17 August, 2016

Wildflowers at Cape Columbine

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

From Porterville in July 2010 we went to the West Coast Mall for a mammoth food shop, and on to Cape Columbine. The Ungardener missed the sea, and I love to see what is in flower.

Beachcombing at Cape Columbine

Combing the shore for treasure. Sea shells and sea urchins empty green pumpkin shells, a handful of pebbles. Kelp washes up on the beach after winter storms. Lives out its life underwater, rooted on the sea bed. An underwater forest - which can be seen again as far away as the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Did I mention that our ocean is cold? Bringing fish and penguins. I was sadly combing the shore for plastic flotsam. Discarded snarls of nylon from weekend fishermen. It is a picnic site - there are bins to put the garbage in!

Cape Columbine lighthouse

Cape Columbine, named after the British wooden snow brig (which was wrecked there in 1829). A nature reserve on the coast, just outside the tiny village of Paternoster - once a subsistence fishing village - now filled with holiday homes.

Yellow lichen at Cape Columbine

From Paternoster - Urban legend has it that the SS Lisboa (1910) was laden with a large quantity of red wine, which stained the sea. Columbine was the first lighthouse to receive all three navigational safety features, i.e., a light, a fog signal and a radio beacon. It was the first lens system designed for use with a 4kW incandescent electric lamp on the South African Coast. All prior installations had been designed for wick or petroleum vapour burners. 1st October 1936 was the day that light blazed out to the ships at sea. The last manned lighthouse built on the South African coast.

Yellow bietou at Cape Columbine in July 2010

Bietou - Osteospermum moniliferum has edible black berries, which the birds love, so they donated a plant to the Camps Bay garden. I brought cuttings with me again and they are substantial shrubs - but the False Bay garden has its own vigorous volunteers - 2 planted on the verge in our front garden. Found along the coast of southern AND tropical Africa, growing in the salt sea breezes, these yellow daisy bushes hug the ground at Cape Columbine.

Yellow succulent July 2010
Roepera cordifolia

This succulent, with round leaves, crept along the ground. Delicately formed and marked, lemon yellow petals. Must remain nameless as I can’t find it in my West Coast flower books.
PS found on ispot it is Roepera cordifolia

Pink vygie July 2010

Just this single plant was a cushion of pink. The others were just starting to shimmer with colour. We call this huge variety of plants vygies. Vygie means small fig, a Khoisan heritage fruit finding favour again today.

Pelargonium fulgidum at Cape Columbine in July 2010

This brash coloured pelargonium ‘does like to be beside seaside!’ Pelargonium fulgidum. Luminous red. Stop, stop! One of my mother’s favourites. Found on granite, rocky outcrops from the Orange River in the north, down to Yzerfontein and the Postberg spring flower reserve in the south. I did plant one in our new garden, but have already lost it. Try again.

Where the Pelargonium fulgidum lives
at Cape Columbine nature reserve

Late on a winter afternoon, a salty mist began to roll in from the sea. A bitterly cold wind, couldn’t quite hold the camera steady, between the wind buffeting, and me shivering. That is why the lighthouse leans, just a little. There were spotted Lachenalia leaves, with the first few flowers. Sheaves of leaves heralded the spring bulbs on the way. We lived close to the glory of the West Coast’s spring flowers. Namaqualand calling …travelling to Skilpad the Namaqua National park.

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Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
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  1. What a lovely selection of wild flowers, they are all so pretty!

  2. I'm in love with that unnamed yellow succulent flower. You have a beautiful coastal area, designed by nature, Diana. I can't say the same for much of California's coastline, which is constantly under threat - from developers. The battle between those you want to protect the remaining natural areas and those that want to build expensive houses and condos has intensified here but I fear that the developers are winning.

    1. me too - perhaps I will track its name down one day.

      We have Postberg, a reserve opened now, in the wildflower season. I can remember when we looked from there across rolling green hills ... now covered in a horrifying layer of houses all the way. But the pockets of reserves remain, I hope!

  3. Very generous of the birds to donate such a cheerful plant to your garden. Our birds only donate holly.

  4. It's really strange to see these plants growing in the wild. We have similar plants to these but they would never set seed here! Sarah x

  5. I'm always amazed at the flowering plants so close to the sea, the pink vygie and the pelargoniums are heart warming to see. I remember the cold sea water and sometimes bitter winds of the Cape...but this is all part of its beauty. Thanks goodness you have National Parks to preserve some of it.

    1. They benefit from the coolth and moisture of sea fog. Someone is even farming angora rabbits.

  6. Is the ocean cold year round ? I agree people are pigs mostly when not at home. Somehow you manage to find flowers everywhere you go like the succulents and vygie, always a joy to see.

    1. We have the cold Benguela Current up the West Coast in the Atlantic Ocean. Durban on the East Coast gets the sub-tropical weather and warm Indian Ocean.
      Paddling on our False Bay beach today the water was perfect, cool, but not cold!

  7. Dear Diana,
    I also love to see what's in flower.
    Pelargonium near the sea - I would never have thought that possible.
    The orange flowers are amazing.

  8. I'm fascinated that your ocean is cold. How cold is cold? And where does that cold water come from? (I assume it's flowing north from colder latitudes.) Our ocean used to be cold, but the currents that kept the Gulf of Maine cold have shifted as a result of global warming, and the Gulf of Maine is now one of the fastest-warming bodies of water on the planet. -Jean

    1. 15C today. 59F.

      There's a map of the oceans on this Agulhas post

  9. Rocky outcrops, colorful blooms and the sea - what wonderful scenery! I am reminded you are in late winter. Cold, salty breezes sound quite refreshing to me. I wish you could can some up and send it to me!

    1. At the Cable Station on Table Mountain they do sell cans of Southeaster ... not sure that includes coolth or salt.

  10. Well that was all very fascinating and the flowers are beautiful as always!
    I love the yellow lichen - looks like a woollen pom-pom.
    I had to look up "snow" brig - it sounded like it was carrying ice, but I see it is also called "snauw" and it's to do with the arrangement of the sails...great to learn something new.
    Lighthouses are always so attractive - have you read the novel The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman? A tragic Australian romance based on a lighthouse. I see they are even making a film of it.
    Thanks for the bracing walk :)

    1. will look out for that one.
      I recently read a South African novel by
      Marguerite Poland --- The keeper
      (about life in lighthouses, with her delicately beautiful use of words!)