A group of intrepid Botsoc members left Hermanus at 6am on Saturday as the full moon was setting in the west – hoping to avoid the heat that was forecast for the day.
We were joined by Mike Ford of Hermanus Bird Club in search of elusive high-montane bird species. Ronnie was his perfect companion – wearing binoculars rather than camera for the day! They soon disappeared over the horizon never to be seen again.
We climbed up the north side path to Galpin and were happy to see many Thereianthus juncifolius flowering in the marsh next to the stream. From Galpin Hut we headed down to the jeep track collecting, on the way, seeds for the Kew Millenium Seedbank.
We were most distracted by the many insects that seemed to be in abundance – a pair of Table Mountain Beauty butterflies flitting from flower to flower, frustrating us in our efforts to photograph them! We spotted large black Carpenter bees amongst the yellow Aspalathus flowers, a variety of wasps and small grasshoppers with bright orange wings.
Our search for the Disa uniflora took us up a slight incline from the jeep track to Disa waterfall. The site was inaccessible as the pool was surrounded by thick growth. However, we were not disappointed, as 2 plants of the orchid Holothrix brevipetala were found growing nearby in the dry stony ground. This orchid was seen for the first time in Fernkloof in 2013.
We retraced our steps to the jeep track and made our way to the Mossel River and climbed up to the falls about 150 m from the track. The pool was surrounded by fern and overhanging plants and we could not resist the temptation to take the plunge. The Cape River frog floating on the surface seemed totally unfazed by the commotion; we were probably its first sighting of the human species. Damselflies hung from the ferns, one allowing for a real close-up.
In our pleasure at having a dip, one cellphone did manage a bit of a wetting! It was immediately wrapped up in warm cloths for its journey home, where it is on ‘life-support!
Our adventure did not end here though. Christine, through her binoculars spotted a red disa-like flower on top of the fall rocks and, undeterred we clambered our way to the top. We discovered many orchid plants with seedheads, and the red did indeed turn out to be the Red Disa, but sad to say, one that must have broken from its mother plant. Our reward was great though – evidence indeed that the Red Disa did flower at the falls.
We retraced our steps, refreshed from our dip, and listed many of the flowers on the way. Beautiful Gladiolus martleyi, the blue Aristea oligocephala with silvery bracts, many Watsonia schlechteri, pink Indigofera species and Liparia vestita just coming in to flower.
An unforgettable day!
Article and images; Sandy Jenkin. Holothrix; Pat Miller. Map; Liz Hutton.