May hikes to Simonsberg, Slangkop and Steenberg Ridge in Silvermine


by Diana Studer

- gardening for biodiversity

 in Cape Town, South Africa


Hiking among wildflowers

in the mountains

around Cape Town


Fynbos Rambles hissing along in May. We begin at Simonsberg above Simon's Town. That hike ended with a loop to Froggy Pond to admire Orbea variegata. Carrion flower elaborately patterned in burgundy and fawn.


Orbea varieagata at Froggy Pond in May
Orbea variegata at Froggy Pond in May

First we wound slowly up the mountain to see what we could find. Always daisies, and always some yellow ones! Metalasia densa in pink and cream. Rough leaves for renosterbos Myrovernix scaber. Then the yellow ... Athanasia trifurcata (for the leaves). Bracts and flower Senecio burchellii. More bracts on Senecio pinifolius.


Simonsberg daisies in May
Simonsberg daisies in May

Rolled leaf margins but no flowers yet - look for the tiny black stipules at the base of the leaves - Trichocephalus stipularis. Tiny wind pollinated flowers Erica hispidula. Pelargonium myrrifolium delicate flowers and finely divided leaves. Little Aspalathus ericifolia grows on granite.


May flowers at Simonsberg
May flowers at Simonsberg 

Back to Slangkop to see what emerges with rain after the fire. Daisies purple with no ray florets and glaucous green Othonna digitata. With distinctive seeds, and green reverse to yellow again Osteospermum dentatum.


Two Slangkop daisies in May
Two Slangkop daisies in May

Ficinia deusta (which means burnt down!) Sprawling Cissampelos capensis. Butter yellow Bulbine praemorsa has a few chunky succulent leaves.


Bulbine at Slangkop in May
Bulbine at Slangkop in May

We turned back early as the cold front chased us home. Trying not to disturb this dikkop who was also sheltering from the weather.


Dikkop sheltering from the cold front
Dikkop sheltering from the cold front

Cold front coming from the Atlantic to the left. When flowers open on Trichocephalus stipularis no need to zoom in on her stipules. Muraltia spinosa - leaf tips are hooked (Polygalaceae pretending to be peas but lacking the keel). That dusky pink was a striking signature plant in a Constantia garden Salvia lanceolata.


Cool pinks at Slangkop in May
Cool pinks at Slangkop in May

Steenberg Ridge. Collecting not flowers for my life list at iNaturalist (where I have passed 500 species for the Cape Peninsula). Ferns with finer leaves coral fern Gleichenia polypodioides and broader leaves Blechnum capensis. Pixie cup lichen Cladonia, some cups carefully filled with a drop of rain. Red toadskin lichen Lasallia rubiginosa.


Fern and lichen at Steenberg Ridge
Fern and lichen at Steenberg Ridge

Hello yellow daisy Senecio pubigerus. Fynbos pinwheel snail. Gnidia tomentosa layered in white and yellow. Gladiolus priorii scarlet with a golden heart. Diospyros glabra red fruit. Vivid pink Indigofera filiformis


May flowers on Steenberg Ridge with fynbos pinwheel snail
May flowers on Steenberg Ridge
with fynbos pinwheel snail

May's rain was okay, but 2 winter storms have sorted June. Kirstenbosch got its average June rain all in the first storm! Timed to douse 2 fires among reeds at Rietvlei in Table View, and at Lourensford including Helderberg Nature Reserve.


From the City Nature Challenge at iNaturalist I won a botanical art print of Gladiolus monticola (seen above Simon's Town in April 2016 - but we were not high enough to reach monticola that day)


Gladiolus brevifolius April 2016 in Simon's Town
Gladiolus monticola brevifolius
April 2016 in Simon's Town

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  1. Wonderful photos as always. The Othonna digitata is intriguing. Are your local weather forecasters calling the heavy rain evidence of a La Niña climate pattern? We're already hearing predictions that we can expect another La Niña winter, which - in contrast to how the pattern presents itself in your part of the world - means another pitiful rainy season for us come November.

    1. We have both extremes. Watershedding in Port Elizabeth (empty dam) and floods in Cape Town.

  2. Hello Diana ! Your photos are beautiful and to give an idea of scale really helped to understand how tiny and delicate some of these plants are .Those are sweet pictures of Zoe , funny how they love so many different areas to try a nap in ? LOL
    Congratulations on winning that print ! and the number of species ? 500 ! You really have to have an eye for detail. The cold front had me smile .. living in the opposite side of the seasons is an amazing thing to think of . Keep warm !

  3. Such beautiful blossoms, leaves and lichen! You have such amazing floral and fauna, it’s like another world to my eyes, exotic doesn’t even begin to describe their beauty. When I think of Africa cold fronts never come to mind , but of course I know there is cold weather but I think of heat firstly lol. Thankyou for bringing us such a selection!

  4. 500 species--that's impressive! I have that Orbea--a sweet little plant. "Always daisies, and always yellow ones." made me smile--true here, too.

  5. Beautiful photos as always. I do so enjoy seeing the different flowers you have. xo Laura

  6. Oh, I always admire carrion flowers, but I have to visit a glasshouse in a botanical garden to find them...