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, October 31, 2014

Giant Leaved Fig (Ficus latea)

Family Moraceae
Ficus lutea is a large, briefly-deciduous tree, capable of growing to 25 m in height. Its large, spreading crown can span 30 to 45 m in width. This spreading habit coupled with an often short and buttressed trunk can help in revealing the tree's identity from a distance. Under forest conditions, however, it tends towards a taller growth habit with a somewhat narrower spread. The species also has the ability to become a strangler and is often encountered assuming this habit.

From an ecological perspective, the giant-leaved fig is both fascinating and remarkable. Fig trees in general have a well-founded reputation for being virtual wildlife magnets and this species proudly upholds this reputation. A wide variety of frugivorous (fruit-eating) birds are attracted by the promise of a good meal in the form of the abundant fleshy figs produced by the tree. Numerous insectivorous bird species join the feast, feeding on the rich insect life that is drawn to the figs. In addition, the figs are relished by a range of mammals that include bats, duikers and Vervet and Samango monkeys, as well as baboons in areas where they coexist with F. lutea (Nichols 2004. pers. comm.). The masses of fallen figs also support much decomposition-related activity. The seed of the tree is effectively dispersed by many of these animals. Seed may be carried considerable distances by birds, often being deposited in the forks of trees and in the cracks of buildings and the like and here the hemi-epiphytic (and often 'strangling') nature of this species is evident.

Pollination represents an amazing and intriguing aspect of fig life. Figs rely entirely on specific fig wasps for effecting pollination (the pollinator species of F. lutea being Allotriozoon heterandromorphum), these wasps, in turn, being totally reliant on the figs for meeting their reproductive requirements, a relationship referred to as obligate mutualism.
Uses and cultural aspects
The giant-leaved fig is well known for its horticultural value and is cultivated in various regions in Africa (Burrows & Burrows 2003). In the wetter, warm eastern parts of South Africa, it is a popular street tree and is a common feature in parks and other urban open spaces. Its use in horticulture has attached to it some economic value also, as is evident in the nursery trade. The bark has been used traditionally in the production of twine and the plant sap (latex) is used for bird lime (Pooley 1993). The use of the bark in the production of bark cloth has been recorded in Mozambique, this cloth being a commodity in the region (Burrows & Burrows 2003). In West Africa the fruits are known to be consumed by people, and in Angola the wood of the tree is used for the making of bowls (Burrows & Burrows 2003).


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Calopsis (Calopsis paniculata)

Family Restionaceae  
Calopsis paniculata is a tall reed like plant with bright green leaves and stems reaching a height of 3m. It bears clusters of brown grass-like flowers at the terminal ends of the stems. The male and female parts are borne on separate plants, with the female plants bearing small snowy white inflorescences and the male plants bearing less showy inflorescences. The stems arise out of the ground from a strong underground rhizome with the lower parts of the stem looking somewhat bamboo-like.
As is the case with most restios, calopsis is wind pollinated, relying on the wind to carry the pollen from the male to the female plant. It is therefore necessary to plant several specimens reasonably close together if you wish to harvest seed.
Calopsis is often used for the making of brooms in the Eastern Cape province as it has shorter branches and more wiry stems than many of the other Cape reeds, which are more often used for thatching.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Round-leaved Cordia (Cordia grandicalyx)

Family Boraginaceae
Found only in the very northern regions and grows to about 5m in height.
The surfaces of the leaves are very rough feeling almost like fine sandpaper.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Zebra Wood (Dalbergia melanoxylon)

Family Papilionoideae
A straggling tree which grows up to 5m in height. Found in the north eastern regions.
Extract from Palgraves: “The sapwood is yellow to white surrounding a very hard, beautiful, purplish heartwood which becomes black on exposure’ it is close-grained and very heavy, pleasantly scented and, if pieces are of a reasonable size, of considerable commercial value. However trees are usually small, the stems twisted and contorted and very often the wood is defective; it is suitable only therefore for trinket boxes, chessmen and small ornaments and particularly for woodwind instruments. Africans use the wood to make arrow tips and wooden hammers for beating bark cloth. A preparation to relieve toothache is made from the roots.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

Snakeberry / African Boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum)

Family Solanaceae
This plant belongs to the nightshade family and found growing in the Cape regions.
It grows to about 60cm in height and had large thorns.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Velvet Commiphora (Commiphora mollis)

Family Burseraceae
A smallish tree growing up to 8m in height and wisespread in the central and northern regions.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Lowveld Bitter Tea (Vernonia colorata)

Family Compositae
A shrub growing to about 5m in height found in the Mpumalanga (Nelspruit/Swaziland area).
The roots are thought to contain an alkaloid and is used as a tonic to treat fevers and as a cough remedy.

Tumble Weed (Acrotome inflata)

Family Lamiaceae
A plant which attracts many species of butterflies, moths and insects when flowering in the late summer when not much else is in bloom.
About 50cm in height and found in the arid regions.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Umbrella Thorn (Acacia tortilis)

Family Mimosoideae
They are medium to large trees growing up to 20m in height with a very distinctive flat-top crown and curling seed pod.
It can also be recognised by having both a straight and hooked thorn on the same branches.
Both pods and leaves are eaten by game and cattle.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wild Lucerne (Monechma divaricatum)

Family Acanthaceae
Grows to about 1m in height and found in the arid regions.
The flowers are very small and the leave are hairy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trailing Devil thorn (Tribulus zeyher)

Family Zygophyllaceae
A very thorny creeper flowering in summer.
The flowers are light yellow and it has a very spiked thorn pod.
The plants are eaten by game and used medicinally during childbirth and for rheumatism.

Info: Flowering plants of the Kalahari dunes (Noel van Rooyen)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wingpeas (Lotononis sericophylla)

Family Fabaceae
A small, rigid bush of about 50cm in height found growing in Mountain Zebra Park.
No information available on it.