Sirkelsvlei has water again
by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
Hiking among wildflowers
in the mountains
around Cape Town
Our botanical ramble headed to Sirkelsvlei at Cape Point in April. After fires last November and again in March, we were curious to see what we would find. It is indeed scorched earth. From a passing car it appears quite dead and barren of life. And yet...
A neat little pile on the path, and chewed off greens are evidence that there are buck lurking out of sight, behind the rocky outcrop, bontebok hidden between protea bushes. We found one sadly dead tortoise and this one busy eating and not inclined to come out for a chat. Along the path we followed were hoof prints of an eland. Glad we didn't meet the owner as they stand tall and eye to eye!
Without an informed pair of eagle eyes we would never have found this wild orchid (and I couldn't find it the second time - this path - this stretch - this side ... not a hope!) Disa salteri. We battled to take photos of a tiny brownish purplish greenish stalk - till someone volunteered my hat! Asparagus lignosus is one of the fire asparagus, which will bloom within six weeks of a fire to feed the bees. Wild bees cleverly build their hives with a wall of propolis which shields them from fire, and they survive!
Proteas adapt to fire by holding their seed in cones, which open after fire Leucadendron laureolum. Hoping that iNaturalist will name my 'Swiss chard' - my guess is a daisy Haplocarpha lanata or Othonna or Capelio tabularis (my book says frequent after fire)?? A substantial Cyperus. Yellow stars Empodium plicatum. Erica plunkenetii. Erica pulchella. Tiniest white mystery, perhaps Aizoon? Metalasia. Phylica buxifolia fragrant with honey.
My companions, who have walked here for years, looked quite shocked. Never seen the vlei dry! We had three days of rain 40 mm in our garden - so the Ungardener and I returned to see if there was water in the vlei then.
Amazing what a difference a few days of rain can make to fire ravaged Leucospermum conocarpodendron (yellow pincushion). In a damp dip, which might have been a stream in winter, was a drift of green Southern bracken Pteridium aquilinum ssp. capense
Ten days later, yes, there was water to see in Sirkelsvlei. Maybe in September after the winter rain, we will have another look. When I shared this picture on Facebook someone put up her picture from September 2014, with that wide expanse of exposed rocky bed concealed under a sheet of water!
To find the trail we followed the yellow topped marker poles. Exposed bed of the vlei looks as if a glacier has scraped thru. Leaving weird rocks strewn in its path.
It is heart-wrenching to see nature looking like an empty bath with the grubby tide line exposed. Bare sand and rocks looking embarrassed and exposed.
But oh, the joy of seeing water! Deep enough to sparkle as it catches the light. Maybe next time the optimistic causeway of rocks and timber slabs will cross the damp marsh it expects.
More April hikes with U3A next week.
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