Thursday, March 5, 2015

Relativity: bloom times can vary...Did you know that?

Iris (Juno) nicolai                          March-16-2007                                  Photo by M. Bumgarner
You're supposed to pronounce the title of this blog very colloquially ("D'jou know that?": Juno that?) to rehash one of my worst puns. One of the terrific features of digital photography is all the data that lies buried behind the pictures: these are all pictures taken by my dear friend and former colleague, Maria Bumgarner, when she was amassing a wonderful collection of irises at Centennial Garden (which I have memorialized, as it were, in a previous blog). Most of them are still there, needing some attention perhaps... I think the plants speak for themselves: what I am highlighting right now is WHEN they bloomed seven and eight years ago: this year, many of these that bloomed in February will not bloom until April or even May, perhaps (at the rate we're going). Phenology in a steppe climate is a joke!

Iris aucheri 'Deep Violet'                                            3-7-2008                                           Photo by M. Bumgarner
Of course...there is the subject of Juno Iris, which I have blogged about again, and again and again (you're supposed to click on each of those "agains" to access those blogs, btw).

Iris aucheri 'Deep Violet'                                          3-7-2008                                                 Photo by M. Bumgarner
What can one say to that color?
Iris aucheri 'Snow Princess'                                      3-26-2008                                                     Photo by M. Bumgarner
I hope we haven't lost this one...

Iris magnifica 'Alba?'                                                   March 2, 2007                                                    Photo by M. Bumgarner
 I find it hard this bloomed so soon: this year March 2 was a blizzard if I remember correctly...

Iris rosenbachiana                                                         2-9-2008                                                          Photo by M. Bumgarner
Although we had the snowiest February this year in Denver history, there were reticulatas starting to bloom in a few gardens: not mine however (although their tips were poking up)...

Iris wilmottiana                                                                 3-7-2008                                                        Photo by M. Bumgarner
Another one we may have lost...

Iris zinaidae                                                                     3-17-2008                                              Photo by M. Bumgarner
I do have plants of this--although I'm not convinced they're accurately named...

Meanwhile I can dream, and hope to find some of these persisting despite the garden they're growing in having changed management several times. It was looking good last summer--so I have my fingers crossed.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Platberg: bittersweet endings...

Crocosmia (Curtonus) paniculatus
 The largest of the genus (and the parent of many hybrids), a clump of this wonderful Irid greeted near the beginning of what turned out to be a longer and more dramatic day than I had expected (or hoped). Some days one wishes one could re-program--this being high on that list: we attempted to approach Platberg via the "shortest" road--I quickly realized we'd made a mistake. But we made the best of the mistake and saw quite a few wildflowers, although only a small number of participants made it to the summit plateau. I was not one of them...a disappointment to me personally.
Intrepid travelers!
 Here's the group gathered at the start. We thinned out rather quickly, alas (it was a toasty day, and the trek to Platberg from this spot was long and not that easy.
Galtonia candicans
 Not much of interest for a kilometer or two--but then I found Galtonia candicans in the wild for the very first time: red letter day! This is so showy, so widely and cheaply available in the trade, one almost forgets it's a wildflower.  And here it is IN the wild.

 The veld became more and more pristine, and the town below began to shrink from view--with wonderful "koppies" in the distance (those buttes and mesas that remind one of home)...

Zig Zag Pass
 This is one mis-named pass: it barely zigs or zags--it goes STRAIGHT UP! An example of South African humor at its worst.

Crassula nudicaulis
 The crassulas of the Drakensberg are legion--this is one of my favorites.

Oxalis obliqifolia 'alba'
 A pure white Oxalis! Still growing on that slope...
Selago flanaganii
 From a little higher up, Harrismith reminds me of Boulder where I grew up, from Flatirons Mountain. In fact--it's probably not that different in size from Boulder when I first moved to my hometown...this view made me doubly homesick. Oh yes, the wonderful lavender Selago in the grass is high on my wishlist of South Africans I'd like to grow.

A closer look: this has been put in its own family--which is a homonym of a family of Pteridophytes--I must see what the cladists and gene jockies have done with its current status.
Agapanthus campanulatus v. patens
 As beautiful as it may seem, that vast forest of Pinus patula is mostly invasive: such a beautiful Mexican pine is obliterating biodiversity as it goes. The Agapanthus in the foreground is an example of the meadow flower that will not tolerate shade.

Dierama robustum
 I have yet to master my camera--so all my pictures of Dierama are out of focus, but Karel DuToit, who was a fellow tour leader, managed the picture below (albeit likely taken in Lesotho) of the same species. We have yet to master these, but they must have totally adaptable strains...
Dierama robustum (photo by Karel DeToit)

Delosperma ashtonii
 On a previous visit I remember seeing this ice plant in bloom: the seedpods weren't quite ripe--but very attractive in their own right.

Leonotis intermedia
 Always a treat to find Lion's ears....

Hirpicium armerioides (lax leaf form)
 We did see just a few of the giant form of Hirpicium here: this is almost unrecognizable compared to the alpine form from Tiffindell...look back four or five blog postings and you'll see what I mean!

Berkheya speciosa
 We saw this and a closely related giant, willowy Berkheya all the way to Kruger the next few days...I suspect this could become a week...         
Kniphofia triangularis
 I posted about this six or seven blogs ago--but had to show it again. Possibly my favorite poker. In a wonderful color form.
Pelargonium luridum
 This enormous Pelargonium was everywhere--in shades including dark pink. It has a big taproot--and Ernie Demarie has had it overwinter in New York.
Corycnium nigrum
 I have a much better picture of this black orchid I took on Sani Pass ten years ago--but what a treat to find it again!

Gnidia sp.
 I know this looks pitiful--but if you look up Gnidia you will see how magnificent these Daphne cousins can be. I am a firm believer in the "Ark" theory--that many North Temperate families dispersed from India when she collided into Asia--can't you just see an ancestral Gnidia morphing into Stellera? It's not a big leap from Moraea to Iris, nor from Erica to Phyllodoce...if you catch my (continental) drift...

Berkheya maritima
 This was a particularly nasty Berkheya. I'd love to grow it anyway...Love child of a thistle and a sunflower!

Hermannia sp.
 Haven't determined the species on this little wild Chocolate. How annoying that they've lumped these all into Malvaceae!
Scilla nervosa
 This is a plant we should be growing in the Northern Hemisphere!

Gladiolus papilio
 What a treat it was to stumble on a few plants of this widespread species, in a subtle color form. There must be some very hardy forms of this in cultivation!
Striga bilabiata
 It may be parasitic, but this striking flower is always a treat to find.

Acacia mearnsii
 Black wattle is one of the most widespread and weedy plants throughout South Africa. Even though this had been burned, it's coming back even stronger for it! Invasives like this are the bane of the landscape--although the bark is prized for tanning.

Rain clouds closed in, the group had splintered into various factions and I was (frankly) deeply disappointed that things had transpired this day the way they did. But the early group had been befriended by the most delightful Afrikaans family, who entertained them and made everyone welcome. One by one, the clusters of the group came back utterly exhausted, and in the final analysis, I was relieved things hadn't turned out worse. How different might the day have gone had I gone out the evening before to scout the "right" route: we would have been together, but may have missed some of the gems we did perhaps All's Well That Ends Well!

And so we end the circuit of the Drakensberg.                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                                           .                 and I can't wait to get back!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On the Dark Side: Royal Natal National Park

Cyathea dregei
I'm a sucker for tree ferns. I'm boggled that they are found rather commonly on the east face of the Drakensberg to surprisingly high elevations where they experience snow regularly. Unfortunately, this is just about the most slow growing, challenging tree fern in cultivation. You won't be seeing it in Box Stores any time soon...This whole east face of the mountain range is much wetter, much milder and much more "developed" than the other sides of the Drakensberg. The northern half (from Underberg northward) in particular is almost all Nature reserve, with no end of fabulous resorts at the base where you can hike towards the heights. Just about my favorite place on Planet Earth: I wish I could spend November-March there every year, as a matter of fact, and explore a different "kloof" each day. The biodiversity is astonishing. Unlike 95% of South Africa, there are deep woodlands (mostly Podocarp) in the declivities full of shade-lovers. These are what this blog is about...

Conostomium natalense

I shall add the name later (Thank you Ernie for saving me time!)--but what it basically is is a Bluet--very similar in morphology to our native American ones, although classed in a different genus. The parallels are almost as striking as the contrasts to our North American flora.

Looking suspiciously like Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus), but Ernie Demarie has persuaded me it's Desmodium repandum, a stunning little woodland bean relative native to Southern Africa.

Barbara Young photographing her favorite!
Here and there throughout this area you find Crocosmia--often a hybrid surprisingly similar to 'Lucifer'. Nevertheless, the Drakensberg is center of distribution for this genus, although the true species are sometimes elusive.

A very strange and uncharacteristic orchid, probably Disperis wealii (although there are many in the genus here that are similar).

This has to be a crassula, although I can't find any in the picture books that look even vaguely like it.

Begonia sutherlandii
What a treat to see this again in the wild! Popular in cultivation--there should be some higher altitude forms of this that possess greater hardiness than what we grow.

Begonia sutherlandii closeup

Gleichenia umbraculifera

One of my favorite ferns,Gleichenia umbraculifera makes masses of forking fronds along the road. Although related ferns occur in tropical and subtropical regions, this is the Southern African specialty in the genus.

Closer view

Elaphoglossum drakensbergense
What a treat to see this rather narrow endemic of the east face of the Drakensberg--an epiphytic fern...

Elaphoglossum drakensbergense
As you can see, there's lots of humidity year around in the deep valley here...

Pteris cretica v.
Always a surprise to find this Universal fern so far from it's (and my) nomenclatural home! There is a fabulous website I use to verify names called i-Spot: you may want to check it out!

Plectranthus calycina
As a confirmed lover of Labiates, I  am thrilled to find this cousin of so many house plants (and kissing cousin to Coleus). I actually grew this for a short time--it's one of the few of the genus (Along with P. grallatus) likeliest to tolerate our subarctic winters.

Plectranthus calycina
I know there are those who aren't nuts about mints. More's the pity! I find this very graceful, and the foliage beautiful.

In addition to having hundreds of orchids, the fern flora of the Drakensberg is vast and multifarious. I've never seen this giant shield fern here before, at least I THINK it's a Dryopteris.

Desmodium repandum
How do you like this for a sophisticated groundcover?...they're is doubtless perennial. This would be a wonderful introduction!

Nancy Schotters next to Podocarp
Yellowood (two species, this one is likely Podocarpus latifolius) soar skyward hear: much of the original yellowood forest (and there wasn't much) has been lumbered for the lustrous wood. They are so painfully slow-growing that their woodlands are generally re-planted with North American conifers, so these havens along the base of the Drakensberg are all the more important.

More ferns and Phaseolus: unlikely combo

Fuzzy closeup of an Asclepiad (Schizoglossum atropurpureum) we saw many places around the Drakensberg. The family is so diverse and glorious in this region--wish more were cultivated!
Same from further away...

Cyathea dregei
More tree ferns. I can't help myself: they're so cool!

The waterfalls and streams of the Drakensberg are myriad--and always beautiful. No two are the same.

Selaginella sp.
There are little club mosses everywhere in the Drakensberg from shady woods like this one to dry open rocks.

Cyathea dregei
And even MORE Tree Fern shots...I get homesick looking at this shot. I think it captures the magic of the "Little Berg"...would that I could be there right now! (It's been snowy and cold for weeks, and more is predicted this next week..uggh).

Bushbuck coming!

Female imbabala or bushbuck (Tragelaphus sylvaticus)
It is always a treat to see antelope in the Drakensberg, where several species occur. This cautious, nocturnal species was obviously aware it's in a National Park!

imbabala or bushbuck (Tragelaphus sylvaticus) with fawn.

But we did not see any Dassies on the road despite the sign!

Two for one...
Seeing the antelope, one might think it's a doe just about anywhere in the Northern hemisphere, but the weaverbird nests bring it back to South Africa. Which is where we all originated, you know!