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Exploring South Africa by Peter Adams

Posted by sheiladearing on 26 Feb 2013 at 02:47 PM

At the start of February I swapped the cold and damp winter weather of North Devon for the far hotter and drier climate of South Africa’s late summer.  I spent 17 days adventuring around some of the furthest reaches of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, covering some 2273 kilometres; travelling from the coast at Port Elizabeth to the high Drakensburg Mountains overlooking the Eastern Cape and bordering on to Lesotho. I took the opportunity to climb the highest mountain in the Eastern Cape some 3001 metres above sea level, then ventured back to the coast at Kei Mouth to explore the coastal plants of South Africa; whilst visiting everywhere, it seemed in between. This included venturing over South Africa’s highest road at Naude’s Nek at 2500 metres above sea level on dirt roads that seemed to have been scratched into the mountain side with shear drops on every corner. To give you an idea of height, Ben Nevis is only 1344 metres above sea level.

South Africa is well known for its never ending array of plants, one that has strongly interested me for years as a horticulturalist,  South Africa seems to produce a never ending list of genus, that we all enjoy seeing grown in gardens all over the world and botanist continue to find new species on a regular basis even today. Yet very few horticulturalists and gardeners get to view them growing in their natural environment, often tucked away in minute plant populations in some extremely remote areas with the ever present risk of extinction caused by humans over grazing areas with animals or developing areas of land for roads and buildings; so the opportunity to fulfil the ambition of visiting South Africa was one not to be missed.

I joined Cameron McMaster a South African wildflower expert and five others including two Horticulturalists Oliver Wilkins and Cara Smith from RHS Garden Wisley to explore some of these remote areas and view these plants growing in their natural habitat. It is often hard to imagine how plants grow in their wild environments when you are so use to seeing them perfectly placed in our carefully managed gardens. In some instances there were plants I had never thought of in the middle of a dense thicket whilst others were hanging on for dear life clinging to the edge of a cliff formed millions of years ago by rivers flowing beneath.

Below are just a few  photos of the several thousand I took, giving you a taste for some of the things I saw and experienced, and over the coming weeks I will try and make the opportunity to write more blogs to share many more photos with you.

Looking out of the South Africa at the summit of Ben Mac Dhui at 3001 metres above sea level.

Haemanthus humilis hanging onto a cliff edge carved out by the Quanti River near Stutterheim.

 A field full of Kniphofia linearifolia growing wild at Tor Doon near Hogsback with Gaika’s Kop Mountain in the background, part of the Amatola mountain range.

Aloe ferox flowering a few kilometres away from Port Elizabeth.

Glen Avon Falls near Somerset East which had a small population of Agapanthus praecox thriving in the spray coming of the falls.

A giraffe grazing on the thicket growing in a private game reserve between Port Elizabeth and Somerset East.

A recently described Eucomis growing in rocks at Tiffindell,  Eucomis grimshawii.

A group of Nerine angustifolia flowering in a field near Maclear.

Amazing rocks that have been sculpted by the weather out of sandstone over millions of years at Balloch Farm near Barkley East.

  Bushman rock art, several hundred years old at Balloch Farm.

Agapanthus campanulatus basking in the sun at Aurora Peak near Maclear.

The delicate flower of Nymphoides peltata in a pool near Morgan Bay.

Dierama robustum flowering at Waainek wildflower reserve near Somerset East.

Brunsvigia grandiflora flowering in a field near Maclear.



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