Visit to South Africa TOW Part 2

Mary Sue Ittner
Sat, 04 Oct 2003 08:16:15 PDT
Dear All,

We still had time to explore but were not sure where to go in this very dry 
year. We were advised to forget about Namaqualand, Nieuwoudtville, the West 
Coast, Clanwilliam, and the Cedarberg. People had scouted those areas and 
there just wasn't anything in bloom. Rod and Rachel suggested we go to 
areas where they had rain, the Little Karoo and back to the southern part 
of the Cape. Some people wondered about the advice about the Little Karoo 
since this is an area known for succulents, but Rod and Rachel suggested we 
scout out the passes and get out of our car and see what we could see.

So after a very nice visit to Alan Horstmanm, the IBSA vice chairman, who 
showed us his very splendid bulb collection and a nice hike in the 
Silvermine preserve with Rod and Rachel we headed for Montagu. My husband 
who is not passionate about bulbs does like to see plants in the wild. He 
proved to be an excellent spotter. He learned to look for southern 
exposures where the soil would stay wet longer.

On one pass before we turned off the main highway there was a very large 
burn area. So we parked the car, found a break in the fence, and climbed up 
and around. There were a lot of patches of Oxalis (mostly obtusa as I 
recall) and quite a lot of Moraeas (Homeria types), Bulbines, Bulbinellas, 
Ixias, all in all quite a number of interesting things in bloom. We thought 
there were several different species of the Homerias since some had one 
long flat leaf and others two  and the flowers were different and there 
seemed to be some two toned very pretty ones, and we wondered if they were 
natural hybrids. As we drove we stopped whenever we saw other things 
blooming and encountered a really pretty pink Romulea we weren't sure of 
and more Bulbinellas.

In Montagu we went hiking on a trail we were told about and didn't see too 
many bulbs (one little blue Moraea only) although we did spot what we 
thought were klip springers on a ledge overlooking the trail. The next day 
it was suggested we go to the local garden/reserve since they had tea on 
Tuesdays. To our delight we found quite a few flowers in bloom, some seen 
before, but also a few new ones. There was one white Tritonia that we found 
in a number of places and a very pretty yellow and white small Moraea with 
interesting leaves. We also saw Cyanella lutea. Now what we heard about 
Montagu was that it so rarely rained there that when it does rain everyone 
goes out to look. Seeing the Cyanella lutea it struck me that it was no 
wonder if wasn't really very happy in an area where we often get 60 inches 
of rain during our winter rainy season. The fact that I had one in a raised 
bed subjected to the elements that bloomed for three years before it 
disappeared was more surprising than the fact it disappeared.

Tuesday Teas were started in this community so they could raise funds to 
pay the man who weeds the garden and it was quite a social occasion. We 
introduced ourselves and soon were referred to a woman people thought would 
most know the plants.  She went back with us to help us identify the Moraea 
and the Tritonia. When we got to those places, she looked struck and told 
us she had never seen those flowers before. We decided with our own 
research they were probably Moraea serpentina and Tritonia bakeri. Were 
they blooming because Montagu had twice as much rain as usual this year or 
had she never just noticed them before? We felt sure she would tell the man 
who tends the garden and he would watch out for them. She told us where 
else to go in town to search for bulbs (again in a northern exposure) near 
an old cannon and we found some beautiful blue and yellow Babianas, nice 
Watsonias, and on the rocks seem really pretty Oxalis.

Exploring the passes around Montagu we found a very beautiful Gladiolus 
that I think was venustus. The highlight for me was looking out the car 
window and seeing an apricot hillside. It was a rather large patch and it 
didn't look like it had been burned. So what was it? It was off in the 
distance, not right next to the road. Bob offered to take a picture with 
his telephoto lens when we deduced it was Oxalis, but I wanted to see it 
more closely so started walking cross country and had vaulted over the 
fence before he caught up with me. It was the most delightful place that 
was just covered with Oxalis obtusa. From a distance they all looked the 
same color but up close there were many variations in color. Why no 
competition from shrubs in this spot? We were so puzzled. I couldn't decide 
whether to call it Oxalis Hill or Oxalis Heaven.

Two other finds on our drives in the Little Karoo were Gladiolus rogersii 
which Bob spotted when looking for birds with his binoculars at our lunch 
spot which resulted in another hill scramble and finally finding one flower 
to photograph that wasn't half eaten and a cliff of Veltheimia capensis in 
seed. From a distance you'd think the big red seed pods were flowers. It 
was very striking.

We went back to Swellendam on the other side of the river where we had been 
on one of the field trips. Bob was ready to see animals, not flowers, so we 
went to the Bontebok National Park for a day to look for animals. We stayed 
there all day and at the end of the day the count was two species of 
animals, Bontebok and Mountain Zebra, quite a number of birds, and more 
than 40 different geophytes! I won't list them all but we saw 7 different 
Moraeas (bellendenii, unguiculata and angusta were three new ones), some 
really attractive Babianas (patula and patersoniae?), wonderful Watsonias 
(alectroides, laccata, and even some nice merianas), Lachenalia 
contaminata, a gorgeous Gladiolus (grandiflorus?), and a wonderful orange 
orchid (Satyruim coriifolium).

On the way to the Caledon Flower show the next day we stopped once again at 
Drayton Siding to admire all those flowers we loved before. It had been 
raining (which is why flowers look wet in some of our pictures) so many of 
them were droopy, but we still found it inspiring. We met IBSA member Mary 
Stobie as arranged at the show and went with her to her home in Greyton 
where we spent the night. Mary also has a collection of pots we enjoyed 
looking at and a beautiful garden with a view of the mountains. She has 
many resident birds including an owl that has taken up lodging. Mary is 
working on her garden as she hasn't lived in this house for very long and 
she plans to plant some of her bulbs out in a special sand area if she 
isn't talked out of it by her daughter who thinks it wouldn't be attractive 
during summer. We took a walk with her in her native areas and found some 
more Watsonia laccata and some really striking Gladiolus virescens.…
The most exciting thing we saw was a white spider orchid, a Bartholina, 
that she had only once before seen. Who saw it first? Bob of course.

The Clivia Club was having a four day flower show and IBSA had several 
display tables so we headed back to the Cape Town area for that. We very 
much enjoyed seeing all the Clivias and the IBSA bulbs in bloom, but even 
more seeing the IBSA members again who were there. I got to talk with Allan 
Hill who I had not talked with at the Symposium. Allan grows bulbs in what 
he calls saw dust, but is what I'd call wood shavings, unlike most of the 
other IBSA members who use a lot of sand in their mixes. His pots are light 
to lift and Allan is having very good results, but he said he wouldn't 
recommend others using it because you have to be very careful how you do it 
and if not you could lose everything. He makes sure the wood isn't treated 
and found that one kind of wood gave him an allergy so which wood is 
important too. He sifts to remove fines, uses the right size pot (for some 
things shallow is better), takes special care to fertilize with non organic 
fertilizers since organic fertilizers break the mix down and turn it to 
mush, and is careful about the watering. If it gets too wet, things rot. He 
plants the seeds right in the pot with the older bulbs. It was amazing how 
many plants were growing in these little pots.

Our days in South Africa were numbered. We once again hiked in Silvermine 
with a woman we had met at the Symposium. Another day we went seed 
collecting with Rod and visited burn areas. On one of them there was a very 
large patch of Baeometra uniflora in bloom. It was very pretty and Rod 
commented if he saw it looking like that he might even grow to like it. 
This plant opens he said around three so no doubt causes frustration but I 
think we saw it open before that when we were at the Bontebok Park.….
We saw a lot of different Babianas with Rod and Gladiolus we had seen 
before. As we were driving late in the day he stopped abruptly. We thought 
that he had spotted something, but instead he had smelled Gladiolus 
virescens. It really is so fragrant. You he has developed an ability to 
spot bulbs another way as well. The ones we saw with him were yellow.…

Rod and Rachel had been invited to visit IBSA member Rossouw Malherbe's 
property near Paarl and we were able to go with them. We spent the day 
there and when we had seen all his plants he took us to a neighboring 
farmer's property too. Highlights here were two more Aristeas. One had both 
blue and white flowers on the same plant! I loved the Aristeas I saw on 
this trip and have made a wiki page for all of them.…
Rossouw had some really pretty Gladiolus alatus in bloom too:…

But what fascinated us was all the variations in his Moraea papilionacea. I 
have tried to grow this one but when the plant bloomed it turned out to be 
Moraea vegeta. I'm trying again, but so far no blooms yet. This Moraea is 
very hairy. We saw some at Drayton too. Rossouw's were pink, apricot, 
yellow, and bicolors. We kept seeing more I wanted to photograph. Rossouw 
told us that when my friend Bob Werra who lives in California visited he 
told Rossouw he could hear them crying they wanted to come to California! I 
obviously need to talk to Bob to find out if they did. I think Rachel said 
Rossouw had said they can collect seed on his property so perhaps seed will 
be available too.……
This one is an interesting combination, both pink and yellow.…

Rossouw also had a lot of nice Geissorhiza inflexas growing on his 
property, the bright red ones. At the end of the day he showed us a large 
flowering patch on his neighbor's land of white ones with a pink reverse. 
It looked a lot like Hesperantha cucullata from a distance, but the style 
was divided at the top so it was a Geissorhiza. G. inflexa comes in a lot 
of different colors. I don't think you can improve on the red ones which I 
grow, but these were very nice.…

The plant that fascinated me on his neighbor's property was Onixotis 
punctata. I am growing some of this one from seed and when I saw a couple 
of blooming IBSA pots I was really glad. The pictures in my books never did 
it justice but now I am looking forward to blooms. The ones we saw were the 
members growing and in the wild were a nice pink.…

On our last day we explored the Cape Peninsula National Park and saw 
Geissorhiza aspera in bloom and another Gladiolus cunonius. Looking at 
plants in the wild is such a treat. As you try to figure them out you 
realize you need to look at the leaves as well as the flowers, the bracts, 
the habitat, the time of bloom, etc. South Africa has so many different 
species and they aren't all found in field guides. The field guides we had 
with us often didn't give us enough information to really sort them out. We 
will continue to learn as we try to identify our pictures. I made a list of 
over 150 different geophytes I thought we had seen in flower in the wild. 
There were of course a lot of Amaryllid leaves as well. After we looked at 
our slides I realized I had missed a lot so the number is much higher. Not 
bad for a drought year when we didn't think we'd see many flowers. Add to 
that all those flowers we saw blooming on display tables and in people's 
collections and the number soars. And there were the views, the Ericas, 
Proteas, peas, genera that only exists in South Africa we also saw as well.

Well that's it. I feel a bit like a rocket that shot out, burned brightly, 
and is now fading. Writing all this has taken enormous time and energy. A 
lot of you asked me to tell about this trip and there was so much I learned 
I wanted to share. I hope you all have enjoyed my reports. We consider 
ourselves very lucky to have met such nice people, been treated so well, 
and seen so many things even in a drought year. I will tell you about 
Gordon's talk, but it is going to have to wait until I have more time and 
have finished potting up my bulbs and started my seeds. I'll also try to 
summarize Dee's talk later and send that to those couple of people who said 
they were interested and do the same for Rob about the Gethyllis talk. 
(Unless perhaps I get some requests for a Gethyllis topic of the week we 
can do this fall). Eventually I'll add more pictures to the wiki. And I am 
sure there will be other things I remember that I can post later.

Mary Sue

More information about the pbs mailing list