31 August, 2016

Verlorenvlei spring flowers

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

We went to live in Porterville to be nearer the West Coast spring flowers. Namaqualand is a little further north.

Along roadside verges, at the edges of fields, and in abandoned fields. Winter rains came? Right time of day, 10 to 4? No breeze or cloud to close the fair weather daisies? You have your back to the sun, looking into the flower’s faces?

Gate to spring flowers in August 2010

Come thru the gate with us in August 2010. In a good year the rain daisies Dimorphotheca pluvialis are spread so thick they look like a snow drift. Bottom right is a sand dune.

Rain daisies Dimorphotheca pluvialis

We visited Moutonshoek, where a tungsten mine is planned. This is 60% of the catchment area for Verlorenvlei, verloren meaning lost. A Ramsar wetland. I thought it was RAMSAR, an acronym for a conference or an international agreement on wetlands. I discovered it is a place name. Ramsar lies on the Caspian Sea. There are hot springs. Really hot. Radium, uranium and thorium hot! The residents live long, healthy lives. The vacation palace of the last Shah is in Ramsar, Mazandaran, Iran.


Vygies, our succulents, come in every size and colour you can imagine (except true blue). Creeping along the ground, on low or high shrubs.

and tsamma melons

Wild melons. There is a traditional Afrikaans speciality - Waatlemoenkonfyt - melon preserve. Only in Porterville did I find out that isn’t made from watermelon rind, but these tsamma melons. Citrullus lanatus. This plant is essential to wildlife further north in the Kgalagadi, as the principal source of water between the rainy seasons. An annual vine with a long trailing stem. The melon is 90% water. Melons were grown as a crop by the Egyptians four thousand years ago. Your watermelon is descended from this South African plant.

Grielum humifusum

I like to call these Lemon Butter Flowers. The yellow has an acidic touch of green – lemon. And the petals shimmer – butter. Grielum humifusum with a white centre. A distant West Coast cousin within the rose family.

Euryops speciosissimus

In our garden are tiny and medium Euryops, this is the large third. Euryops speciosissimus – Clanwilliam daisy, but ranging to Piketberg. The exuberant yellow flowers are carried proudly, high above the bush.

Leucadendron pubescens

Up into the hills and on sand plains among fynbos, proteas are in bloom. Leucadendron pubescens flowers are covered in silver down. Ants disperse their seeds.

Ostrich family and flamingos at Wadrifsoutpan

Wadrifsoutpan – old wagon crossing on the salt pan, the Wadrif farm is still there. The salt pan opens on the coast, crosses under the railway line, and then winds up the second valley. Avocets, ducks, and a drift of flamingos. The ostriches are farmed animals. Too hot and dry for cows here. ‘The only genuine wild ostriches occur in Northern Namibia and the Kgalagadi. All others are descended from hybrids bred for the feather trade’ --- from Sasol Birds of Southern Africa by Sinclair, Hockey and Tarboton.

We were heading for Lambert's Bay and Fishing-for-diamonds and Bird-Island

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Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
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  1. I often wonder if you would find our environment as exotic as I find yours.

    1. hmm I have never gardened with frost and snow. When we lived in Switzerland it was always flats with no garden.

  2. What wonderful memories your posts always bring! I always loved the Cape watermelons, but didn't know the tsamma melons were a source of water for wildlife...naturally!
    The Vygies succulents are beautiful, but my favourite, which my mother used to have in the garden I think, is the Euryops speciosisimus.

    1. that Euryops is spectacular in nature, but very tall in a garden.

  3. I learn so much about your flora and fauna from your posts, thank you for this one which shows us more beautiful scenery as well.

    1. mountains and sea make my heart sing. Add flowers and birds, even more so!

  4. Glorious scenery, Diana. Those rain daisies are magnificent. I enjoyed seeing the ostrich family too - I had no idea that the majority are farm animals.

    1. that about the ostriches surprised me too when I was researching the post - but it makes sense. Not so much wild space left, even in our country.

  5. I thought your wild melon looked a lot like our water melon, so interesting that it is the main source of water for wildlife; although I shouldn't be surprised as the year I tried growing melons they were eaten my some visiting animal (I didn't find out what). Your landscape is stunning.

    1. In a dry and thirsty environment any animal big enough to crack open that shell must find it irresistible. The little ones can get what's left in the open fruit.
      Set up a webcam and see who comes to your melon?

  6. The rain daisies are stunning! Interesting information about the melons and melon preserve sounds delicious. Your postings are full of fascinating information. P. x

  7. Such an interesting post there is so much to see in your country. I was taken by the rain daisies too. Sarah x

  8. How timely! I was very recently wondering where our watermelon came from. It does not look very different from your tsamma melons. I also love your rain daisies!

  9. When I saw that melon, I thought "It looks like watermelon" -- which made me wonder if watermelon was one of those plants that enslaved Africans introduced to the Americas. Sounds like the answer is yes.

  10. another fascinating post with a wealth of information - I like the way you join the dots of plant origins, the context of wild landscape to your own cultivation and the environmental issues which are ever present. Daisies have irresistible faces - en masse as rain or the charmingly elevated Euryops.
    Your vygies we call mesembryanthemums - used to grow them on the rockery but only compact low growing - yours seem to creep - are they a different variety

    1. many, many varieties! Some creep, some are substantial shrubs, and everything in between.