am sad or grateful that spring is now past, in light of the amount of extra work I have made for myself. On top of all my M.Sc work, in November I had to prepare all my specimens to take to the various herbariums (170 specimens and constantly growing for 2017). All November field trips were done with Ismail and the rest of the CREW team from Cape Town.

The first trip took place from 1-2 November in the Koue Bokkeveld to the east of Ceres. The farm we visited in currently looking to enter into stewardship and requires more extensive botanical surveys. We found many interesting plants in a variety of soil types across the farm and still much remains to be done. The most exciting find was effectively a rediscovery of Aspalathus compacta (CR PE). This species was only known from the type locality which is now under orchards near Gydo Pass. Nick Helme had apparently found a population nearby in 2010, but after looking at his specimen, I was able to determine that it had been misidentified and was rather just A. lanifera. Dahlgren in his 1988 Aspalathus book noted the variation in A. lanifera and we may in time split this species into two subspecies. Thus, our population is not only a massive range extension for this species, but is now the only confirmed population still alive. Other good finds include Lotononis exstipulata (EN), Lotononis argentea (VU), Othonna ciliata (VU), Perdicium capense (VU) and Aspalathus desertorum (NT). Many other legumes were found and still need to be identified, along with some interesting sedges and Thesiums for Prof. Muthama and Daniel from UCT.

The next trip was a day trip to Tulbagh waterfall with Ismail, Tony Rebelo and Anthony Hitchcock. We first drove and botanized the track up Ontongskop where we had amazing sightings of Kumara plicatilis (LC) and Oldenbergia papionum (LC). Rares found on this trip include the unique Aspalathus leptocoma (Rare), Aspalathus linearifolia (NT), Serruria triternata (NT), Diastella parilis (CR), Sorocephalus imbricatus (CR), and a potentially new species of Hermannia. The river above the waterfall is in a shocking state with wall to wall aliens, Cape Nature will certainly have to catch a wake-up and get stuck into alien clearing.

It was then the turn to visit the northern side of the Riviersonderend Mountains in the Olifantsdoorn area. Our main target was to find Aspalathus theresae (Rare) that was collected and described a few years ago by Chris Cupido, with very sketchy locality details. In the end the day was just too short and we were unable to find it, hopefully near year we can get lucky by going higher. The day was, however, far from a waste of time. The Psoralea we found may be a new species and we are awaiting confirmation from Prof Charlie Stirton. I also found a beautiful small Aspalathus growing on a rocky outcrop and took a nice specimen of it. And as it turns out, it is Aspalathus taylori (VU) which has only ever been collected twice from only two localities, making this a third population of this very rare species. Another amazing find was what appears to be Aspalathus vulpina (VU) which was previously only known from the Northern Langeberg between Barrydale and Garcia’s Pass. This would represent a massive range extension for the species, although it cannot be ruled out that this could be described as a new subspecies based on subtle morphological differences. Other specials include Aspalathus burchelliana (EN) and Anaxeton hirsutum (VU).

The final trip of spring was a climb up Matroosberg Peak. Standing at an impressive height of 2249m, this is the highest peak in the SW Cape and the tallest I have climbed so far in my life. The going was fairly easy, with fitness not being a problem and no challenging scrambles along the way. The vegetation on the mountain is probably about 30 years old and in need of a burn sometime. For this reason, legumes were rather scarce especially at high altitude, and same for some of the other specials we were after. We did, however, manage to find several specials including Protea effusa (NT), Cyclopia glabra (Rare), Acmadenia matroosbergensis (Rare), Acrosanthes parviflora (Rare), Esterhuysenia alpina (Rare), Askidiosperma insigna (VU), Agathosma phillipsii (Rare) and Amphithalea villosa (NT). There were also two tiny pink Erica’s growing out of a rock face that require further attention.

Stop the press! Charlie has confirmed that a Psoralea I collected in Febraury 2016 on Piketberg is Psoralea peratica (CR PE). This species was last assessed as being Endangered but was not seen since then. Another Psoralea that I collected in October 2016 on Piketberg has also just been described as new by Charlie, and an Otholobium collected on that same day may also be new!

And that is a wrap for spring. The past three months have been very botanically rewarding for me, having seen dozens of legumes that I have not seen before, the prospect of a few new species to science and a few high peaks off the bucket list. The summer upon us, it is now time to catch up on some admin and get stuck in the lab. With my holiday only starting on 21 December, it’s going to be three long and busy weeks in the now ghost town of Stellenbosch (No rest for the wicked…)!

This is more than likely my last feedback report for 2017 as the field trips are winding down and the summer temperatures starting to soar! Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making 2017 very memorable. Special mention must be made of the following people: Many thanks to the Outramps for their continued support, Ismail and the Cape Town CREW team, Pat and Tony Rebelo, Odette and Jannie from Haarwegskloof, Prof Charlie Stirton for his continued mentorship, my supervisors from SU, UCT and UWC, and of course all my wonderful friends from dancing who have been helping me keep fit (and young), especially my dance partner Liza. Wishing everyone a happy, relaxing holiday, Merry Christmas and a ‘Fab’ 2018!
My storie is uit…
Groete,
Mr Fab / The Boy

Posted on December 07, 2017 12:37 by outramps-tanniedi outramps-tanniedi | 0 comments | Leave a comment