Verlorenvlei spring flowers
by Diana Studer
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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