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, July 31, 2014

Fourcade's Heath (Erica glandulosa fourcadei)

 Family Ericaceae
Conservation status
Erica glandulosa
subsp. fourcadei is classified in the Red List as vulnerable. The habitat of the species is largely transformed due to coastal development, agriculture, forestry plantations and invasive alien plants. There are between eight and twelve severely fragmented subpopulations which continue to decline. The exclusion of fire is changing the coastal fynbos habitat of the species to dense thicket.
Distribution and habitat
It is restricted to a narrow band along the coast from George to Cape St Francis.

Plants are often found scrambling over rocks and in the teeth of coastal winds and even within reach of salt spray and these conditions can reduce it to a mere 0.3 m in height. Plants are found growing in the following vegetation types: South Outeniqua Sandstone Fynbos, Tsitsikamma Sandstone Fynbos and Southern Cape Dune Fynbos. It is therefore likely that it is tolerant of soils ranging from acid to neutral or even slightly alkaline. It is able to withstand severe summer salt-laden winds and the dry environmental conditions associated with this.
Description
This species forms a sturdy, medium-sized, multi-stemmed, bushy shrub growing up to 1,2 m tall. It grows close to the coast between boulders or tightly packed in amongst scrub vegetation. It produces attractive, semi-translucent, tubular flowers ranging from bright to dull red and even yellow and has conspicuous longitudinal veins on the corolla. There is a superb red-flowered form growing near Sedgefield. It has a distinctive hairy, green calyx and broad to elongate leaves. The hairy calyx and pedicel (stalk that attaches the flower to the stem) give it a mildly sticky feel. It flowers from May to November.

Ecology
Erica glandulosa
subsp . fourcadei is found in exposed, windy and sunny positions on coastal hill slopes or on dune fynbos near the sea. It grows on well-drained, acidic to neutral sands. It is a reseeding species, meaning that it reproduces from seed and does not resprout after fire. It produces copious quantities of seed and germinates easily after fire or where old plants have been cleared away. Its tubular flowers attract sunbirds that seek its nectar, and while dipping into the flower tube disturb the anthers which deposit pollen onto their beak. Plants are pollinated as the birds move from flower to flower.

 Uses and cultural aspects
It is an attractive horticultural species and flowers almost throughout the year. It is recommended as a strong-growing, reliable garden plant and is easy to maintain in average Mediterranean conditions and will also grow well as a large pot plant. This species is ideal for warm, sunny gardens and is salt-tolerant and therefore a good plant for a coastal garden.

Info: http://www.plantzafrica.com

Sunday, July 27, 2014

White Syringa (Kirkia acuminata)

Family Simaroubaceae
Description
This is a straight-stemmed tree with a fine, round , leafy crown. It grows from 6 to 18 m high with a trunk diameter of 0.8 m. The leaves are sticky when young, colouring splendidly to gold and red in autumn. The leaf is compound with 6-10 leaflets and one terminal one. The narrowly ovate leaflets are 20-80 x 10-25 mm, with or without hairs. The apex is narrowly tapering to a long point.

Kirkia acuminata flowers from October to December with small greenish cream flowers. The fruits are thinly woody capsules of about 10-20 x 6-10 mm that are 4-angled, and split into four seed pods when mature. Each seed pod contains a seed. The wood is yellowish brown, light and soft.
Uses and cultural aspects
According to Palmer & Pitman (1972), the white seringa is regarded as a sacred tree in some places in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean women also use the bark of the tree for weaving. In Gauteng, white seringa is planted around enclosures for livestock (kraals).
Distribution
Kirkia acuminata extends from Gauteng, Botswana, Namibia, and to the north in Tanzania. It grows in the bushveld and lowveld of Gauteng in deep, sandy soil or on rocky hills.


Info: http://www.plantzafrica.com

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sosatie Plant (Crassula rupestris)

Family Crassulaceae  
 Very similar to Crassula perforate but has rounder leaves. See: http://natureswow2.blogspot.com/2013/05/sosatie-plant-crassula-perforate.html
 Found in the Warmwaterberg rion of the Cape.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lavender Croton (Croton gratissimus)

Family Euphorbiaceae
Distribution
The tree occurs only in the northern parts of South Africa, with its main distribution further north. According to Coates Palgrave (2002) it over a wide range of altitudes, in a variety of woodland vegetation types but mainly associated with stony soils and rocky outcrops.
Croton gratissimus has been divided into two varieties, namely; C. gratissimus var. gratissimus and C. gratissimus var. subgratissimus. Variety gratissimus has no hairs on the upper surface, while variety subgratissimus has stellate hairs on the upper surface and occurs mainly in Zimbabwe, Botswana and the far northern areas of South Africa.

Uses
The young branches of lavender croton are pleasantly aromatic; and it is recorded that Bushman girls dried these and then powder them to make perfume. The charred and powdered bark is used to treat bleeding gums. Although the plant is believed to be toxic, it is an important stock food in Namibia. It is also a beautiful ornamental plant with pale bark and attractive foliage.
Description
C. gratissimus is a shrub or a small tree that may reach 10 m in height in South Africa, but can grow to 20 m tall further north in Africa. It is a slender tree with fine, drooping foliage and a crown which spreads upwards in a 'V'-shape with drooping terminal branches.

The leaves of the lavender croton are simple and alternate, with a beautiful and striking silvery under-surface. The upper surface is dark green and shiny, without hairs, while the under surface is covered by dense scales producing a silvery colour. Leaves are also dotted with cinnamon coloured glandular scales.

C. gratissimus bears small cream to golden yellow flowers in spikes of about 10 cm long. The small buds are formed and stay on the tree for months before the flowers open. Spikes contain different sex flowers, with only one or two females at the bottom of the spike, and the rest are males.
Fruit, formed between September and November, is a three lobed capsule. First green, it turns yellow as it matures. In late autumn the capsule dries out and explodes flinging the seed some distance from the mother plant


Monday, July 21, 2014

Butter Tree (Tylecodon paniculatus)

Family Crassulaceae  
Although it looks like a tree, it is classified as a succulent.
Tylecodon paniculatus is summer deciduous. The plants conserve energy by photosynthesizing through their "greenish stems" during the hot dry summer months. The yellowish green, papery bark is a very attractive feature of this plant and has given rise to the common name. During the winter, plants are covered with long, obovate, succulent leaves clustered around the apex of the growing tip.
The long reddish orange, tubular flowers are borne in upright racemes at the onset of summer in November each year, just as the leaves turn yellow and drop off. In nature the plants tend to grow in groups, making a spectacular show when they flower. The seeds, which are very fine, are released from seed capsules during the autumn (March/April) just in time for the winter rains. In summer rainfall areas, flowering times and subsequent seed maturation may be delayed by a few months. The shrub is reported to have a surprisingly weak and shallow root system for its size.

The attractive, bright flowers are bird pollinated. The flowers contain nectar protected by a tuft of hairs halfway up the inside of the corolla tube. These hairs are easily pushed aside by the bird's beak, and lesser double-collared sunbirds have been observed visiting the flowers. Hybrids of T. paniculata and related species have been reported.
 Tylecodon paniculatus is a stocky, caudiciform, arborescent succulent that occurs over a wide area. The plant is found from Eastern Cape near Steytlerville in the Little Karoo, along the southern and western Cape coastline and as far north as the Auas Mountains in central Namibia. Tylecodon paniculatus is common in the Worcester/Robertson Karoo, the Bushmanland area and northern Namaqualand.

The plant appears to have wide tolerance of growing habitats, growing in weathered rock in the north to coastal sands in the south. The plants can reach heights of 2 m making them the largest of the tylecodons.
 
The botterboom is poisonous to stock, causing 'krimpsiekte'. In the past, the smooth, slippery stems were sometimes used to slide or ski at great speed down smooth rock faces or dam walls, adrenaline rushes before the days of bungy jumping!

Info: http://www.plantzafrica.com

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Natal Dombey (Dombeya cymosa)

Family Sterculiaceae
A small tree of about 3m in height found growning along the KwaZulu Natal coast




Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hypertelis salsoloides

Family Molluginaceae  
 A very small succulent with leaves about 2cm in lenght and the flower growing to about 8cm in height. Found in the Warmwaterberg region.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tamboti (Spirostachys africana)

Family Euphorbiaceae
Uses and cultural aspects
The wood is used to manufacture good furniture and the poisonous latex is traditionally used to stupefy fish, making them easier to catch. The sawdust from the wood is harmful to the eyes and can even cause blindness. The wood is so strong that you can also make gun-stocks or arrows from it. It is not suitable as firewood because the smoke is toxic and will cause diarrhoea if meat roasted on the coals is eaten. The tree is classified as a precious timber in Mozambique.

The wood is still used traditionally for fencing, hut rafters, walking sticks and necklaces. The scented wood is beautifully figured with creamy white sapwood and dark brown heartwood. Although the latex is very toxic to humans it does have traditional medicinal uses, for example, a drop of the fresh latex is applied to a painful tooth as painkiller. The bark is used to treat stomach pains but large dosages will cause damage to the internal organs.

Distribution
Spirostachys africana occurs naturally from KwaZulu-Natal in the South to Tanzania in the North. It is common in the Lowveld and occurs in all soil types. It is most often seen in groups of a few big trees along the rivers or streambanks, but may also grow in large groups of small trees. This tree can also be found growing in all southern African countries except Lesotho.
Description
Spirostachys africana can grow up to 18 m in height. The tree is commonly known for its toxic milky latex that exudes from all parts of it. Its characteristic bark is dark brown to black, thick, rough and neatly cracked into regular rectangular blocks that are arranged in longitudinal rows. Leaves are alternate, simple and are up to 70 x 35 mm and the margins are finely toothed. The young, red leaves are often visible among the older, green leaves in spring. The flowerheads are 15-30 mm long, bearing mostly male and a few female flowers. The female flowers are attached at the base of each spike. Flowering takes place in August to September before the new leaves appear. The flowering spikes of this plant are unusual in appearance as the male flowers appear gold-coloured because of the pollen whereas female flowers are blood red. The fruit is a capsule that is three-lobed and opens with an exploding sound that can be heard on hot summer days when ripe (from October to February). The tamboti is one of the 'jumping bean' trees because the seeds become infested with the larvae of a small grey moth, which then causes the seed to jump centimetres into the air.

 
Ecology
Spirostachys africana is a popular food source for wild animals. Francolins, guineafowl and doves eat the fruits. Kudu, nyala, impala and vervet monkeys, elephants, bushbuck, giraffe and eland feed on fresh leaves of this tree and the black rhino eat the young branches. Duiker, impala and nyala also feed on the dry fallen leaves of this tree.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Salsola kali

Family Amaranthaceae
 A bush about 1m in height found growing in the Warmwaterberg region of the Cape
 No further information available.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Kudy Berry (Psuedolachnostylis maprouneifolia)

Family Euphorbiaceae
Uses and cultural aspects
From an aesthetic point of view, kudu berry is at its best in autumn when it changes colour to the most beautiful red. Extracts from the bark are used to treat diarrhoea. It has been used in the past to treat pneumonia. It can make a beautiful shade tree in parks and other public open spaces, especially in frost-free areas.
Description
Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia is an attractive, round, single-stemmed tree, up to 12 m high. The bark is greyish to dark brown. It is fairly slow growing but juveniles grow much faster than established trees. It is deciduous and loses its leaves in winter just after a magnificent display of red autumn foliage. This tree flowers from July to November and bears small greenish white flowers. Sexes are separate on different trees. Fruits are spherical, about 20 mm in diameter.
Ecology
Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifoloia is a larval food plant for the butterflies Abantis paradisea and Deudorix dinochares. During the flowering season, a variety of insects such as wasps and bees pollinate the flowers. Seeds are dispersed by animals such as antelope and elephants that eat the leaves and fruits, hence the common name. Fruits also fall to the ground below the tree.
Distribution and habitat
Kudu berry occurs naturally in mixed deciduous vegetation and in woodland, sandveld and on rocky ground; it grows in frost-free areas and can withstand hot and dry environments. In southern Africa, it is distributed in the north of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and spreads through to Zimbabwe. It also occurs in the north of Namibia and Botswana.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

False Gerbera (Haplocarpha scaposa)

Family Asteraceae
Distribution and habitat
Haplocarpha scaposa is widely distributed in wetland areas of Mpumalanga, the southeastern Free State, Swaziland and the Eastern Cape; it also extends to eastern Africa. False gerbera is a frost-tender groundcover and young plants require protection in areas that experience heavy frost.
Description
Haplocarpha scaposa is a fast-growing perennial plant that forms a mat of yellow flowers. The strong, thick rootstocks reach down to 600 mm; flat leaves arise from the base. The entire surface of the leaf is densely hairy, giving a white, woolly appearance,especially to the underside ; the veins are almost parallel on the undersurface of the leaf. It bears pale yellow flowers up to 40 - 80 mm diameter, from September to March. The flowers are followed by very thin seeds, easily dispersed by the wind.
 Uses and cultural aspects
This groundcover can be used in large areas of the garden, in semi-shade or full sun. Pooley (1998) reports crushed leaves used by women during menstruation; also used by traditional healers when consulting their divining bones; the white felt of the leaves was once used as tinder

Info: http://www.plantzafrica.com

Monday, July 7, 2014

Silver Terminalia (Terminalia sericea)

Family Combretaceae
Description:
Terminalia sericea has reddish-brown branches. The leaves are crowded at the ends of branches, narrowly obovate-elliptic with smooth margins, blue-green above, paler below, densely covered in silvery hairs. It flowers mostly in September–January. The flowers are in axillary spikes and are pale yellow to creamy white. The fruit is an oval nut surrounded by a flat wing. The fruits are often parasitized and form deformed masses of thin round galls.
Distribution and habitat
Terminalia sericea occurs in a variety of types of open woodlands particularly on sandy soils. It may grow as a dominant or co-dominant species in mixed deciduous forests such as Brachystegia, mopane, Combretum or Acacia forest. It occurs from Tanzania and the DRC southwards to Angola and Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. A good place in South Africa to find silver cluster-leaf is the Kruger National Park (KNP) area.
Uses and cultural aspects
Terminalia sericea is important in traditional medicine. The leaves and roots are boiled in water and the infusion is taken orally for the treatment of coughs, diarrhoea and stomach aches. The leaves can be used as an antibiotic for wounds. In case of bleeding, a paste can be made by cooking the leaves in water and placing them on the wounds. The wood is used as a source of energy for cooking and boiling water, for constructing huts, for fencing material and for solid structures. Leaves are food for caterpillars during the rainy season.