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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spiny Yellow Barleria (Barleria rotundifolia)

Family Acanthaceae
Description
This spiny, evergreen, rambling shrub grows fairly fast, up to 1 m, with a rounded shape; it produces small, shiny green leaves and yellow tubular flowers from December to March. The four upper lobes of the flower separate from the lower lobe to form an open tube from which 2 stamens and the style protrude. The fruit is a small exploding capsule.
Distribution and habitat
Barleria rotundifolia is found in the summer rainfall area of the Lowveld region situated in the eastern parts of South Africa where it grows in well-drained soils throughout rocky hilltops (koppies) and hillsides in full sun to semi-shade and is able to withstand a moderate amount of frost. Rainfall ranges from 500-750 mm per annum with temperatures rising to 30°C.
Ecology
Barleria rotundifolia is pollinated by insects and attracts various species of butterflies. The insects attract insectivorous birds; therefore if you are a gardener that likes attracting life into your garden, this plant is a good choice.

This plant produces seed that is carried in a fruiting body in the form of a small capsule, which explodes when the seed is ripe. It also carries spines to protect itself from being over-grazed by animals.

Uses and cultural aspects
The horticultural value of the Barleria genus has been greatly underrated so far. It is now proving to be a very promising genus, containing many species that would be wonderful additions to any garden.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Poison Star-apple (Diospyros dichrophylla)

Family Ebenaceae
Description
The poison star-apple is a shrub or tree, 2-3(-13) m high, It is single or multi-stemmed with branches that grow straight up, forming a dense canopy.

The bark is grey to brown, and rather smooth or sometimes wrinkled. The young branches and the new growth are covered in soft, yellowish to pale brownish, velvety hairs. The leaves are simple and arranged alternately or spirally. They are narrowly oblong, egg-shaped or oval with bluntly pointed or rounded tips, the base of the leaf narrowing, are glossy, leathery, dark green and hairless above and pale green and sparsely to densely covered with hairs below. The margin is often tightly rolled under, entire and not wavy. The central vein is raised below.

The flowers are borne singly, on long, lax, leaf stalks, are bell-shaped, drooping and creamy white and can be seen from November to March. The 5-lobed calyx and petals curl backwards. The male and female flowers are on separate plants.

The fruit appears from March to October and is an almost round, slightly flattened berry with dense orange-yellow, velvety hairs. The persistent calyx has 5 narrow lobes that usually curve backwards.

There are 3-8 dark, shiny brown seeds.
Distribution and habitat
The poison star-apple is found in coastal scrub, coastal sandy flats, in open grassland, wooded ravines, on wooded rocky hillsides and along forest margins. This species is confined to a wide coastal belt all the way from Montagu in the west, eastward and northwards through the Eastern Cape and along the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast. It is one of the most common plants on top of the Lebombo Mountains ( Palmer & Pitman 1972). Some specimens have been collected in Limpopo, but it does not seem to occur further north of the Soutpansberg. This plant can tolerate some frost, and temperatures ranging between 8º and 39º C, but predominantly prefers the more moist areas with a high rainfall of 1 000 mm per year in the summer rainfall areas of South Africa. This plant does well in the Pretoria National Botanical Garden and can tolerate much more drought than indicated from its distribution.
Ecology
The flowers are pollinated by insects. It is said that the fruit is taken by birds although it is alleged to be poisonous.

Uses and cultural aspects
The wood of this plant is hard and black, but is used only for firewood. Since it is claimed that the fruit is poisonous, it is not used for human consumption. It seems that it has only been grown as a garden plant. It makes a lovely little shrub or small tree and can be trimmed to form a hedge like its cousin, Diospyros whyteana. Aside from the edible D. khaki mentioned above, ebony is obtained from a number of tropical species. The more famous South African species is the jakkalsbessie, D. mespiliformis. Another South African species with attractive red fruits is the bluebush, D. lycioides.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gold Carpet (Helichrysum cymosum)

Family Asteraceae
Description
Helichrysum cymosum subsp. cymosum is a fast growing, well branched, spreading groundcover that can grow up to 1 m tall, but in the garden it is usually about 500 mm tall with equal spread. It has thin greyish-white woolly branches densely covered with leaves. The leaves are variable, mostly 8–15 (–42) x 2–4 (–15) mm, becoming smaller and more distant upwards. The upper surface of the leaf is covered in thin silvery grey, paper-like hairs (indumentum) that will strip like a skin when rubbed.
It flowers during summer, between September and April, but mainly in late summer and autumn, with bright canary-yellow flowers in flat-topped flowerheads that look like masses of small discs. Each flowerhead is a cluster of 6–20 flowers. The flowers generally have smooth tips, and a pappus of many bristles (a pappus is a whorl or tuft of bristles in place of a calyx).

There are two recognized subspecies of Helichrysum cymosum : subsp. cymosum and subsp. calvum which occurs mostly in the Grassland Biome. It ranges along the Drakensberg from the Eastern Cape region, along the KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho border to the low Berg in Mpumalanga. The two subspecies can be confused but the difference between them is that subsp. calvum has smaller flowerheads with fewer flowers per flowerhead (4–7 flowers), generally narrower leaves, and it lacks a pappus
Distribution and habitat
It grows in big straggling clumps, often in moist areas such as the hollows between dunes, amongst shrubs in Cape scrub and on forest margins. It ranges from the Western Cape, including the Cape Peninsula, eastwards along the coastal mountain ranges of the Eastern Cape and as far as Lake St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal.
 
Uses and cultural aspects
Like in many other Helichrysum species, the leaves are aromatic. Traditionally, people of the Eastern Cape use dried leaves as a pain reliever, by inhaling the smoke of burning leaves. Fresh leaves are traditionally boiled in water and drunk as a tea for coughs and colds. Leaves are also traditionally used in wound dressings and to prevent infections.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bitter Bush (Selago canescens)

Family Scrophulariaceae
Description
Selago canescens is an evergreen shrub with many long slender branches and grows between 1 and 1.5 m high. The glossy green leaves are short, narrow and soft. They arise in dense tufts along the main branches and side shoots, making the plant attractive throughout the year. Each individual flower is tiny and consists of a thin tube opening into 5 petals. The masses of small flowers in tight clusters along the stem form long mauve spikes that are very attractive and showy when in flower (July-September). The tiny grey seeds ripen about a month after flowering.
Distribution and habitat
Selago canescens grows naturally on the dry, mostly clay slopes from Cape Town along the east coast to Port Elizabeth. The climate at the Cape is typically Mediterranean with winter rain and dry, hot summers, whereas the eastern parts receive substantial summer rains. Frost is not common along its distribution, but the shrubs do have the ability to resprout after pruning and should be able to survive light frost.
Ecology
Butterflies are attracted by the masses of small, tubular purple flowers containing nectar. Many Selago species act as host plants to butterflies of the Lepidochrysops genus commonly known as Ant Blues. These butterflies have an interesting and important association with ants as a survival strategy for their larvae. The female butterflies lay their single egg on the flower bud or ovary of the Selago species where the host ant is active. The young larva bores into the plant ovary, eating the ovules and later emerges from its shelter to attract an ant which carries it into its nest where the larva preys on the ant brood.

The appearance of butterflies is influenced by the availability of plant foods for their larvae. In the Western Cape with cold, wet winters (May to August) and hot, dry, windy summers (late November to March), plant growth is most vigorous in the spring (September to March). Butterflies follow this natural pattern with most species active in spring and early summer.
Uses and cultural aspects
Selago canescens is a popular shrub at Kirstenbosch especially in the herbaceous plantings. With its striking early spring colour it is very effective in large, sweeping plantings. In the butterfly bed it is planted with many other mauve flowers such as Scabiosa africana, Vernonia glabra, Polygala fruticosa, Buddleja salviifolia, Pelargonium cucullatum and Geranium multisectum.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Desert Broom (Cadaba aphylla)

Family Capparaceae
Description
The plant is an evergreen and leafless, many-branched, perennial shrub with a straggly growth habit and protruding stems that may reach up to 2 m. The flowers are normally borne in summer and may vary from a deep red to yellow colour with stamens that characteristically protrude from the petals. Fruits are up to 90 mm long, green and turn a rusty brown when ripe, and resemble peas that curl inward with glistening, sticky hairs on the skin. The small black seeds are covered with a bright orange and sticky pulp that dries as the seeds fall to the ground in late summer. Cadaba aphylla is a relatively slow-growing plant and is not considered as rare or endangered.



Distribution
Plants are not restricted to a certain geographic area. They occur in a wide variety of habitats from arid summer rainfall areas, the Karoo, southern and eastern Cape in seasonal streams, flats, mountain slopes and dry ravines. They can withstand long periods of drought and are also frost resistant. C. aphylla flowers profusely when planted in full sun in fairly dry conditions.

Ecology
Ants as well as sugarbirds relish the nectar that is produced by the flowers. The stamens are carried in an exposed manner raised from the bright red petals, which serves as advertisement to pollinators. Pea-shaped fruits split in two, exposing the seeds, which are small and surrounded by a sticky pulp. It is possible that this may help the dispersal of seeds as the pulp sticks to mammals and birds. Leaves are reduced to spiky stems, which fulfil the role of photosynthesis and so limit transpiration, allowing the plant to survive intense heat and periodic droughts. Cadaba aphylla is not palatable to livestock.




Uses and cultural aspects
Some authorities claim that this plant is poisonous but there is no real proof of this. It is however known to possess medicinal properties. The moist, powdered plant is applied as a poultice between gauze to draw boils and abscesses. The root is used in small doses as a tonic and also as a purgative but an overdose might be toxic. A local superstition states that burning wood from this plant will make the wind blow. Plants are occasionally grown in gardens, but not as often as it warrants.. It shows particular potential as a plant for dry, arid gardens and will also survive in areas with frost.

 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

African Aloe (Aloe africana)

Family Asphodelaceae 


Description
Aloe africana is a solitary plant, bearing an erect stem up to 2 m high (exceptionally up to 4 m), with a skirt of dry leaves. Its leaves, crowded in a dense, apical rosette, are gracefully spreading to recurved, firm linear-lanceolate, up to 0.65 m long, with a grey-green surface, and its margins armed with small, reddish teeth. Flowers are borne on an erect, unbranched to branched raceme. Its beautiful tubular flowers are up to 55 mm long and curved, the latter feature distinguishing it immediately from close relatives. Its winged seeds are formed in dehiscing capsules and dispersed by wind. Flowering time is from winter to early spring (July to September in South Africa).

Distribution
Aloe africana is restricted to the southeastern part of South Africa, in the Eastern Cape, and is particularly common near Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and the lower Gamtoos River. It is mainly confined to hills and flats, growing in thicket and renosterveld vegetation. It often grows in association with Aloe ferox, A. pluridens and A. speciosa, and hybrids are not uncommon. Soil is sandy and well drained. The climate is moderate, without frost, and hot and humid during summers. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, from 600 to 700 mm per annum.

Ecology
Aloe africana, like most other aloes has tubular flowers rich in nectar and pollinated by sunbirds.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Tongue-leaved Mesemb (Glottiphyllum regium)

Family Aizoaceae
Distribution and habitat
Glottiphyllum regium is restricted to the central Little Karoo region of the Western Cape. 
 Description

Glottiphyllum regium is a clump-forming succulent and can attain a height of 13 cm and a width of 15 cm. Branches are short and the leaves are oblong and tongue-shaped. Inflorescences are staked and flowers can measure up to 35 mm in diameter. The flowers are an iridescent yellow. Glottiphyllum regium is the largest and possibly the most attractive of the whole Glottiphyllum group. There are 16 species of Glottiphyllum found in South Africa.

Glottiphyllum regium has a semi-fibrous, shallow root system typical of succulents. The roots are not destructive and plants can be planted right next to structures.

Glottiphyllum regium is perennial and may live as long as 30 years in its natural habitat. In cultivation they may live for only 15 years. The main problem is people tend to over-water them, shortening their life-span considerably. Glottiphyllum regium is drought-resistant and as such is ideal for waterwise, sunny courtyard or container gardens.

 Ecology

Glottiphyllum regium flowers from June to late December, its peak flowering time being September. The flowers tend to open fully from 11:00 am as do many other Aizoaceae species. The reason for this is the need for sufficient sunlight and warmth.

Mainly bees pollinate the flowers during the day. In the evening the pollinators are most likely to be moth species. The family Aizoaceae (vygies) is the largest of the succulent plant families in southern Africa. Aizoaceae are almost endemic to the southern Africa region where it is estimated that there are over 1800 species. They occur from elevations of 3500 m to sea-level. Vygies occur in a variety of landscapes ranging from afromontane, karroi d and arid to subtropical coastal belts and grasslands. Vygies are even found growing on the most southern tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas.

 Uses and cultural aspects

Glottiphyllum regium should be cultivated more widely in public and private gardens. It is cultivated at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden in Worcester and at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town. Another species, Glottiphyllum linguiforme, contains a small amount of oxalic acid. The African tribes are known to have made a beer from this plant and early Europeans have used Glottiphyllum linguiforme as a yeast, for bread-making.
Info: http://www.plantzafrica.com/

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ice Plant (Ruschia spinosa)

Family Aizoaceae Ruschioideae  
 I have never seen a succulent with thorns before and never associated the two together.
 However, in the Karoo I came across many very interesting plants and had a most successful trip there. This is a low shrub if about 30cm in height.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Babboons toes (Senecio radicans)

Family Asteraceae
This succulent, also called String of Bananas, is a favourite with gardeners and extremely suitable for hanging baskets and pots.
They are easy to grown and need minimal watering.
They occur naturally in the drier, more arid regions of South Africa.
The Senecio radicans is purely ornamental and should never be ingested since all portions of this species are toxic.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sweet-scented Pelargonium (Pelargonium odoratissimum)

Family Geraniaceae
 Distribution and habitat

Pelargonium odoratissimum is common in the southern Western and Eastern Cape. Locality records have also been noted from the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. It grows as undergrowth in forests or in shaded places protected by rocky ledges or taller bushes.

Ecology

The seed is adapted to wind dispersal; it is light in weight and has a feathered, spiral, tail. When the seed lands and there is sufficient moisture in the soil, the tail becomes like a drill, twisting the seed into the soil so that the seed can anchor itself in the ground and prevent itself from being blown away, or carried away by moving animals.

 Description

Pelargonium odoratissimum is a perennial and relatively flat-growing shrublet with a short thick main stem with extensive herbaceous flowering branches which are 60 cm in length. The plant rarely grows beyond a height of 30 cm. The main stem is coarse and scaly due to persistent bases of old stipules. The roots are somewhat tuberous.

The leaves, 30–40 mm in diameter, are roundish to ovate –cordate with crenulate margins. They are apple green and covered with fine short hairs making them pleasant to touch. They have a strong apple-mint scent.

The flowers are pale pink/white and relatively small. This species flowers throughout the year except for midsummer.

 Uses and cultural aspects

The essential oils of Pelargonium species that have scented leaves such as P. tomentosum, P. denticulatum and P. odoratissimum have been found to have good antibacterial activity. The species can also be used for cosmetic, culinary, craft and aromatic preservatives . When gardening with Pelargonium odoratissimum one should bear in mind that it is best grown in a semishaded area of the garden. P. graveolens, and P. tomentosum are also recommended for semishaded areas . The leaves are very aromatic, making this plant an excellent addition to any scented garden. Kids will take pleasure in the great sensory benefits these plants present. P. odoratissimum does well in containers and small spaces, and can be grown successfully indoors.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Karoo Crossberry (Grewia robusta)

Family Malvaceae
 Description
Grewia robusta is a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree, up to 3 m high. Its bark is often spiny, and grey. Older stems are roundish. The leaves are often clustered on abbreviated side-shoots, `broadly elliptic to ovate or almost round, 13–25 x 10–20 mm. They are 3-veined from the base, leathery, shiny dark green above, rather paler greyish green below, with short hairs; apex broadly tapering; base rounded, sometimes lobed, almost symmetric; margins have been described as bluntly toothed to scalloped or almost entire,glossy dark green above, pale greyish green and with short hairs below.. The petiole (leaf stalk) is very short.

The flowers are small, bright pink and sweetly scented They are solitary, up to 25 mm in diameter, leaf-opposed, with stamens in a central mass.The flowering time is August–December.
The fruits are round and fleshy drupes (fruits such as plums), reddish brown and entire to deeply 2- to 4-lobed, up to 20 mm in diameter.
 Distribution and habitat
Grewia robusta is restricted to the arid areas of the Karoo and the arid parts of Eastern Cape. It generally favours dry scrub, often on stony hill slopes and in valley bushveld.
Ecology
The Karoo crossberry's lovely scented flowers attract birds to the garden.

Uses and cultural aspects
This Grewia is a valuable fodder plant. The leaves are heavily browsed by game and livestock. The fruit is eaten either raw or cooked and has a pleasant acid taste.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Haarbossie (Thunbergia dregeana)

Family Acanthaceae
No information available on this plant.