East Cape Botanical Tour

hornig@usadatanet.net hornig@usadatanet.net
Thu, 09 Feb 2006 04:47:47 PST
Hi, All - 

If Cameron McMaster's account of our recent trip through the East Cape
wasn't enough to make you hit the reply button and start exploring your own
trip possibilities with him, let me add my two cents' worth: do it!  

This was the trip of a lifetime.  Cameron and Rhoda were perfect hosts and
guides; the planning that went into the trip was unparalleled; even when
weather forced us to alter our plans, the change went seamlessly (from the
participants' point of view, anyway) and not a moment was wasted.  In fact,
towards the end of the trip various participants had to beg for a little
time off to shop for gifts for the folks at home...Cameron and Rhoda don't
waste time on typical tourist endeavors.  The lodgings were fantastic, the
food amazingly good (I had been warned about mayonnaise and onion
sandwiches - never came close to that), and the plants purely astonishing. 
The birds, too (and both C&R are accomplished birders) - and the mammals -
and - well- everything.

You will want to be in good physical shape for one of C&R's tours: expect
to scramble up unbelievably steep hillsides (no paths there, unless the
local ruminants have made them) and across slippery, rocky slopes, and be
comfortable with hiking a few miles a day.  Experience slipping through
barbed-wire fences will be useful; if you don't have it already, you will
gain it fast.

Cameron and Rhoda are unique resources; waste no time; contact them now!

Ellen Hornig
Seneca Hill Perennials

Original Message:
From: African Bulbs africanbulbs@haznet.co.za
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2006 10:50:00 +0200
To: pbs@lists.ibiblio.org, msittner@mcn.org
Subject: [pbs] East Cape Botanical Tour

Hi All

We have just returned from leading an exciting tour of the Eastern Cape,
South Africa, to observe the the special botanical treasures that occur
here.  Most lovers of South African flora visit us in spring
(August/September) for the Cape and Namaqualand flowers, and so miss the
wonderful offerings of the summer rainfall regions in the East of the
country.  The months of December to February are the best time for summer
rainfall flora in South Africa.  This year, after copious rains, the
Eastern Cape was looking particularly beautiful and the wild flowers were

Our group  consisted of Lauren and Scott Ogden, landscape artists from
Colorado/Texas, Dan Johnson of the Denver Botanic Gardens, Pat Kirwin from
San Marcos, Texas, Laurel Voran and Jonathan Wright from Chanticleer
Gardens, Pennsylvania and Ellen Hornig of Seneca Hills Perrenials, Oswego
NY.  We  visited many special little destinations well off the usual
tourist routes and stayed mostly on farms and in small villages so as to be
be right in the countryside.  Each day the hikes or 4X4 excursions were to
areas that would have been inaccessable to ordinary tourists.  While the
farm accommodation was excellent, it came at a fraction of the price of the
4 and 5 star establishments used by tour operators, making the tour most

We covered all the major vegetation types in the East Cape from Valley
Thicket and Karroo/Namib vegetation to Alpine grassland and Sub-Tropical
coastal flora.  We started off in Port Elizabeth, our first stop being a
private game reserve in the Somerset East district where the first sighting
was a group of Ammocharis coranica in flower and thousands of Drimia
altissima with their meter high spikes of flowers as well as a number of
Crinum macowanii in flower.  The highlights here were the rare cycad
Encephalartos lehmannii in a deep ravine and many species of antelope.  The
next day a visit to the Waainek Wild Flower reserve on the Bosberg mountain
above Somerset East was rewarded with hundreds of the rare Haemanthus
carneus in flower, a species that grows only in this locality. Other
sightings here included Cyrtanthus macowanii, Eucomis autumnalis and the
Encephalartos cycadifolius.

On the third day en route through the Karoo via Bedford and Cradock to
Tarkastad we saw Nerine huttoniae, Haemanthus montanus and various Aloes,
Gasterias and Haworthias.  Our next destination was the montane and alpine
grassland in the Barkly East and Rhodes districts.  Near Dordecht we came
upon some spectacular bright red Brunsvigia radulosa.   The mountains were
very rewarding, the lists of sightings were long.  Of the bulbous species
the  most interesing were Gladiolus dalenii, oppositiflorus, saundersii and
edulis.  Dierama robustum was flowering everywhere.  We came across a
strong population of the magnificent orange orchid, Disa porrecta and huge
stands of  Kniphofia caulescens and K. porphyrantha.  Other pokers we saw
included Kniphofia northiae, ritualis, linearifolia, triangularis, stricta
and parviflora.  The mountainsides were covered with large populations of
Asteraceae such as Berkheya purpurea, B. multijuga, Senecio macrospermus
and many Helichrysums.  One of
  our hikes was to rock shelters with magnificent San Rock Art which is
widespresd in the Eastern Cape.  One of the rock panels depicted a hunting
lion - a very unusual subject.  At Rhodes we found a population of
Haemanthus humilis hirsutus in seed.

Going south we stopped at Satan's Neck near Engobo where we were privileged
to find the rare endemic Crocosmia masoniorum in flower.  It was quite
spectacular festooning the cliffs next to a small waterfall.  The ground
orchids were numerous at this site - including the large and impressive
Pterygodium magnum.  

We spent four days in the Cathcart and Stutterheim districts covering
various habitats including rocky outcrops, river banks, grassland,  thicket
and afro-montane forest.  Worth mentioning are Dierama pulcherrimum and
Dierama atrum, Nerine filamentosa, Brunsvigia gregaria, Haemanthus humilis
humilis and Hesperantha huttonii and a dark blue form of Agapanthus
campanulatus.  Highlight of this area was a hazardous 4X4 trip with Neil
and Carmen Potter up very steep roads to Moonstone Mountain where we hiked
over the mountain to some pristine grassland on the other side.  I have
called this hike "The Moonstone Magic Cycad Trail" since it is the only
place in South Africa where three species of Cycad occur together -
Encephalartos frederici, E. princeps and  E. caffer.  We also saw three
species of Cyrtanthus in flower - C. obliquus, C. macmasteri and C.
macowanii, as well as Scadoxus puniceus, Haemanthus albiflos and some very
large specimens of Boophone disticha.  

A vist to the seaside resort of Kei Mouth afforded the opportunity to see
large pristine populations of both Clivia miniata and Cliva nobilis in
riverine and dune forest, although only a few C. nobilis were in flower at
this time of the year.  Here we also saw Scadoxus membranaceus.  On a
grassland walk there were spectacular orchids - Disa polygonoides, as well
as Albuca batteniana and Gladiolus ochroleucus which are  endemic to the
East Cape Coastal region.  It was fascinating to find Gladiolus guenzii
growing on the beach in sea sand at Kei Mouth.

On the journey to our last destination in the Grahamstown region, we
stopped in the Keiskamma River Valley and were fortunate to find Cyrtanthus
sanguineus in flower in a hot and dry stream bed and some magnificent
epiphytic orchids in full flower - Mystacydium capense.  On the second last
day we hiked through the riverine forrst in the Kap River Nature Reserve
where there was another population of Clivia nobilis.  Here we also walked
amongst the animals which were very tame  - zebras, giraffe and numerous
antelope species.   On the final day we visited the Ecca Pass Nature
Reserve where we were accompanied by local expert, Tony Dold, curator of
the Schonland Herbarium in Grahamstown.  This reserve consists of succulent
thicket vegetation.  He showed many of the local endemics including
Bergeranthus species, Haworthias, Euphorbias, Faucarias and Ceropegias.  We
also saw many Strelitzia regina, some specimens of the local cycad,
Encephalartos trispinosis and some Crinum macowa
 nii in flower and in seed.  On the final leg back to Port Elizabeth we
stopped for Haemanthus coccineus which had just burst into flower at

The East Cape not only has spectacular flowers but a wide variety of
habitats and magnificent scenery - well worth a vsit at any time in the
spring and summer.  A spinoff is the opportunity to meet with the local
farmers and nature lovers, all of whom are very hospitable and anxious to
show you all they have to offer on their farms.  Anyone interested in
future tours are welcome to contact us.

Rhoda and Cameron McMaster
African Bulbs
PO Box 26, Napier 7270
Tel/Fax: 028 423 3651
E-mail: africanbulbs@haznet.co.za
Website: http://www.africanbulbs.com/

pbs mailing list

mail2web - Check your email from the web at
http://mail2web.com/ .

More information about the pbs mailing list