01 September, 2014

Travelling to Skilpad the Namaqua National Park

 - gardening for biodiversity 
in Cape Town, South Africa

Last week, there was again a river dividing the road. Just before Clanwilliam, the Olifants River flows along the Olifantsberg.

Olifants River 'crossing' near Clanwilliam in September 2008

In September 2008, we travelled over Studers Pass to a Methodist mission Leliefontein (spring with lilies) on top of the mountain. Lime Euphorbia and mauve vygie.

Studers Pass near Leliefontein

Annual daisies for which Namaqualand’s spring displays are famous. Gorgeous apricot and cream – is good enough to eat! Namaqua daisy Dimorphotheca sinuata.

Namaqua daisy September 2008

I was enchanted by this cartoon at the Eden Project in Cornwall. After the summer, the fields are baked hard. Some struggling vygie/Lampranthus bushes. Rarely trees along the dry streambeds. Then the winter rain comes. Within days, annuals and bulbs emerge. Sheets of white – rain daisies – Dimorphotheca pluvialis.

The Eden Project on Namaqualand

Barbed wire fence and flowers as far as the eye can see, in an unbroken carpet. Orange is flat faced daisies. Deep yellow is little button daisies. Shimmering buttery yellow is my favourite Namaqua spring flower – Grielum (part of the rose family), which trails along covering the ground with patches of glowing colour.

Field of Namaqua flowers September 2008

Namaqua National Park

This National Park was created to conserve the spring display in Namaqualand in the Northern Cape. It was a farm called Skilpad se Graafwater (tortoise’s digging place for water). With the low rainfall, farming is challenging here. Tourism for wild flowers is another way of earning a living, while protecting the environment.

Orange daisies at Skilpad in September 2008

Spectacular displays of sheets of colour from annuals, are often on abandoned fields where seeds have no competition or shade from shrubs.

These daisies live a very gracious life in their short season. We rise at 10, and retire at 3 in the afternoon. If it is cool, or breezy, we stay in bed. We turn our faces to the sun, so it is up to you to plan your route so you see their faces. A leisurely journey. Leave time to get out and walk. But pretty please, keep to the paths!

Locusts at Skilpad

The Ungardener's picture of the only wildlife I can't abide - locusts

Don’t despair if the weather is cool and overcast. It is only on foot that you will see rarer plants – bulbs and shrubs, which on a fine day are upstaged by sheets of open daisies.

Namaqualand with its Succulent Karoo vegetation, is the only arid biodiversity hotspot in the world. 350 mm of rain a year (and the sea fog rolling in) can be stretched to support plants, wildlife, people and farming. A little hotter, and we will lose both plants and animals to desert. The people will have to leave the land.

Gladiolus, Gazania
beetle daisy
at Skilpad in September 2008

Gladiolus with the most subtle gentle colouring. Gazania (still in its pyjamas). The heart of a beetle daisy. Lobostemon in the borage family.

Chalet at Namaqua National Park in September 2008

Accommodation in the park is the best I have ever had. Just you, and the view, all the way, across rolling hills, down to the sea. An enclosed veranda, two comfortable chairs, dining table, concertina windows which open completely, or close to block the wind. If you want to stay over, you need to book at least a year ahead for the spring flower season at Namaqua National Park or in the surrounding towns. I'm hoping for September 2015!!

Barley twist sunset

The only time we have ever seen a sunset with a barley sugar twist in the tail!

Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay

(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
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  1. it would be well worth one year wait list to stay in this amazing place, so much beauty, wonderful sunset as well with the barley twist tail!

  2. Put me down for next year too! what a fabulous place. Thank you for showing us.

  3. That photo of the locusts is quite eye catching. Although the reality of all those bugs clambering over each other is another matter. I read a book a couple years ago, cannot recall the name just now (of course), but a writer toured Africa on a plant safari of sorts. I had never realized before then just how many of our garden plants come from your neck of the woods and the idea of tourism to see these beauties in their natural habitat sounds absolutely fascinating to me.

  4. Your characterization of the daisies, 'We rise at 10, and retire at 3 in the afternoon. If it is cool, or breezy, we stay in bed' perfectly describes my water lilies. Love taking these trips, virtually, with you, Diana, especially now it's becoming clear I am unlikely to visit Africa (my dream) due to age and infirmity. P. x

    1. armchair travelling via bloggers who 'speak my language' is a huge reason why I revel in reading blogs.

  5. It's amazing how so many plants are able to stay dormant until just the right environmental conditions appear to wake them up. The fields of wildflowers are beautiful!

  6. We try so hard, but our gardening skills will never compete with great swaths of wildflowers. Breathtaking! I agree with you about the locusts. Here we sometimes have these giant black grasshoppers with red and yellow stripes. I get chills thinking about them. Give me snakes and spiders any day.

  7. Stunning ... absolutely stunning! The large swaths of wildflowers took my breath away. Every scene here is ... exceptional. Thanks for taking us along!

  8. I love all thew wildflowers..so diminutive yet so much color especially the orange. I cannot abide by large groups of insects...ewww