The jewel in the crown

There is no better way to celebrate Spring than to visit Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and the Rooiberg Pass.   We spent 2 days there, surrounded by a riotous kaleidoscope of colour.

The yellow, orange, magenta, blue, purple,  and shocking pink against the green, framed by the pale to dark blue endlessly receding mountains, was almost too much for the eyes to bear.  Couple this, with the always warm welcome from Cornelius, Johnny, Tom and all the rangers, you have the “Jewel in the Crown” of Cape Nature.  A brand new little conference centre has been built since we were there last and both Tom and Cornelius were telling us how fabulous the upgrade of Oukraal has been.  Somehow in our killing Spring schedule, a visit to the camp at the top of the Gamkaberg simply has to be slotted in.

We spent Wednesday on the Rooiberg Jeep Track.  Slightly overcast, the full glory of the Spring flowers only emerged later in the day as the clouds lifted.  Some of the plants monitored were Leucadendron tinctum (Toffeapple Conebush – Near Threatened), Leucadendron sp nova (Rooiberg Conebush – Not evaluated),  Leucospermum pluridens (Manyteeth Pincushion – Near Threatened), Cyclopia intermedia (Inland Honeybush – Declining).

After a night spent very comfortably in the Research House at Gamkaberg, we were off to an early start to monitor the plants on the Pass.  The evening before, Tom had popped in and showed us the yellow vygie, Hereroa tenuifolia that breaks all the rules and  flowers at night.  It looks a lot like Malephora lutea, which is more conventional and opens in sunlight.  We found this totally fascinating.  The Rooiberg Pass is one of the most beautiful places on earth and the whole day we never saw one car.  Does the Southern Cape and South Africa not know what it has on its doorstep?  We drove to the bottom of the Pass on the southern side to find Freylinia vlokii  (Endangered) in early flower.  Growing right next to it, was a Gnidia, which I think is the same one we have only seen at Louis Jordaan’s Min Water.  It is undescribed.  I will check with Louis ITFOT.  And then there was Lotononis dahlgrenii (Dahlgrens Pea – Vulnerable),  the woolly Agathosma sp. nova (lanata – Not evaluated), the strange looking Paranomus roodebergensis (Rooiberg Sceptre – Rare), Glottiphyllum regium (Kings Sourfig – Endangered).  Of Muraltia cliffortifolia, we could find no sign and there was another Lotononis, Aspalathus and numerous Indigoferas that could do with further investigation.  Good news is that the Paranomus is regenerating fantastically post-fire

On Saturday, Oom Willie, Tannie Di and The Boy are off to the Baviaanskloof for 9 days.  The Boy will no doubt be botanising the high and difficult mountains.  I will have to work on the slopes below the summits.  It should be very exciting.  For me anyway, it is new country.  Then one day back and we are off to Marloth for 3 days to meet up with the local CREWites and explore a couple of peaks and plains.  So lots of exciting new plants are on the horizon.

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