Fernkloof Orchids seen in 2016

Featured above are most of the Orchids seen in Fernkloof during 2016.  The Orchid Year started with the fabulous Disa forficaria – and what a stir it caused!  Then we had a bit of a break before the real season set in in spring and early summer. Other interesting species were the Disa bodkinii, Disperis paludosa, Ceratandra harveyana, Eulophia tabularis, Disa atrorubens, high altitude Disa hallackii and Satyrium rhynchanthum, all of which had not been seen for some years

I had to trawl through my records to find them and hope I haven’t missed too many. Acrolophia lamellata and Disa reticulata are two that I can think of which are not shown above, so here is A. lamellata along with Orthochilus litoralis which we found on the golf course i.e. not far from Fernkloof!  I seem to have lost my picture of D. reticulata.

The Last Walk of 2016

This morning saw just three of us on the mountain searching for new post-fire plants, especially Orchids.  There were very few of the latter out, as the season is drawing to an end, and we saw only Disa cornuta, D. bivalvata and, luckily, one new specimen for the year – Disa tenuifolia! The latter made our day.

The mountain was a sight – with masses of Thereianthus bracteolata in bloom everywhere. There were literally thousands of them – another tribute to the fire!  We were also pleased to see that Crassula coccinea is starting to flower, and that there were many Tritoniopsis dodii to be seen.  It was a good outing, but very warm and we were glad that we had set out at 05:30!

Two Orchids at Sedgefield

A drive down the road to the beach near Sedgefield, revealed two Orchid species that I had not previously seen.  The first was an epiphyte, Tridactyle bicaudata which we found as we stopped and walked into the roadside thicket. Regrettably most of the blooms were over, but we did get to see a few fresh ones fairly high above us, so some climbing was required in order to get a photograph.

We then walked along to road hoping to find better specimens, but to no avail, however, we soon spotted beautiful Eulophia speciosa, right on the side of the road in full sunshine. There were probably about 10 plants spread over a fairly large area which we traversed by car.

I had intended to go out again on another sortie, but we never got around to it, so had to be content with two new species.

Thanks to Herbert Staerker for telling me where to look!

Fynbos Textures

We all love the fynbos with its infinite variety of shapes and colours, but we usually see flowers and scenes for what they are.  The camera allows us to explore these natural wonders out of context and often provides exciting alternatives to normal viewing.  I am fascinated by the textures that are afforded in the natural world and present a few here, in the hope that readers may wish to try to identify what they are actually looking at.

Hermas villosa

The Hermas villosa or tontelblaar, is currently putting on a wonderful show in Fernkloof Reserve, especially in the areas that were burnt a year ago.  The plants have shiny, rigid leaves at ground level and hemispherical flower heads on long smooth stems.  Seen at a distance they look fairly mundane, but by using a Macro lens, one can get really close up and see the myriad of small flowers that make up the globose flower clusters.  They are certainly very photogenic!

Another Day in the Burn

There were eight participants in this morning’s post-fire plant monitoring walk in Fernkloof Reserve.  We set off early so as to avoid some of the day’s heat and were up on the Jeep Track by 7:00 am.

Sadly, the Orchids appear to be somewhat static, with no new species in evidence.  There were, however, many Disa cornuta, now in full flower, abundant D. bivalvata, some D. racemosa and a few D. atricapilla.

Walking in the burn provided its fair share of entertainment and I think I can safely say that Renee and Liz won the prize for the dirtiest trousers!!

I attach a selection of photographs which will give the reader some idea of what we saw. Perhaps the most interesting plant was a parasite,  Cuscuta angulata, which most of us had never seen before.  Of special note was the vast number of Hermas villosa, in full flower and providing a wonderful spectacle, especially on Adder’s Ladder.

Rotary Way Burn visit

I went up to Rotary Way this afternoon in strong wind, unfortunately, so photography was difficult. The Micranthus alopecuroides was still looking good and there was one Moraea bituminosa (hard to identify, but the stickiness was the giveaway).  There were also many Merciera leptoloba (which is white, but still has blue pollen!) and some Thereianthus bracteolatus, which was new to me.  Perhaps the most spectacular scene was the massed display of Lanaria lanata, which are now in full bloom.

On the Orchid side, I was pleased to relocate an Acrolophia lamellata at the same site where we photographed one on 25 November 2014 – in fact I am convinced it is the same plant!

Flowers …. or Insects?

Looking at the flower head of a Nanobubon capillaceum, one sees only flowers, but photography allows one to look more closely and I was surprised to see no less than 23 insects in this picture – most of them ants.  Callan, who walked with us yesterday, spoke of how shaking a plant can reveal a vast array of insects.  Well, he was certainly right about that!

Life in an Orchid

When we found the Acrolophia lamellata yesterday, I was wondering why some of the flowers were seemingly knotted.  Closer inspection of the flowers in question shows a Crab Spider has made a nest there and if one looks closely at the top flower, one can see a tiny spider, presumably its offspring, at the entrance to  the nest.

Crab Spider with offspring (about 2 mm across)

Another long day in the ‘Burn’

No less than 12 orchid fanatics set out from Hermanus this morning at 6 o’clock to see what we could find in the burn in Fernkloof.  These included Herbert Staerker and Callan Cohen, both experts in their field, so we were in very good company!

It was a perfect summer day with virtually no wind, although we welcomed the slight breeze to cool off a bit.  We had not gone far when we came across a good specimen of Acrolophia lamellata, followed by a Holothrix cernua.  Soon we were surrounded by Disa bivalvata  and we must have seen thousands of them as we progressed our search for it’s near relative, Disa atricapilla. We found a few hybrids, before eventually coming across two small ones, suggesting that this is only the beginning for this species.  Disa bodkinii, which was one of our targets was past its best and we only found a few old specimens, but we did see many Pachites bodkinii.

In total, we saw at least 18 different orchid species, which was pretty good, but most of us were well and truly finished after a 10 hour day on the mountain…..but it was well worth it, as nothing can compare to knowing that we were standing in fields of orchids enjoying a spectacle that we will probably never see again!