Spring flowers at Hantam National Botanical Garden

By Diana Studer 
- gardening for biodiversity 
 in Cape Town, South Africa

We came into Nieuwoudtville up the Van Rhyns Pass, built by Thomas Bain in 1880, alongside Oorlogskloof. Around the town is a wide flat plain thru which the Doring River suddenly drops, down a long waterfall into a deep, totally unexpected valley. A little rock agama lizard kept me company, running like hell, then freezing when I looked at him.

Rock agama lizard at Doring River
Rock agama lizard at Doring River


In Nieuwoudtville we visited the Hantam National Botanical Garden. September 2012 it was really cold! We were packed up in jackets, woolly scarves and his warmest beanie. On the first day we walked the Spiderweb Trail. Next day we walked to the Camel Koppie. Walking among the spring flowers, you see that low growing deep purple flowering bulb in this rock crack, is not the same as that one on the next ridge. I trawl thru my flower books, especially the one covering Nieuwoudtville and the Renosterveld.

Babiana sp. Lapeirousia oreogena (Red Data and endemic), Colchicum coloratum red cup-and-saucer September 2012
Babiana sp.
Lapeirousia oreogena
(Red Data and endemic), Colchicum coloratum red cup-and-saucer
September 2012

Heading towards home, we stopped to look at the glacial pavement at Oorlogskloof. The debris transported by the glaciers formed the Dwyka tillite, in which I searched for fossils as a geology student.

Glacial pavement at Oorlogskloof
Glacial pavement at Oorlogskloof

Detail of the glacial pavement at Ooorlogskloof with Babiana vanzyliae and Lachenalia elegans September 2012
Detail of the glacial pavement at Ooorlogskloof
with Babiana vanzyliae
and Lachenalia elegans
September 2012

Matjiesfontein farm opens for the flower season. We had good rain in August and 2012 was a particularly good spring flower season.

Fields of daisies for the sheep at Matjiesfontein in September 2012
Fields of daisies for the sheep at Matjiesfontein in September 2012

September 2011 we went to the Tankwa Karoo, then the Hantam NBG. When I started Elephant's Eye in Porterville I wanted to know what our garden would have been, before the farming. The newest NBG is dedicated to Renosterveld! ‘Less than 10% of the Renosterveld survives.’ Rushing along the national road, you see low grey shrubs. The renosterbos Dicerothamnus rhinocerotis, and kapokbossie wild rosemary Eriocephalus species – provide an illusion of snow, covered in fluffy white seeds. Species vary between new born lamb, whiter than white – and the muddier dustier colour of yearling lambs.

Yellow daisies in the Hantam September 2011
Yellow daisies in the Hantam
September 2011

The garden was established in 2007 on Neil MacGregor’s farm Glenlyon. The name Hantam comes from ‘where the red bulbs grow’, a Pelargonium eaten by the Khoi. The MacGregor’s Blue butterfly was first discovered on this farm. The wings are a deep bitter chocolate, and we DID see them on the Butterfly Trail (August to October, when the flowers are out). We walked towards the Camel Koppie, but since I had to look at every different flower … we only got halfway.

?? caterpillar, Namaqua dove red locust (feeds on milkweed and) on Asparagus sp, *, monkey beetles on daisy September 2011
?? caterpillar, Namaqua dove
red locust (feeds on milkweed and) on Asparagus sp, *, monkey beetles on daisy
September 2011

The porcupines of Nieuwoudtville can weigh up to 24kg (elsewhere average weight is 14kg). In one square metre here a porcupine could find 25,000 bulbs of various species. In spring they seek high energy bulbs, but otherwise they rely on bulbs for water. From research by Christy Bragg.

Moraea pritzeliana * with corkscrew leaves (top left and centre) Geissorhiza splendidissima Blue Pride of Nieuwoudtville and Babiana spathacea *September 2011
Moraea pritzeliana * with corkscrew leaves (top left and centre)
Geissorhiza splendidissima Blue Pride of Nieuwoudtville and Babiana spathacea *September 2011

Top left Hesperantha cucullata * Bottom left Cyanella alba subsp. alba * Right Gladiolus scullyi September 2011
Top left Hesperantha cucullata *
Bottom left Cyanella alba subsp. alba *
Right Gladiolus scullyi
September 2011

Australian Eucalyptus was planted near farm houses, to reduce mud during heavy winter rain. Each tree can absorb up to 600 litres a day. Some invasives will remain in the garden to provide welcome shade.

The Maartblom candelabra lily Brunsvigia bosmaniae becomes a tumbleweed. Cleverly grows its leaves wide and flat on the ground. By night, any humidity condenses on leaves, now colder than the air!

Kew's MSBP September 2011, Brunsvigia tumbleweed orange Eryhtrophysa alata kapok on wild rosemary
Kew's MSBP September 2011, Brunsvigia tumbleweed
orange Eryhtrophysa alata
kapok
on wild rosemary

Also at the Swiss Villa guest house were a group drawn from all our NBGs, being trained by Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Project. They were collecting seed of threatened plants.

Thanks to Eugene Marinus, curator of the Hantam NBG for naming the species with an asterisk!

Celebrating our Spring with Donna's New York autumn

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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Comments

  1. Wonderful photograph of the lizard hiding in plain view.

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  2. Love seeing that your beautiful spring flowers are coming up as ours begin to fade. xo Laura

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  3. How interesting! I'd never thought of S. Africa as having been covered with glaciers! Most of my part of the Northern U.S. was covered with glaciers, but that's not as surprising with our bitter winters. But the continents did shift and change. As always, your wildflower photos are beautiful! Happy spring!

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  4. That lizard has great camouflage! And the purple flower with the red markings is so beautiful it makes me swoon. Like PlatPostings, I never considered the possibility that your landscape, like mine, was shaped by glaciers. -Jean

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    1. Babiana, I have a spike of buds coming, but I think mine is a simpler mostly purple one.

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  5. Geology a subject that never ceases to baffle and amaze i.e the image of glaciers scraping the landscape as they move. The spring flowers have the stark bold look of alpines and judging by Van Rhyns Pass I guess the altitude qualifies?

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    1. the drifts of daisies are on the plains, often abandoned fields now nature conservation (as the wheel turns). As you go up, or down, mountain passes, so the vegetation changes. Endlessly fascinating between endemics and seasons.

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  6. Hi Diana, those photos are beautiful. I could easily the lizard running and freezing. My wild and childish imagination is telling me that he was playing a game with you.
    Those flowers are beautiful.
    Everything (talking about the landscape) has been shaped and is still being shaped by how the glaciers, the volcanoes and other mountains have evolved and are still evolving. All those beautiful landscapes around the world are feast to the eyes.
    Our planet is alive and so beautiful.
    Have a lovely week!

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  7. That's a heck of a lot of bulbs in a square metre - and an awful lot of water the Australian Eucalyptus absorbs too. What a post of extremes! I love the fact that the lizard is so beautifully camouflaged.

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    Replies
    1. Nieuwoudtville is called the Bulb Capital of the World.

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  8. my gosh I learned so much here today, lol, ( as always ),,
    the Australian Eucalyptus is an amazingly beneficial plant!!!
    The size of the Porcupines is outstanding, much larger than the ones here in Northern Canada, the sheep eating the daisies is breath taking and the lizard has wonderful camouflage indeed!

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    1. I see Eucalyptus as water guzzling fire hazards - but after living in Porterville I can see the appeal of counteracting clay soil sodden by heavy winter downpours.

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  9. You have outdone yourself with the wildflower shots Diana...they are simply stunning. What a array of colors...and the field of daisies is amazing. Do they eat them?

    Jen

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    1. yes, and I suspect they are delicious! In the same way that I learn to eat flowers in salad or as a garnish.

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  10. I just love seeing all the plants there, as they are so different from the ones we have here. Those blooming bulbs are so beautiful! And those sound like some gigantic porcupines! Wow!

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  11. Love this posting, Diana, from camouflaged lizard to water-sucking Eucalyptus! So much interesting information. I like how you revisit previous postings yet make it all seem so new. P. x

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    1. Thank you. I wove two old posts together and had to discard a lot of photos to leave the 10 I allow myself for each post.

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  12. This is the kind of news I savor coming out of Africa.

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    1. news about young people involved in conservation or community gardening - yes, makes my heart sing with hope for our future.

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  13. I had to search a couple of moments to find the rock agama lizard! He was so perfectly camouflaged!

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  14. Wonderful pictures, I like the meadow with the yellow daisies.
    So there is another botanical garden I have missed so far.
    You are right with the Schatzalp, it is the one from The Magic Mountain. Thanks for pointing that out, I didn't know it but I had heard about the sanatorium.
    Have a nice day
    Elke

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  15. Well on this very autumn-like day here, I am finally visiting you and spring in South Africa. What a delight Diana....so much history of the land and beautiful flowers....I was so surprised to see your spring flowers included Colchicum which are blooming here in autumn. And I barely saw that magnificent lizard. Thanks for supporting and participating again in Seasonal Celebrations, Diana!

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  16. Beautiful place. Happy Spring to you!

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  17. What a wonderful tour Diana! I love touring botanical gardens and look forward to getting back to Gainesville's Kanapaha and Sarasota's Selby - oh but a NATIONAL garden - how divine! I love how it is "wild." This is what I look forward to on the lake - observing the wild flora and fauna. I noticed some Porcupine scat at the base of a tree, too, and boy am I glad ours are smaller! (I made a note to have needle nosed pliers on hand in case Mojo goes poking his nose around!) Such beautiful flowers!

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    1. Only once in my life have I ever seen a porcupine.
      A pair crossing the road as we drove home (slowly) late one evening.
      We see the fallen quills sometimes.

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