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.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Leadwood (Combretum imberbe)

Family Combretaceae
Status
The Leadwood is a protected tree in South Africa.
Description
The magnificent leadwood is a medium to large, semi-deciduous tree, which grows up to 20 m in height. Combretum imberbe is the tallest of all the South African combretums. It has a spreading canopy and is extremely slow growing. The snakeskin-like bark is one of the main features that make identification easier throughout the season. Dead branches and shoots often remain on a matured tree. The colour of the trunk is pale grey to white. The leathery leaves are arranged opposite each other. The flowers are yellowish cream-coloured and have a sweet fragrance. They are produced from November to March. The leadwood produces 4-winged fruit, which are yellowish green and turn pale red when mature from February to June.
Distribution and Habitat
The leadwood can be found in all the bushveld regions and in mixed forest in southern Africa . It is widespread in Lowveld areas and grows along streams and rivers. Combretum imberbe is widespread in northern Namibia . It is also found in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North-West Province, Mozambique, and into tropical Africa.
Ecology
The leaves are eaten by kudu, impala, red lechwe, grey duiker, elephant, giraffe and the last two eat the branches as well. The presence of leadwood in some areas can indicate to farmers that the grazing is good. Look out for rodents because they enjoy the seeds, while livestock pose a threat to early life stages such as seeds and seedlings.
 
Uses and cultural aspects
Parts of this tree are used by various tribes in a number of ways: smoke that comes from the burning leaves has been used to relieve coughs, colds and chest complaints. The flowers can also be used as a cough mixture. The leaves are believed to have magical powers. For treatment of diarrhoea and stomach pains, root decoctions are used. A combination of roots and leaves are taken against bilharzia. Root bark that is boiled in water is used for tanning leather. The gum that exudes from damaged areas on the stem is edible and forms part of the diet of the Bushmen. Leadwood ash is used as a toothpaste. The wood is very hard and tough, and burns very slowly with intense heat. Africans used this wood to make hoes before metal was discovered. The trunk was used to build an enclosure ( kraal ) and grain stamping mortars and these days it is used for furniture and sculptures. The tree has special cultural and religious importance to the Ovambo people of Nambia. The leaves and fruits are used in white magic.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Desert Rose (Hermannia grandiflora)

 Family Malvaceae
Description
Hermannia grandiflora is a mounding/spreading, perennial shrub, up to about 1 m high. The stems and branches are stiff and twiggy, giving it a rather open, sparse habit. The leaves are oblong-cuneate, glabrous (non-hairy), toothed, olive green, and 5–15 mm long. During particularly dry weather in summer, it sheds its leaves and goes into a state of dormancy until the next rains, after which the leaves soon re-appear. The flowers are a striking bright salmon-red to pink and pendulus (hanging), just like all other hermannias with the opening of the flower facing downwards. Each flower has five petals which overlap one another and flare at the opening to form the shape of a trumpet. There are two flowers per inflorescence which appear at every node on terminal branch tips and are resinous/sticky to the touch at the base. The flowers have a sweet fragrance. The fruits are small, cylindrical, oblong capsules without horns, ± 3–6 mm long, which dry to release tiny, hard brown seeds the size of coarse sand.


 Hermannia grandiflora is closely allied to a number of other visually similar Hermannia species namely : H. stricta, H. burchellii, H. fruticulosa and H. longipetala (manuscript name), all with a similar bushy habit and reddish pink flowers (see distribution map for clarification).

This striking species is as yet unknown in horticulture despite its alluring name, and is really worth growing as a pot plant, or in the garden or rock garden. When viewed from a distance, it gives the impression of being ablaze with a dazzling flush of bright reddish pink flowers. Although the flowers do not last long, the desert rose will provide a spectacular spring/summer show and is ideally suited to water-wise gardens.
Distribution and habitat
This plant is naturally found on stony clay soils in the summer rainfall regions of the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape, mainly north of the Swartberg and into the south and central Great Karoo, from 300 to 1 400 m.

Ecology
It is suspected that Hermannia grandiflora is pollinated by bees primarily. It is a very palatable species and is thus heavily grazed when livestock have access to it!

Uses and cultural aspects
It is not known to have any cultural or medicinal uses.

Info: http://www.plantzafrica.com

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sjambok Pod (Cassia abbreviate)

Family Caesalpiniodeae  
Description
Cassia abbreviata subsp. beareana is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree up to 7 m high. Its slender to medium-broad trunk is covered in bark that ranges from dark brown to grey and black. In old trees the bark is often deeply furrowed.


The leaves, which appear lightly drooping, are compound (one leaf made up of smaller leaflets), bright green when young and fade to a darker green when older.

The flowers, which can be seen from August to October, are deep yellow and appear clustered at the ends of the branches. They are sweetly scented. The pods appear soon after the flowers, are up to 80 mm long and cylindrical in shape. They ripen from a light green to a dark brown. The pods may take up to a year to ripen.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name Cassia is derived from the Greek word. The species name abbreviata means shortened, and the subspecies beareana was named after Dr O'Sullivan Beare from the London Pharmaceutical Society who apparently found that a root extract from this plant could be used to cure blackwater fever. There are about 30 Cassia species worldwide, but this is the only one found naturally in South Africa, although others are cultivated as garden plants.

Ecology
This tree is popular with both animals and humans. Various birds from our indigenous parrot species to the Go-away Bird eat the fruit pulp and seeds. Animals such as nyala, giraffe and kudu browse the leaves. Elephants are also said to eat the leaves and the young branches of the tree.


Uses and cultural aspects
Various parts of the tree are used in traditional medicine for treating everything from blackwater fever, headache, toothache and stomachache to using it as a natural abortion agent.


An infusion is made from the root and drunk as an aphrodisiac. The seed is known to be used as a tonic. The root is used for the treatment of toothache. And for the treatment of headaches, the smoke from smouldering twigs can be inhaled to bring relief.
In addition the tree is also seen as a very useful ornamental subject in gardens.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bushman’s Candle (Sarcocaulon crassicaule)

 Family Geraniaceae
Description
Sarcocaulon is a genus of succulent, spiny shrublets with short stems, branching just above soil level. The fleshy branches are prostrate, semi-erect or erect, covered with waxy, translucent bark.
Dimorphic (two forms) leaves characterize the genus, with the blades either long or shortly petioled. The long petioles occur singly and remain as blunt or sharp spines, the short ones occur singly or in groups of 2-7 in the axils of the long spines as blunt stalks. The leaf blades are often folded, unsegmented or segmented, vary in outline from elliptic to ovate to obovate (egg-shaped with the broadest part above) with the bases usually tapered, the tips are notched and the margins entire, lobed or toothed.
The flowers, subtended by 2 bracts, appear solitary in the axils of the leaves. They are pedunculate (stalked), 5-merous with the sepals of the calyx and the petals free. The margins of the sepals are membranous and the tips end abruptly in a short, stiff point. The thin, delicate petals are inversely egg-shaped (obovate) to almost squared off (subtruncate) at the tips and wedge-shaped at the bases, usually glabrous, sometimes covered with soft, short, erect hairs or fringed with hairs along the edge. Fifteen stamens, 5 with long filaments and 10 with shorter filaments are characteristic of Sarcocaulon.
Members of the Geraniaceae family, have a peculiar dry fruit with the carpels much elongated. At maturity only the inner parts of the united carpels remain as a central column, whereas the outer part of each carpel, enclosing one seed at the base, lifts off. In Sarcocaulon the seeds and the sterile upper part of the carpel become completely detached. The tail is thin, readily absorbs moisture (hygroscopic), and has long weak hairs (villous).
Members of the genus Sarcocaulon are spiny, fleshy shrublets with delicate white, yellow, salmon-pink or pink petals ('flowers'), confined to South Africa and Namibia. The name Sarcocaulon alludes to the Greek words for fleshy, sarkos, and stems, caulon.
Distribution
The Geraniaceae family is widely distributed and consists of mainly annual or perennial herbs and shrublets, comprising about 700 species. Members of Sarcocaulon are mainly found in the western part of South Africa and Namibia (see map). The most widespread species is S. salmoniflorum, and S. vanderietiae is the species with the most easterly distribution. One species, S. mossamedense, also occurs in Angola.


Ecology
Species of Sarcocaulon occur in regions where dry climatic conditions prevail, and are found on rocky hillsides or mountainsides, gravel, outcrops of weathered quartzite and red dune sands. S. patersonii, for example, inhabits the extremely arid desert area between Port Nolloth and L├╝deritz.
Economic and cultural value
Members of the family Geraniaceae have long been widely cultivated for their horticultural value. Members of Sarcocaulon are much sought after by succulent lovers! The fleshy branches, covered with wax, are flammable and can even when wet be used as a kindling to light fires.
Info: http://www.plantzafrica.com

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pod Mohogany (Afzelia quanzensis)

Family Caesalpinioddeae
Description
The pod mahogany is a medium to large, deep-rooted tree, that may grow up to 35 m high, with a large spreading crown. Its somewhat straight trunk may be up to 1 m in diameter and has a grey-green or creamy grey, smooth bark that is beautifully patterned with raised rings that flake off irregularly, leaving circular patches.


The new leaves, which are alternating, are usually copper-coloured and attractively glossy. They become dark green as they age. They are up to 300 mm long and are divided once, with 4-7 pairs of leaflets. Flowers are sweet-scented, borne in erect clusters, and are green with pinkish red petals Large, brown, woody, flat pods, 170 mm long, are produced in late summer. In autumn they split open to release distinctively black seeds with scarlet arils. There may be up to 10 seeds per pod.
Distribution
Afzelia quanzensis is widespread. It grows in low altitude woodland and dry forests, usually in deep sand. Its distribution stretches from Northern KwaZulu-Natal, through to Limpopo, Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries. It is also found in Somalia.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Afzelia was named in honour of Adam Afzelius of Uppsala, who lived in Somalia. The specific name quanzensis refers to the Cuanza River in Angola, w here the tree was first found.


Afzelia quanzensis is a member the subfamily Caesalpinioideae (the Bauhinia subfamily). Members are characterized by alternate paripinnate leaves with usually opposite leaflets. Stipules that are rarely spiny are always present, especially in young growth. The flowers are relatively large and showier than those of other subfamilies.
Uses and cultural aspects
The light red-brown wood of the pod mahogany is hard and has a good grain. It has been used for building, making plywood, furniture, panelling and for flooring. Furniture made from this wood is traded under the name chamfuti. Wood is termite and borer resistant and can therefore be used for corner poles for fencing. The largest specimens of this species in South Africa have been felled and cut up for railway sleepers.


Seeds of this tree are in great demand for ornaments and charms. They are often used as necklaces or made into trinkets and sold as curios.

A root infusion provides a remedy for bilharzia and for certain eye complaints. An infusion made from roots and bark is believed to bring huntsmen luck if they wash with it. This infusion needs to be steeped overnight to be effective. Powered bark mixed with one's own body oil is believed to ward off attacks and bad luck.
Ecology
Eland and grey duiker browse the leaves of the pod mahogany. Elephants eat bark and leaves. The sweet-scented flowers attract a number of insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds. Seeds are popular with rodents. Hornbills normally open freshly split pods to feed on the fresh arils. In the process, they discard seeds, which drop on the ground where they either germinate or are eaten by rodents.


Larvae of most charaxes butterflies feed on the leaves of this tree. These include giant, large blue, blue-spotted and golden piper charaxes.
Info: http://www.plantzafrica.com

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Long-bud Protea (Protea aurea)

 Family Proteaceae
Found in the George area.
A tall tree of about 4m in height.





Monday, June 16, 2014

Pachycarpus schinzianus - pink variety

 Family Apocynaceae
I have found two species of this flower.
This one found near Polokwane has pinkish flowers and the leaves are rimmed with purple.
 
For the white species, found near Pretoria, please see: http://natureswow2.blogspot.com/2012/04/cream-cups-pachycarpus-schinzianus.html


Friday, June 13, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Forest White Sugarbush (Protea mundii)

Family Proteaceae

I have found three, what looks like different flowers, of the Protea mundii. Two have white flowers but the leaves are wider in on species and more strap-like in the other and a pink variety so care should be taken when tryng to identify them. All species here were found in the Tsitsikamma/George region of the Cape.




Saturday, June 7, 2014

Klaasloubos (Athanasia trifurcata)

Family Asteraceae  
 Grows to about 1m in height
 Found near George, Cape


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

(Erica discolor speciosa)

 Family Ericaceae
 A shrub of about 1.5m in height.
 Dound growing on the mountainside along the road between George and Oudtshoorn.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Yellow Pomegranate (Rhigozum obovatum)

Family Bignoniaceae  
Description
This is a much-branched, spiny shrub or small tree 1.0-4.5 m high. Flowers are followed by fruits which are pendulous, flattened, pod-like capsules, up to 80 mm long, white brownish in colour, and split along the flat surface when mature to release buff-coloured seeds with papery wings.
Rhigozum obovatum is an ideal shrub or small tree to bring life to gardens in dry areas where water is in short supply and garden maintenance is low. Although the yellow pomegranate looks drab during a large part of the year, it turns into a spectacular showy sight after the first rains in spring or early summer when it is covered in a mass of bright yellow flowers. When rain is sporadic it may have several flushes of bloom.
Distribution
This beautiful plant occurs in the central to eastern Karoo, extending into south eastern Lesotho and the southern Free State. It often grows on rocky outcrops (koppies) in this summer rainfall, but semi-arid region. Winters are cold and the plant is frost tolerant. It can be grown on the highveld provided it is not over-watered and it will flower there and produce viable seed.

Ecology
The bright yellow colour of the flowers attracts bees.

Uses and cultural aspects
It is heavily browsed by game and stock.