|ALBUM 2nd June 2020 – On Parole
For captions or info click on i on the top right-hand side. A good way to go - the slideshow is found at the top of the page on the rt hand side by clicking on the 3 dots. Featured this month - On Parole. This comes with the easing of Lockdown from Level 5 to Level 4. Out and About in Level 4, Psoraleas, Sally's Quiz, the CNC Challenge, Spekboom Myth and Happy Birthday Jen (Video with Sound).
For names and captions of the photos used on this version of the Diaries - see the Album.
For earlier versions of the Outramps CREW Diaries
George and surroundings
Lockdown 4 was light years better for us than Lockdown 5. Instead of pounding up and down and round and round the tarred tracks in Bishopslea Village, suddenly we had access to the Witfontein Plantations and the stunning tracks in the Fynbos just above. Despite the prolific aliens, it was a breath of fresh air and there was a perceptible lightening of mood. We were able to walk for between 2/3 hours a day. The Stoepies also enjoyed it enormously. Yippee! A somber thought - we are probably luckier than about 95% of the world's population.
And now we move down into Lockdown 3. The only significant change for two retired "oldies" is that we'll be able to go for longer walks and replenish our stocks of wine. In the highest risk group for Covid 19, we will still have to stay at home, wear a mask at all times outside the house and practise high standards of hygiene. But at the moment, that's a small price to pay for the concessions we've been granted in Lockdown 3. Let's all hope that levels of personal responisbility keep the spike of infections down. The last thing we want is to have to reverse the Lockdown back through 4 to 5.
Day 47 of Lockdown
It is after 9 am, the streets of Brenton are once again empty. The Cape Robin-Chat (Cossypha caffra ssp. caffra) is doing its usual rummage in the leaves on our driveway. Today it has been joined by a Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata) and a Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis ssp. senegalensis) hoping for some extra tasty morsels in yesterday’s garden cuttings. They have all retreated as our neighbour is pacing up and down her driveway doing her daily exercise as she did not make the 6 to 9am chance to go beyond the borders of her property.
In a short while an adult Cape Olive Thrush (Turdus olivaceus ssp. olivaceus) with its youngster, whose feathers have changed since the beginning of lockdown, will take over searching for grubs watched from a height by a Forktail Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis ssp. Adsimilis ) who is ready to steal anything that looks interesting. A family of Cape White-Eyes (Zosterops virens ssp. capensis) has flown into my Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), hoping to find some titbits among the blue flowers. The Southern Fiscal (Lanius collaris ssp. Collaris) has taken its place on our rain gauge pole keeping a keen eye open for its meal. These are just some of the daily routines that take place on our property.
Our routines changed on the 1st May from late to bed, late to rise to early to bed, early to rise so that we could take the chance to walk in the 5 km radius of our property. They say the latter makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise…let’s hope so, although I think it is a bit late for us! Our routine changes on shopping days, determined by the necessity to collect vital meds. We head for town armed with shopping lists, shopping bags, hand sanitiser and face masks. After the car has been parked, we head in different directions, with a reminder not to touch anything we don’t have to, each with tasks to do. Oh, wouldn’t it be good to have our usual sit down cup of coffee as a reward, but as soon as everything on the list has been done, we sanitise our hands again and head back home…after all, we are members of the most-at-risk age group with underlying conditions, so we must take extra care.
Household chores, gardening, iNatting, reading, responding to numerous WhatsApp messages and emails, watching Netflix and trying to make head or tail of these crazy times take up the rest of the day. The City Nature Challenge kept me busy for days. Even with all this extra time, there are lots of jobs that still need doing.
Just before sunset, a gaggle of Guineafowl (Numida meleagris ssp. coronatus) will wander into our garden, making plenty of noise, hunting for a snack before the end of the day. A flock of European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) usually flies overhead about the same time, sometimes landing on our lawn to hunt for their snack. Time to enjoy the sunset before settling in for the night which will take us to Day 48. Life goes on!
More interesting than schoolwork…
Diosma Reserve, buchus, a new redlist special, update on Mossel Bay ‘hood affairs
Now we’ve become much more interesting to the three next door kids than their online schoolwork. They are especially fascinated by Guido. The walls between us and our respective neighbours are low. Overflow fare is shared amongst us and the passers-by asking for food. There is the bounty of the prominent avocado tree, a prolific out of sight sweet potato patch, bunches of ripening bananas and banana loaf. Idle cars equal sluggish batteries. An urgent chorus of repeated helloooos by the bunch of kids translate to a call-out to help Mom whose car is stuck in the street in front of the house. Pushing and jump-starting becomes the excitement of the day.
The low boundary wall’s curved cap and generous slope makes it a perfect foofie-slide. The younger pair, boy-girl twins, have inverse proficiency when it comes to verbal and gross motor skills. As I watch the tentative bum shuffle vs the little boy’s now flying leaps, their older brother fills me in on the latest affairs in the ‘hood. A monkey was seen across the street at the owls’ nest the day before. Really? Not improbable and I’m really, really intrigued. He quickly figures that I need to be kept in the know in the wildlife stakes.
Masked and armed with a camera for an ostensible shopping trip, I notice that everyone seems to be going about their normal business. I just have to check if the Diosma Reserve is still there. It is - yay! Now temptation is not resisted, and I venture into the reserve. When I startle a bokkie before I get to see the very rare, under threat Diosma aristata, I turn around. Slip slops also not the ideal for this Diosma Reserve reunion.
There is a tumble of yellow Senecio angulatus over the fence, francolins on its streetside, Metalasia densa is in flower, rounded yellows of Leucadendron salignum, Erica discolor subsp. discolor and Erica dispar (NT) in full flower. Plus, recording a new red list species for the reserve - well past flowering is Nanobubon hypogaeum (EN) (ID by Dr Winter on iNat). To counter the continuous abuse of sand mining and tipping of garden refuse and builders’ rubble, a fence was put up piecemeal along the eastern side of the reserve. Unfortunately, the fence excludes a huge chunk previously thought to be part of the reserve. This belongs to the church next door. Here I find Agathosma muirii (VU). Any funders out there – we seriously need to incorporate this land into the reserve?
The resprouting and invasive Port Jackson is flourishing in the little reserve as well as on the church side of the fence clumped with other invasives: Oleander, Cestrum, Sisal and Brazilian pepper. I refuse to spoil my shopping trip and marvel at the Aloe ferox which is firing up the sky with its candles next to all the baddies.
Very reluctant to return to the coop, I dawdle through Heiderand and I discover a tiny open patch not noticed before. Part veld, part playpark. Driving by I can just swear those bushes look like Agathosma muirii (VU). It calls for a quick sidewalk stop. Yip – snap! A lovely dense patch of this red listed buchu. The knoffelboegoe, Agathosma apiculata is squeezed in tightly next to it. For a final craned-neck survey of the treasure trove I skirt the shiny-leaved Coprosma repens (garden exotic) on the sidewalk. And wowzer, right there is my very rare and under threat Diosma! One lovely prosperous looking Diosma aristata (CR), flowering just over. I’ve never been happier to see a plant before!
I arrive home on a bit of a buchu high. On the far side - a beaming face peeps over the wall. ‘Tannie, tannie! There was a rooikat (caracal) - over there – far – small - went under a bush’. Ja, right, I think, but say: ‘Awesome, you know, I’d really love to see a cheetah’!
Sandra in partial lockdown and with an ever-growing neighbourhood family
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Taking advantage of the Lockdown 4 exercise hours we set off for a brisk walk on the outskirts of Hoekwil near Bergplaas. To our surprise, we came across a lonely Gladiolus sempervirens (Rare) still in flower, just managing to hold on amongst dense alien vegetation. It almost seems metaphorical given the current pandemic.
(This exquisite plant just keeps on flowering - a beacon of hope during Lockdown - ed)
| Psoraleas – virtual revisit during Lockdown
During our “April Lockdown” Outramps had some exciting news from Prof Charles Stirton in the UK. We have two new Psoralea sp. nova to add to the list of those found by Outramps. Prof Stirton is currently revisiting many of our Psoralea observations made on iNat during the past 2 years or more. This has been an amazing chance for the Psoralea populations of the Southern Cape. After fire decimation - now is their chance to sprout and rapidly take over some of the open space and enjoy an extra load of sunlight.
Prof Stirton says, " I have summarised what we know of the two new species with working names of P. outeniquensis and P. boweniae . I am fairly certain these are new species but need to see specimens to be absolutely sure.”
1. Psoralea sp nova (outeniquensis) has been observed in the Western Outeniqua Mountains. The pinnate leaves are covered in rough, raised warts. It has similarities to P. kougaensis known in the Kouga and Kammanassie mountains, while the flowers are very different.
2. Psoralea sp. nova (boweniae) has been observed both at Eseljacht and in the Attakwaskloof mountains. This one has similar rough, raised warts, however is also different. One of the main differences is - 2 pairs of basal leaflets on the pinnate leaf. Another similar Psoralea, is P. floccosa, which shares this paired basal leaflet feature, an unusual leaf arrangement.
During the past year HatEvie has found a few new sites for P. floccosa (known for its white, woolly hairs and its variability). As these photos finally make it (during Lockdown!) on to iNat, our Psoreala expert is being faced with further questions. Prof Stirton says, "Please I need sample material". Hmmm – we still have to get through this difficult period where we can only “see” the mountains from a distance instead of on foot and with camera in hand.
(Quoting Prof Chalres Stirton - "I am naming the Eselsjacht plants after Evie Bowen in recognition of her important contribution to High Altitude botanising" - ed)
Sally's Daily Lockdown Quiz
The daily photo quiz has continued - apart from a break for the duration of the City Nature Challenge. I've managed to find at least 4 novel plants a day, plus bonus creatures, for the entirety of the Lockdown. Pretty good biodiversity I would say! Since last I wrote, another 25 or so species have been added to my plant list (currently 457) and I have seen loads of things I would have missed were it not for my quiz mission.
For some years I've kept an eye on an autumn colony of a few Disperis macowanii plants, revelling in being the only person on earth who knows of their existence. Recently, when I stopped to snap some botanical treats for the Outramps, I came across a new population of Lidbeckia pinnata (EN) and then noticed a teeny white flower on the roadside - a single Disperis, but a white one, unlike the purples in the colony. Curious, I proceeded slowly along the road in a half-stoop and found that they were absolutely flourishing in this south-facing spot - more than 40 plants were happily nestled amongst the mosses.
I've warned the group that we're now down to "bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, aka Asteraceae" but honestly, there are new floral surprises every day. I've added a quiz of my favourites to the album, so please have a go and you will find the answers below.
(When the Outramps heard that this was likely to be the end of the quiz there were negative reactions.
From Ann came,
Kindly be informed that any thoughts you have of giving notice about a 'final quizz' are in your dreams only. So just face reality and embrace the fact that you are and continue to provide a lifeline of meaningful and fun stimulation, and interaction". - ed)
1. Chironia baccifera
2. Commelina africana
3. Leonotis leonurus
4. Chlorophytum comosum, Viscum capense, Carissa bispinosa, Scutia myrtina, Tarconanthus littoralis, Pittosporum viridiflorum, Searsia sp., Chironia baccifera
5. Egyptian mongoose, in strange posture!
|Telling us what we know….
Garden Route City Nature Challenge 2020
City Nature Challenge came and went. Certainly not in the way we expected. So many people made it happen. It sparked an awareness of many treasures living alongside us. An enormous thank you to everyone.
As we faced scary uncertainties and severe confinement, City Nature Challenge 2020 provided welcome distraction, focus - and saved some sanity. It brought an almost exclusive peek into gardens and sidewalks. Not entirely what City Nature Challenge and iNaturalist is about – but that is what happened. The observations reflect our reality very clearly.
Training to use iNaturalist was interrupted early, yet there were enthusiastic nodes of participants in Knysna, George, Great Brak River, Mossel Bay and Danabaai. Observations were mainly clustered around the coastal area from Knysna to Mossel Bay. Representation from the Klein Karoo was sparse and records from pure natural veld, few and far between. The map of observations is on the Album. Two hundred and forty-four cities took part. The Garden Route district added 17 743 observations (10th overall) and 2 734 species (6th overall) were recorded. More than 13 000 records were of plants.
The most observed species within the Garden Route District were:
the Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis) with 119 records; Hibiscus, in flower and a garden exotic; the out of area indigenous Spekboom (Portulacaria afra), vociferously punted as a miracle mop for excess greenhouse gas emissions; popular garden scrambler Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) in flower and a feast for the sunbirds – also out of area indigenous; in fifth position, the locally indigenous Kranz aloe (Aloe arborescens).
Within the 150, most recorded species, are 23 bird species and the following creatures:
Garden snail (Cornu aspersum), Cape Honey Bee (Apis mellifera subsp. capensis), Common Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus capensis), RaucousToad (Sclerophrys capensis), Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui), a grasshopper (Zonocerus elegans), Knysna Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodium damarum) and the Blue Pansy Butterfly (Junonia orithya). One hundred and nineteen plants make up the rest of the top 150 species. A rough sort shows 57% species indigenous to the area - but could be of horticultural origin; 35% of the species are garden exotics; 6% species are food or useful plants; 16% of the species are potentially problematic plants or listed alien, invasive plants. Many plants were indigenous, but occurring out of area.
Across all the observations there was confirmation of a plethora of strange plants. Many potentially problematic and some of my pet hates. These include yucca, agave, echeveria, bromeliads, air plants, little succulents of all sorts, Crassula multicava, Plectranthus neochilus, whatever charismatic garden favourites were in flower, spekboom, spekboom and more spekboom (Portulacaria afra). Knysna’s gardens have become white pebbles and succulents, says Nicky. It may be water wise, low maintenance or for fire scaping reasons.
There is now a large amount of data on iNaturalist. I am holding thumbs for further statistical data analysis to add value and environmentally beneficial outcomes for our area following the Garden Route’s first City Nature Challenge!
Final thoughts. Does it matter what we grow in our gardens? Of course, it does. We live in the much celebrated smallest plant kingdom in the world. Highly diverse with close to 9000 plants species, 68% endemism. The marvel of the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) and its plants is used in endless marketing blurb for conservation and tourism. For the most we pay but lip service to the exquisite CFR poster on the wall. Do we integrate what we know with the how we live? No!
No doubt, the Garden Route iNaturalists packed a punch! Thank you for your energy. Apart during strange times, yet connected through Nature and our love for it! Congratulations to trail-blazing Cape Town, once again heading the pack with most observations and loads more to explore via the links below.
Take care, greentings! Sandra
Core Committee Garden Route CNC202