For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa: please click on the following links:
Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
Animals, Birds, Reptiles etc.: Animals, Birds, Fish and Crabs - Frogs - Lizards - Scorpions - Snails and Slugs - Snakes - Spiders - Tortoise, Turtles and Terrapins - Whipscorpions
Other photography: Aeroplanes - Cars and Bikes - Travel - Sunrise - Water drops/falls - Sudwala and Sterkfontein Caves etc.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Wild Morning Glory (Ipomoea crassipes)

 Family Convolvulaceae
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds.
 This plant is suitable for growing indoors.
 Many herbivores avoid morning glories such as Ipomoea, as the high alkaloid content makes these plants unpalatable, if not toxic. Nonetheless, Ipomoea species are used as food plants by the caterpillars of certain Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).
 Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
 Suitable for growing in containers

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kransplakkie (Crassula sericea)

Family Crassulaceae
Although this plant is not from South Africa, it is very popular in most of our gardens.

Crassula sericea var. sericea is a common cliff-dwelling succulent shrublet in southern Namibia and in the lower Gariep (Orange River) region in the Northern Cape.


Flowering time : Crassula sericea var. sericea flowers mainly during Winter (May–August).

Distribution and habitat

Crassula sericea var. sericea is found in the lower Gariep (Orange River) Valley from Kakamas in the east to the Richtersveld (Northern Cape, South Africa) in the west and in the Hunsberg, Karasberg and Witputz regions of Namibia. The plants are confined to sheer cliff faces, up to about 800 m in altitude, where they grow in crevices with shallow soil, mainly on quartzitic sandstone rock formations. Temperatures in the region are high during summer and mild in winter. Rainfall in the western Richtersveld region occurs mainly during winter (cyclonic winter rain) and in the eastern part (Bushmanland) mainly during summer. It ranges between 75–250 mm per annum. Plants grow on shady rocky ledges in shallow soil. The associated vegetation consists of Succulent Karoo and Desert biomes. The Richtersveld and the adjacent territory is a centre of endemism for the family Crassulaceae to which the species belongs (many species are confined to this region). In the upper reaches of the Gannakouriep River (Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park) Crassula sericea var. sericea was found growing with other cliff-dwelling succulent plants such as Tylecodon ellaphieae, Aloe meyeri, Bulbine pendens and Ornithogalum suaveolens.
 Derivation of name and historical aspects

Crassula sericea var. sericea was named by Selmar Schonland in 1910 from plants collected by the German plant explorer, Rudolph Schlechter. The Latin epithet 'sericea', pertains to the dense silky hairs on the leaves of the species.

Crassula sericea var. sericea is one of about 170 Crassula species occurring in South Africa and Namibia, and belongs to the Stonecrop family (Crassulaceae). It is closely related to C. sericea var. velutina and C. sericea var. hottentotta. Crassula sericea var. velutina has larger flattened leaves with velvety hairs and flowers from September to November (Spring flowering). Crassula sericea var. hottentotta has rounded leaves similar to those of var. sericea but not brittle and it can also be distinguished by its leaf surface which bears coarse rounded papillae, and is thus not hairy as in the other varieties. The plants also flower during winter (June–August).
 Ecology

Plants have a clustered and compact growth against the cliff (cliff hugger) and are well adapted to the sheer habitat. They are winter growers, the leaves are brittle and when becoming dislodged, will root in crevices establishing new clones. The grey-green very succulent leaves covered with short spreading hairs are an adaptation to the dry habitat. The small white flowers are pollinated by insects.

Uses and cultural aspects

No uses have been recorded.
Information from: http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantcd/crassulaseriseri.htm

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sandpaper Raisin (Grewia flavescens)

Family Malvaceae
COMMON NAMES: Egyptian Carissa, Donkey Berry
DESCRIPTION: A spiny, much branched, evergreen, small tree, shrub or scrambler, up to 5 m in height, with a milky sap. Bark grey, smooth, young branchlets with or without hairs, spines simple, straight, 2-5 cm long, usually single.

It attracts many butterflies, birds and pollen gathering insects. These trees or shrubs are often seen in groups along the edges of roads, river banks and dry rivers, growing in large uniform groups.
USE: The fruits are sweet, pleasant to eat and also made into jam. The tree is browsed by goats and camels. Wood is used as fuel. The roots, bark and leaves have medicinal properties. Roots contain an active ingredient, carissin, that may prove useful in the treatment of cancer. The tree is planted as an ornamental and the abundant branching habit and the presence of spines make the plant suitable for planting as a protective hedge.
Human uses - The fruit is edible, the wood used for sticks and knobkieries and young branchlets are used to weave baskets.
GROWING PERIOD: Perennial. In southern Africa flowering occurs from September to December and fruiting from November to January.
FURTHER INF: It is found in Arabia and reaches through Senegal to Cameroon and throughout the drier parts of tropical Africa to the Transvaal, Botswana and north and northeast Namibia. Also found across Asia to Indo-China.
It is a tree of deciduous forest, coastal thickets, warm bush-land and scrub. It is often found growing on termite-mounds at elevations from 900 to 1300 m. In Uganda it is usually found in wooded grassland, especially in low-lying areas and also in thickets in woodlands, forest edges and secondary scrub. It prefers dryish conditions.
Identified by Judd Kirkel http://www.ispot.org.za/node/158520

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wild Gourd (Cucumis zeyheri)

Family Cucurbitaceae
 Uses
The non-bitter fruits are eaten raw or pickled. The bitter fruits are used as a (drastic) purgative.
 There is no information on the nutritive value of the fruits, but probably it is comparable to cucumber.

The fruits of Cucumis zeyheri contain cucurbitacins B and D. Cucurbitacins, which are known from many Cucurbitaceae and various other plant species, exhibit cytotoxicity (including antitumour activity), anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities.
 This species can be confused with Cucumis prophetarum which is found in East Africa and Asia.


Information from: http://www.zimbabweflora.co.zw/speciesdata/species.php?species_id=157330
Identified by Johan Baard http://www.ispot.org.za/node/158522

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sjambok Bush (Kleinia longiflora)

Family Asteraceae
 Besides the name of this plant which was identified for me by Judd Kirkel on iSpot, I can find no further information on it.
 This specimen was found and photographed in the Hoedspruit region.
 It is a very unusual plant in that it has no leaves and looks more like a grass or succulent than a plant of the Aster family.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hairy Star Flower (Hypoxis hemerocallidea)

Family Hypoxidaceae

This is also known as the “African potato” but is not edible as such and is actually poisonous.
 It contains anti-cancer properties and used in traditional medicine for treatment of prostate cancer, tuberculosis, bladder disorders and arthritis. While it contains sterols that are good for the immune system, they are also found in many fruits and vegetables.
 Small amounts of the juice can be applied to burns and a black dye extracted from the leaves is used to darken floors.
 It is a smallish plant growing maybe 40mm (13”) in height and found in grasslands.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Large-fruited Bushwillow (Combretum zeyheri)

The Large-fruited Bushwillow (Combretum Zeyheri) is a large tree growing to 10m in height.
 This tree is said to indicate “sour bushveld” carrying poor grasses which are not usually palatable to stock and game.
 The Afrikaans name Raasblaar is based on the sound made by the leaves and fruits in the wind and translated means “noisy leaf”.
 Many animals feed off the leaves and fruit including giraffe, elephant and various buck species.
 The roots are fibrous and woven into baskets and fishing traps. The crushed leaves combined with oil are used as an embrocation to ease backache and when mixed with water provide eye lotion.
 The roots, together with other ingredients are regarded as a remedy for nose-bleedig and when pounded and mixed with fat, form an ointment to relieve haemorrhoids. The wood is yellow, termite and borer proof and it is a useful general purpose timber. It is easy to work but nor durable unless thoroughly seasoned.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mistletoe (Tapinanthus oleifolius)

Although we do not have snow in many part of South Africa, we do still have our own misletoe......


Tapinanthus oleifolius is one of the best known of the evergreen half-parasitic shrubs growing on other trees and shrubs. The sticky seeds are deposited by birds on the bark of branches and stems where they germinate rapidly. The developing plant attaches itself to the host by means of a specialized root-like structure known as a haustorium.
 Description

This secretive, plant has an epiphytic habit. It only discloses its presence by the fallen flowers and fruits found on the ground. It is often overlooked in trees as it blends in well with the leaves of the tree itself. It is best observed in winter when trees have few or no leaves. It is a tall shrub up to 1 m high with a smooth, grey to brownish and densely, but inconspicuously lenticellate stem. Leaves are mostly opposite and with a wide variation in size (Polhill & Wiens 1988). The petiole (leaf stalk) is 2-13 mm long to almost absent. The inflorescence consists of one to several flowered umbels ; the peduncle (inflorescence stalk) is 1-4 mm long and the pedicel (flower stalk) is 0.5-2.0 mm long.

The corolla-tube is 35-45 mm long, red with whitish spots, head of buds yellowish or greenish white, darkening, constricted 3-5 mm above and the lobes are 9-10 mm long. The stamens are red, anthers 2.5-3.0 mm long. The fruit is a berry, ellipsoid, 8-9 x 5-7 mm, smooth and red with a short, persistent red, hairless calyx.
 Distribution and Habitat

The mistletoe is widespread in the drier parts of southern Africa throughout Namibia, Free State, Botswana, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North-West provinces. It is found growing on numerous and diverse hosts such as species of Acacia, Aloe, Combretum, Diospyros, Maytenus, Melianthus, Rhus and Ziziphus. It is mostly adapted to a drier habitat.
 Derivation of name and historical aspects

Tapinanthus oleifolius has elliptic leaves resembling those of the olive; this gave rise to the name of the species: olei -meaning of the olive, and - folius meaning leaved. The closed red flowers look like a bundle of vertical matches: red with a whitish tip. The common name of the plant is therefore vuurhoutjie or lighting match. The Afrikaans name voƫlent refers to its method of seed dispersal by birds. Another species is Tapinanthus rubromarginatus.
 Ecology

The plant is a host to birds since it is one of the few plants that flower in winter. The flower is very sensitive to touching. It opens quickly and releases pollen, which lands on the head of the pollinators. It is very interesting how self-pollination is prevented: the style of the ovary moves to one side and ensures maximum exposure to the next pollinator to facilitate cross-pollination. The seeds stick to the bills and legs of birds and are then wiped onto the bark of other trees where seed germination takes place. The fact that it is one of the few plants to flower in winter makes it extremely valuable in the ecosystem as a provider of nectar.

Uses and cultural aspects
The plant is eaten by browsers, especially giraffes because it usually grows high up in trees. There is a superstition that the mixture of the plant with Capparis tomentosa and ground monkey nuts and fat can stop the rain if smeared onto a forked stick and pointed upwards. The sticky gum from the berries is used to catch birds; the gum is rolled on a grass culm at a water hole or near a nest.
 Growing Tapinanthus oleifolius

It is known to grow well on branches of various tree species. The seed is smeared onto the branch and the lobes of the cotyledon joined by the radicle emerge rapidly in the presence of sunlight, and the parasite attaches itself to its host plant.
Information supplied by: http://www.plantzafrica.com/planttuv/tapinanoleif.htm

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How does grass germinate?

At this time of year, all plants and trees have seeds on them and can be most attractive.
Now we all know that in order to germinate, seeds have to be planted under the soil. Right? Right!! So how on earth does grass seeds get there?

We have a theory here in Africa that at night, when everyone is sleeping, the monkeys go and plant them for us. :) But is it true? How DO they germinate? Okay, I will let you in on the secret.
 This particular type of grass like many others has a long tail attached to the seed and at the beginning of winter, fall onto the ground. They lay dormant until the first rains of spring and then Mother Nature shows how brilliant she actually is.


As the seeds get wet, they cause the tail part to contract and move. The barb on the tip of the seed will find a crevasse and get stuck there and now it can grow in the soil it is surrounded by. Do you believe this story?? Well it sounds better than the monkeys planting them doesn’t it?? :)
 Next time you come across any grass seed with long tails like that, dunk the whole thing in water for a few seconds, place it on the palm of your hand, wait a few seconds and see what happens. Eventually it will gravitate to the crevasse between your fingers and there it will stay. Clever hey? :)
 Some seeds look just like insects or caterpillars, like these black and pink ones. The pic of the black and yellow flowers/seeds is not very clear but I like the pastel shading of it.
 The Elephant grass is so tall at the moment that it is way over my head. Okay, I AM short but not THAT short. :) This is the one they cut and use for all those lovely thatched roofs we have here on some of our houses. Thatching not only looks nices but keeps houses cool in summer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Livingstons Blue Commelina (Commelina livingstonii)

Family Commelinaceae
This is a spreading plant which does not grow very high and although it is common in our bush areas, I cannot find much information about them besides general info on the family it comes from.
Distribution and habitat
Widespread in Africa, Madagascar and the Arabian Pennisula, in forests, savanna and grassland. Very common in southern Africa. The plant is a spreading herb that flourishes in sandy soil in rocky areas where it spreads rapidly.

Ecology
The plant grows very well in a wet sandy soils or during good rainfall seasons. The major pollinators of this plant are insects, mainly ants. By using the plants, human beings also contribute to seed dispersal.
 Uses and cultural aspects
The Ndebele use a decoction of the roots in the treatment of venereal diseases and as a medicine for women suffering unduly during the menstrual period. The ash of the plant is used as one of the ingredients in a Sotho charm application to the loins for sterility and an infusion is drunk for the same purpose. It can also be burned and the ash is dug in around plants as a fertilizer. Pigs are fed the leaves of this plant. Horticulturally, it is a useful, pretty plant in the garden.

It is good to cultivate this plant as a decorative flowering plant in your garden or as food for animals such as pigs.
The propagation of this species takes place easily, because even the stem nodes pressed into wet, sandy soil will grow. It is also easy to cultivate from seed. Plant it in a sandy soil or rocky areas. Given more water it will exceed its normal height.