13 November, 2014

After our mountain fire, flowers

- gardening for biodiversity

November 2009 we returned to our burnt mountain. Since the March fire we had winter rain, and the mountain slopes were green, with unbroken drifts of colour from scarlet Watsonia. With the shrubs gone, annuals and bulbs celebrate their field day. Gradually the perennials and trees in the kloofs will grow back and crowd them out, until the next fire.

Ficinia radiata

The restios and grasses look so inviting for the buck, which would have been driven to the edge of the fire, and struggled to find shelter and food. Ficinia radiata, a sedge, scattered the whole Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area with gold stars for Christmas!

Groot Winterhoek November 2009 after fire

From PlantZAfrica - In the genus Ficinia almost all 60 species are endemic to the Cape Floristic Region. Ficinia is a characteristic genus of the Cape fynbos. Thirty-three species in the Cape Peninsula alone. An elaiosome (the appendage on the seed that is rich in oil) attracts ants, that drag the seed into their nests underground. The ants eat the elaiosome and leave the seed in the nest, where it can germinate safely. In the fire-dependant Cape flora this is important as the seed is also protected from the heat of the burn.

Dilatris pillansii

Dilatris pillansii was new to me. Misty mauve flowers floating about half a metre above the ground. But many flowering plants are only seen, with the first rain after a fire.

Groot Winterhoek November 2009

On our burnt mountain we saw swathes of colour. Getting closer, two plants dominated. Golden yellow Wachendorfia paniculata.

Wachendorfia paniculata

From PlantZAfrica - The pollinator is unknown and its pollination biology is a bit of an evolutionary puzzle. The flowers produce a generous amount of nectar that is easily stolen, with the thief not having to get anywhere near the pollen or stigmas in order to get at the nectar. The black seeds are hard but light in weight and are densely covered in short coarse hairs which give the seeds a fuzzy outline. They also float on water, and given the riverine habitat of the plant, this is probably an adaptation for water dispersal. The Haemodoraceae, or bloodwort family, gets its rather alarming name from the red cell-sap found in the roots which colours the rootstock red (haima is Greek for blood). Haemodorum is the Australian genus on which this family is based. The Australian Anigozanthos is the kangaroo's paw.  

Geissorhiza sp.

Not as dominant, were clusters of apricot Geissorhiza, from the iris family.

Sundew

On the patches which are still exposed from the fire, the ‘soil’ is gritty blinding white quartz gravel. From the Table Mountain Sandstone. This is not fertile and the sundews supplement their meagre diet with insects.

Morea neglecta with ant

Ants are vital to the survival of the fynbos. This ant is on a Moraea neglecta flower.

Groot Winterhoek November 2009

A lingering gaze at the Groot and Klein Winterhoek. With snow in June 2013. Sunshine and firelight in August 2014.

Disa atricapilla

Porterville is famous for yellow disas. Sadly most of that colony were poached, so I was loath to show these pictures of Disa atricapilla when they were in bloom. Now I hope the plants are safe!

In November 2009 Carrie wrote - It always amazes me what beauty comes out of fires in nature. Makes me think that we as people should have a cleansing of the clutter and the choking stress that takes all our light and room to grow. Maybe underneath we too have an aray of simple little pleasures that just needed space to show themselves and brighten our world. That fits me well, as we are days away from living on False Bay.

Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer of  Elephant's Eye
(in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa)

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Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
His Panasonic Lumix FZ100
My Canon PowerShot A490

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Midnight in Darkest Africa

Midnight in Darkest Africa
For real time, click on the map.