The HBS hosted the much anticipated baboon talk by Joselyn Mormile on Friday 22 June. The packed-to-capacity hall gave an indication of the interest in the subject and the Q&A afterwards revealed the various concerns in the community. (The glass of excellent wine at the door may have had something to do with the turnout as well.)
Joselyn’s PowerPoint presentation discussed the preliminary findings of her interdisciplinary PhD work on the Rooiels baboon troop. She briefly covered their social system, diet, spatial ecology and an interesting graph showing no real rise in the troop size over a 15-year period. In this particular troop, road-kills are keeping their numbers in check. Other surprises were the misinterpreted facial expressions. Baboons communicate primarily through body gestures and facial expressions, the most noticeable (and misunderstood) being the submissive fear-face which involves pulling the mouth back in what looks like a wide toothy grin. Joselyn pointed out that if a dog did that it would be interpreted as a threatening snarl whereas the baboon is showing submission & fear. An aggressive or threatening baboon uses an eyelid signal – raising eyebrows and revealing pink skin.
Regarding the human-baboon conflict and coexistence, it is very clear that the individual has to adapt their lifestyle and take certain measures to baboon-proof their homes; baboon-proof latches, window bars, trellidoors and special bins to mention but a few.
The heart of the problem is that baboons get easy rewards foraging in urban environments and as their home ranges diminish we can expect to encounter them more and more in our living space.
There’s always lots of enthusiasm on a BotSoc walk: eager observers all of the wonders that bless us in the Overberg, experts in the Latin genus, species and family and those of us who dabble around the edges using a mongrel mengsel of English and Afrikaans common names.
On the May 2 Platbos walk, though, there was an added something going on: forests sprites, wise tree Ents or something druidic. Who knows, but what a magic morning it was, a breeze in the upper canopy, a sky flitting in and out of grey, the soft crunch of forest floor underfoot and our voices ringing out at each new wonder.
Frank commented that Platbos is not a very healthy forest, stressed as it is by exposure, poor soil and lack of water. It’s not the usual afromontane forest tucked into a damp and protective fold of a kloof. Its own brochure describes it as an enigma, with Celtis, Apodytes and Olinia dominating the tree mix and with many of the usual afromontane species absent. The sandy alkaline soil is dark with the history of dead trees and many of the species are a mix of the living and the dead. The new springs from the old creating an intricate intimacy of shapes, one generation nursing along the next, new growth folding and squeezing out of the old in a process called facilitation. Along with this dank, dark process of life support the brochure suggests that the early morning mists during the summer mornings help the forest survive the heat of the dry season. The extensive presence of Old Man’s Beard is probably a measure of all this stress but it does add a special spooky wistfulness to the atmosphere.
Adding to the magic of the forest are layers of vegetal texture: polka dot lichens paint the bark, particularly of the white stinkwoods. In other places bark is covered in dense bobbly moss which in turn supports little colonies of strap-leafed ferns and frilly families of pretty round leaves we couldn’t identify but which looked liked baby spekboom clusters draping over the branches.
An old Japanese tradition of forest bathing, — immersing one’s soul in the nurturing atmosphere of the forest as a healing balm — has gained global cachet as our world seeks alternatives to all the ills we’ve created. For the 25 HBS members who bathed I’m sure we’ll soon crave a return to the special enigma of Africa’s southernmost forest. I’m imaging an overnight in one of their camping sites. Who knows what sprites may come out to play and perhaps not just the leafy kind but the furry ones too, all listed as residents we did not meet — not yet.
Submitted by Dale Lautenbach
Apologies for the late posting of this article – I was away. Ed.
Magic tree gardens: bark supporting moss, supporting ferns
A bird’s eye view of Platbos looking north
The wobbly scramble up to the viewing platform above the forest canopy is well worth it
Tree hugging White Stinkwoods
Sheltering sky of a millennium-old Milkwood
The skin of time: 1000 year old Milkwood
Wisps of Old Man’s Beard don’t speak of healthy trees, but bring a touch of forest magic
This gallery contains 15 photos.
Originally posted on roncorylus:
De Bos has, through Frank Woodvine, developed a wetland trail through their farm in the Hemel en Aarde Valley. Frank led us through this area this morning and we were all enthralled to see what he…
This arboretum is along the Mossel River before it goes under the bridge at Lizette’s circle. It was planted by Ion Williams and Eric Jones in the sixties. Ian, the founder of Vogelgat and also instrumental in construction of paths in Fernkloof and Eric Jones were both members of the Botanical Society. Many of the trees planted are not indigenous but in those days trees were planted for their beauty- the consequences of planting exotic species was not fully understood. A number of the trees remain and are majestic and beautiful in their own right. Examples of these were Penny gum (Eucalyptus cinerea– grey) also known as Florists’ gum as the grey leaves work perfectly in flower arrangements. Another, a large cork oak or Quercus suber with its beautiful thick and knobbly dark grey bark. An adult tree can be stripped of its bark and regenerate same. We also saw big flowering gums or Eucalyptus ficifolia with the gumnuts which reminded me of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, created by Mary Gibbs, exotic eugenias and an old cypress. We walked to the background orchestra of the clicking stream frog and busy chirping sunbirds.
We met in the Fernkloof Gardens but in view of the ferocious wind instead of ambling down the Mossel River we went by car to the corner of Arc and Riverside Roads where we accessed the path down to the arboretum. I recalled many runs along that path from Reservoir Road into Riverside Road and then running along Contour till we joined up with Fernkloof drive which was, and still is a dirt road. We would run along looking up at the golden aulax covering the mountain which nestled under an azure blue sky. At that time in the eighties we ran under the flowering gums of the arboretum, heard the buzz of bees and then crossed on a rickety bridge over the fast flowing river. People used to take their children to play on the sand and sail homemade boats down the river. There was an old swing and also slats up the gum trees to enable tree climbing. Little did I know that the route took me passed what would one day be my new home? However, the magic of the place filled me with joy and that has not changed.
by Kathie Buley
Cork oak bark
Flowers of Eucalyptus cinerea
This month’s talk in the Fernkloof Hall was given by Prof Johann du Preez who discussed the pollination strategies of both plants and their animal pollinators.
As birds are major plant pollinators, we invited members of the local bird clubs to join us.
“Nothing on earth is permanent” says Johann at the start of his brilliant overview of life on earth from its emergence to the present. Since the early development of flowering plants about 130 million years ago plants have changed considerably.
Evolution of the sex organs has been most spectacular. Protection from dessication and predation was important, but the changes driven by the necessity for pollination to ensure survival of the species had to co-evolve with the animal pollinators.
Johann asked what might pollinate the world’s largest single flower plant, Rafflesia on the Borneo forest floor? No sunshine penetrates there but flies are attracted to dead animals, Rafflesia has developed a similar smell, to ensure that flies are its pollinators.
The sausage tree (Kigelia africana) of the Kruger National Park opens its blood red flowers at night which attract bats.
Many plants develop long tubular flowers which can only be pollinated by the long curved bills of sunbirds and sugarbirds. Although specialisation comes at a cost there are advantages, floral parts can be reduced, and the nectar is protected deep inside the flower. Trouble comes when a particular specialised bird species becomes rare, then pollination may become impossible and the plant faces extinction.
Johann closed his fascinating talk with illustrations of a sunbird walking up the strong blue stigma of Strelitzia reginae to reach the nectar, and in the process exposes the pollen anthers by its own weight, thus covering its feet with pollen. And the story of the Australian thynnid wasp which, after attempting to mate with the spring-loaded lip of the hammer orchid, flies up, is thrown forward and hits its head on the pollinia had the audience in fits of laughter!
Submitted by Deirdre
Stigma of Strelitzia reginae
A large group of Wednesday botanical enthusiasts set off on Wednesday on the new trail that Frank Woodvine has laid out on De Bos farm, next to De Bos dam on the Karwyderskraal road, in the Hemel & Aarde Valley. The trail will be self-guided with arrows indicating the way and numbered posts with a descriptive guide explaining features of interest at each post. The trail starts at De Bos’s new restaurant and wine tasting centre, passes though wetlands with rich bird and plant life as well as vineyards and orchards and reaches the lowers slopes of the Babylonstoring mountain range. Here the fynbos was spectacular. Protea lacticolor was in full bloom. We were thrilled to find Amphithalea tomentosa and the rare Audouinia capitata both in bud which warrants another visit soon when the pretty Erica peziza will be in flower too. There was a beautiful Aspalathus we need to identify and more.
The rail is 7.3 km long but shorter versions are possible. Definitely worth exploring.
Submitted by Di Marais
Wetland Trail map North to right
Frank on the ladder descent
De Bos vines
Wees verseker dat in die Fynbos daar altyd iets sal wees om ons botaniese entoesiaste opnuut te beindruk!
Onlangs was ons soos gewoonlik besig om voorbeelde van Fynbos wat op die oomblik blom, te versamel om in die Besoekersentrum te vertoon. My aandag word gevestig op ‘n onopsigtelike lid van die Asteraceae familie, die Seriphium incanum, se ongewone baie klein blommetjie, wat terloops glad nie na ‘n aster lyk nie. Natuurlik word die kamera vir ‘n foto uitgehaal, en tot ons verbasing is daar ‘n piepklein goggatjie perfek gekamoefleer daarop.
Dr Vic Hamilton-Attwell was so vriendelik om die foto aan ‘n entomoloog, Dr Ian Miller, te stuur, wat van mening is dat dit in die orde Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Fam. Miridae: Subfam. Mirinae val. Nou wat interessant is, is dat Pameridea wat ook baie klein is en op Roridula voorkom, ook in die familie val. Hy is nogal geinteresseerd, daar is min kennis van die familie en subfamilie. Volgens Vic gaan hulle die identifikasie verder navors.
Submitted by Fran Jordaan