19 August, 2011

Sunshine bush after the fire

Last Friday I picked out the raisins. To share that, sometimes overwhelming feeling amongst the diversity in fynbos. Every which way you turn, at a second glance, that is so too, a different species. Today I'm caught in the first impression. The Who Needs ho hum flowers, if your fresh ‘spring’ leaves are this flamboyant??

Depending on the season, what you notice as you cross the invisible line from whatever to fynbos – is clumps of restios. Their form quite distinctly revealing that invisible boundary. Time it right and what you are hit with – is bushes – flaming in lime gold and neon burgundy. In the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area. Up on the mountain we look out at from our garden.

Looking across to the Piketberg

The Proteaceae is an ancient family and existed in the time of the dinosaurs. It comprises about 1600 species in some 77 genera and is largely confined to southern hemisphere countries. With 45 genera Australia has the most representatives, followed by Africa with 14 genera. In the southwestern Cape alone, more than 330 species of the family have been recorded. Other countries where Proteaceae occur include Central and South America, islands east of New Guinea, New Caledonia, Madagascar, southeast Asia, New Guinea and New Zealand. - from PlantZAfrica

Proteas earn their name for their protean form. The easy ones, which have recognisable flowers – are in the Protea genus. Protea neriifolia contains nectar, and someone (a baboon?) has harvested and torn open this flower, scattering the seeds according to plan.

Protea neriifolia

The sunshine bush is a Leucadendron. What delights the eye is the flaming lime gold new leaves. The actual flowers, are weird.

Yellow Leucadendron

Neon burgundy blazes to a different tune.

Burgundy Leucadendron

And the flowers are protean in their weirdness. Male and female different, to add to the amateur botanist’s utter confusion!

Leucadendron  flowers

The walk climbs gently to the ridge, then falls abruptly and steeply down. Winding past a few oaks, a reminder of once was a farm up here. This is the jeep track you would travel if staying over and hiking or climbing. When the path, gratefully, levels out again, there is a waboom forest. Protea nitida. So called because the Voortrekkers used to tear out the small trees, and tie them to the oxwagons to use as brakes. Doesn’t actually bear thinking about. I was concentrating on just walking ME down. (Or more prosaically, to be used as wheel rims and brake blocks). 

Waboom - Protea nitida

Very few bushes were left standing green after the mountain fire. But each dead blackened trunk is surrounded by dozens of flourishing teenaged seedlings. Just a few more years and the forest will stand again. I have included the Ungardener, engrossed in photographing a beetle, for scale. In time these waboom protea bushes really are trees reaching way above our heads.

Waboom  forest

Beyond the waboom forest the vegetation changes again to a plain covered with waving palomino grass.

Grass and restios

The Groot and Klein Winterhoek mountain peaks quietly observe you, wherever you walk.

Groot Winterhoek

One of the ‘better life for all’ things about the New South Africa. Travelling across country, farm workers’ houses and RDP houses have solar panels. After a long hard day’s work there will be hot water. How much we take that for granted! Running water. Electricity at the flick of a switch. Internet connection.

Solar panel on a farm worker's house

Next Friday's post will be the Ungardener taking our Computer man to see the Wilderness Area, for the first time, after YEARS of living in Porterville.

Pictures by Diana and Jurg,
words by Diana of Elephant's Eye
- wildlife gardening in Porterville,
near Cape Town in South Africa
(If you mouse over brown text,
it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.)


  1. My heart aches when I look at your beautiful photo's. I wish I could live permanently in that beauty and forget what we are doing to our planet.

  2. The Proteas is amazing, Wow !!!
    Nature is the most strange, amazing and beautify wild garden.

  3. I didn't know that about Proteas. Nature is really interesting. I've never seen that plant before.

  4. The proteans are very interesting. If these are the flowers of an ancient family, it makes me wonder what flowers will look like in the future!

  5. I love how transmitted light reveals the red edge and veining in the Protea nitida. Leucodendrons of some sort are getting quite popular around me for their exotic (to us) looks and culture easier than most actual protea species.

  6. Diana, all the photos are wonderful, of course, but that top one just sings. This may be a silly question given your latitude, but are those high valleys glacier-carved? The photo on the lower-left of the last collage made me wonder. How quickly do the proteas in the waboom forest grow? Will the reforestation be a matter of a few years, or decades? From Denver you can see a mountain that was about 1/3 bare when I was growing up. My mother remembers the fire that burned it from her childhood, and it's just regrown enough in the last few years to really fill in the gap.

  7. Dear Diana, I like the weird flowers! And you are right, we take too much for granted. P. x

  8. There really is a collection of strange blooms, but they have such an interesting quality about them. The scenery of the bigger landscape is amazing.

  9. I'm so happy that you post on the South African plants and environment. It's a glimpse of a world I'd otherwise never have known about.

  10. Stacy - the fire was in November 2009, so you see almost two seasons growth. Proteas fork with each new year of growth, so you can count the forks (annual rings). It will take years until the new growth blurs the burnt standing skeletons.

    The mountains are I think more like your mesas and buttes. The cliffs above are Table Mountain Sandstone. Lying over granite to the east of Cape Town, and Malmesbury shale to our west side of Cape Town. Giving nature and the gardener rocky, clay or sandy soil.

  11. Diana, your world differs so much from our world! And, the most amazing is that they both are the same world, if you understand what I mean.

  12. It seems that tourists haven't discovered that beautiful area yet.

  13. b a g - sometimes we see a few others have signed in, but we almost never see anyone but the ranger near the gate. Part of me is delighted to have a World Heritage Site all to our selfish selves, and part of me wishes for a few more visitors to protect this wilderness area by being present.

  14. I have always found the need for some plant species to be burnt to a crisp endlessly fascinating. The myth of the Phoenix suddenly seems not so outlandish after all :-)

  15. Thanks again for showing the landscape and flowers.
    Yes, the coffee flowers are indeed fragrant, but they do not smell of coffee, but have a faint hint of perfume.

  16. Easygardener - my father's family crest, is a phoenix.

  17. It isn't hard to see why the Cape Floral Kingdom received World Heritage Site status. Fynbos are amazing and will never really seize to amaze me.

  18. just thought I'd let you know I still lurk about but it wasn't me that tore open that flower :)


Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

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