Inkspot and spider orchids on October hikes

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Hiking among wildflowers
in the mountains
around Cape Town

Our first home was here, in the red circle. High up on the edge of Camps Bay. Once we had fire blazing on three sides, above, below and beyond in all the wild green areas. Such huge flames that we could have read in the garden 'by firelight'!

Our house when we lived in Camps Bay
Our house when we lived in Camps Bay

When we lived there, we would walk along the Pipe Track. Those paths and jeep tracks (for the fire fighters) which you see winding above the houses. Would never have imagined that all these decades older he would hike up Kasteelspoort to the very top of the mountains. Which were my guardian angels for most of my life.

Or that the very next day the Twelve Apostles fire would rage!

Lion's Head and Camps Bay
Lion's Head and Camps Bay

We walked at Brakkloofrand and found the inkspot orchid Disa cornuta.

Disa cornuta inkspot orchid
Disa cornuta
inkspot orchid

Protea scolymocephala bushes covered in masses of Goldilocks perfect sized flowers (on my wish list but the plants are short lived). Leucadendron coniferum the female cone blushed with red and silver shimmer. Serruria glomerata ivory touched with gold. Yellow Moraea. Sebaea exacoides yellow petals with paired tangerine dashes. Fine leaves and burgundy veined white flowers of Pelargonium myrrifolium. Among the khaki and gold fynbos blaze shrubs of Pelargonium betulinum melding pinks and purples. Fibonacci spirals on the buds and flowers of Pseudosalago spuria (a scroph). Knowltonia vesicatoria with silvery green flowers and trifoliate toothed leaves - a bizarre plant among our fynbos, till I realise ranunculus / buttercup family. Silver fingers of Syncarpha gnaphaloides (Greek for formed like a hank of wool!) with underwhelming brownish flowers. Shell pink hibiscus family Anisodontea scabrosa. Azure stars of Geissorhiza aspera. The colour of an African sky Salvia africana-caerulea. Fountain bush Psoralea pinnata grows along flows to the stream, indicating water. Hovering just above the ground a blue Moraea setifolia.

Brakkloofrand flowers in October
Brakkloofrand flowers in October

He found Ferraria crispa when hiking Suther Peak.

Ferraria crispa
Ferraria crispa

Looking down to Llandudno, with Camps Bay and Lion's Head in the distance.

To Llandudno and Lion's Head
To Llandudno and Lion's Head

Our botanical ramble on Blackhill in search of the spider orchid Bartholina burmanniana was successful. I was soaked (need a hiking in the rain plastic suit), squelch squelch in my boots. Even got rain IN my camera - had to leave all its little doors open that evening with the fire going.

Bartholina burmanniana spider orchid
Bartholina burmanniana
spider orchid

Pink spikes of Satyrium carneum. Gentle pink and white of Podalyria. Gladiolus carneus burgundy spotted pink petals weeping in the steady rain. Gerbera linnaei the usual white daisies but with feathered leaves. Huge yellow daisies of Berkheya armata with fierce leaves were our only sun that day. Kniphofia uvaria also along the seep. Caterpillar fur spiked with rain. Yellow white and red emperor caterpillar. Blue veins on white mystery flower. Serruria cyanoides hints at pink. Low blue Aristea africana and tall white Aristea spiralis. Tall yellow Bobartia indica looks like a clump of reeds when not flowering.

Blackhill flowers in October
Blackhill flowers in October

Returning to hike up to Spring Buttress via Woody Ravine. The Twelve Apostles Hotel stand alone on that coast between Camps Bay and Llandudno and fire started on their grounds. Blazed up the mountain and along to reach down towards Hout Bay and across the top towards Kirstenbosch.

Twelve Apostles fire
Twelve Apostles fire

Thanks to our firefighters (and the Volunteer Wildfire Services founded in the devastating 2000 fires)  for protecting homes and people in fierce wind! Drone flight over the Cape Point nursery, two islands of green after the 7-9 November fire.

Camps Bay and Lion's Head
Camps Bay and Lion's Head

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Pictures by Diana and Jürg Studer

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Comments

  1. This is a terrifying post. I have now idea how people cope with these big fires. (And Ferraria crispa is the weirdest flower I've ever seen!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The first Ferraria I met stood shoulder high to me. That was in the West Coast Park for spring flowers.

      I have never been evacuated - but that would scare me. Take the cats, documents, what you can put in a car load.

      Delete
  2. Your countryside would turn me into a hiker too, Diana! What magnificent specimens you have growing in the wild, many which I've never heard of much less seen before. I immediately fell in love with the inkspot orchid. I planted a few Ferraria crispa here earlier this year, which disappeared underground when summer's heat arrived - I hope they'll return next year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm impressed with your garden! I hadn't thought of trying to grow Ferraria.

      Delete
  3. We also in Portugal have been dealing with huge forest fires since summer, also a severe drought. I had no idea that the same thing is happening in South Africa, we have simillar climate, and I guess that global warming is afecting both countries just the same way.

    Thank you Diana for continually showing us these beautiful specimens from your native flora.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do also follow those fires in Portugal, my niece has family there.

      Delete
  4. We had terrible fires around us this year, caused by the extreme drought but sadly also by arsonists. A friend watched as a fire came to within 6 metres of her home; I could see the fire from my garden not knowing it was her home in danger. Fire moves so quickly I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have time to load the car with your belongings. Like Kris, I think I would become a hiker if I lived in your area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I follow the fires on Facebook and Twitter. People in the vulnerable zone await evacuation warning, and prepare in case. Firefighters, neighbourhood watch and emergency medical services, with animal charities all help with evacuation - so the firefighters can do their unhindered very best.

      Delete
  5. Such magnificent landscape and beautiful flora ! A little bit more magnificent than the original Llandudno .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see castle, tram, pier, Victorian buildings and a wide sandy beach on the Welsh original.

      Delete
  6. Ferraria crispa is such a unique-looking flower. The orchids are lovely and (to me) very unique-looking too.

    I'm surprised you've never had to evacuate, considering the light from the fires lit up your garden!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our neighbours told us next morning that they chose to evacuate. We spent most of the night hosing down the garden trees and the roof (BEFORE our current drought and water restrictions) That fire was maybe 20 years ago? Now it is all carefully organised to evacuate when needed.

      After that experience, I deliberately chose our second and current houses not so close to the urban edge. Altho fire is unpredictable, and if the Southeaster is raging, a random house far from the fire can still blaze up.

      Delete
  7. It must have been so frightening having fires so close! I am always amazed in the variety of flowering plants you have growing in the wild. I was fascinated too by the ferraria crispa it is so unusual! Sarah x

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  8. Your wildflowers are mouth-watering: species gladiolus, wild-growing knifophia, and orchids...! I am so glad to be away from the really high-risk fire areas, but they can strike here too, and people are more careless as they're not expecting trouble. Ironically, of course, the risk is higher after a good, wet winter season, as the place becomes carpeted with annual grasses which then dry in the hot winds. It's not like this on the hills, but certainly is in our lowland area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have many small grass fires - next to the road - cigarette end?!
      For us the approaching summer, and drought, has all the fire services on red alert.

      Delete
  9. Amazing plants, amazing country, amazing lives.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Our native plants are a bit boring compared to your cheerful and vibrant ones.

    ReplyDelete
  11. We had a huge fire here a few months ago that spread to five neighborhoods. It was started by arsonists and the dry wind did the rest. It is terrifying.
    Amalia
    xo

    ReplyDelete
  12. Superb blog....which will carry me through the winter. Great to see some of my favourite plants such as geraniums and succulents in their natural habitat.

    ReplyDelete

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