In Honour of Frank Woodvine at the Bosman Vineyards – What a surprise!

Today was a botanical walk with a difference and what a special occasion it was for the Hermanus Botanical Society to attend a function in honour of Frank Woodvine, organised and catered for by the Bosman Family Vineyards.

Frank has been instrumental for his tireless work and devotion to re-establishing nature and wetland trails on the Bosman Farm. Although Frank has only known the Bosman family for about three years, his knowledge of the fynbos is highly regarded and there is huge admiration for his work in constructing all their hiking trails, removal of invasive alien vegetation and his dedication to the conservation of the biodiversity and sustainability of the environment in and around Hermanus. We all know of the work he has done for the Hermanus Botanical Society and Fernkloof Nature Reserve over the years and at the Bouchard Finlayson Farm. Frank is such a modest gentleman which is so endearing, not to mention his great sense of humour. He was heard to remark that he had never seen such a good turnout for a Botanical Society walk in all the years, 40 strong.

We all had a really fun time, with the tastiest of wines and delightful platters, which the Bosman Vineyards supplied and served in such style.

Gerhard Bruwer, the farm manager and his wife Karen were perfect hosts. Gerhard delivered a touching speech lauding all that Frank (fondly, Uncle Frank to them) has done for the farm. There is a special plaque erected near the Frame House at the start of the trails to honour what Frank has contributed as a “passionate botanist and conservationist”. Frank replied in his usual proficient style appearing somewhat embarrassed at all the fuss on his behalf. We all know though he thoroughly deserved every bit of the fuss.

There have been some exciting botanical discoveries on De Bos, Paranomus bolusii, Erica peziza, Amphithalea tomentosa, Serruria phylicoides, Muraltia stokoei to name a few.

De Bos will provide platters and coffee with their wine tasting, beautiful picnic baskets on order and live music on Thursday afternoon/evening. To hike you only need to check in at the tasting room. There is a quaint jungle-jim for children.


Derek Silberblatt

Posted in Events, Walks | 1 Comment

Red Tides – the beautiful danger

Yessotoxin formula

Our recent Friday talk in the Fernkloof Hall took us off the hills and into our coastal waters.

Dr Nuette Gordon, a marine biologist with Abagold, set the scene by emphasizing the influence the two major currents, the warm Agulhas and the cold Benguela have on our coastal ecosystem. We are familiar with the large brown kelps and the smaller red and green seaweeds but less aware of the other primary producers, the microalgae or phytoplankton.  Their basic requirements, as with all plant life, are temperature, light and nutrients. Their density and diversity within the water column are sensitive indicators of varying ecological conditions.

A “red tide” is named for the discolouration of the water due to particular microalgae which have distinctive photosynthetic pigments. Some of these produce toxins. As the water is not always red and has nothing to do with tides, the preferred term to use is Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB).  Algal blooms are seasonal. If various factors such as warm currents and increased nutrients combine a HAB can occur within days. Walker Bay is particularly vulnerable in this regard, being in the mixing area of the Agulhas and Benguela currents.

A variety of planktonic diatoms and dinoflagellates can be involved and the toxins themselves vary in their effect on organisms and people.  The impact of HABs on an ecosystem is however more far reaching. An extended foodchain may feel the effect of the toxins and many other organisms will suffer from the depletion of oxygen in the water due to bacterial decomposition.

The economic impacts on such industries as fishing, tourism and aquaculture are well known.  The 2017 HAB had a very serious impact on the abalone industry with a stock loss of 30% and a reduction in growth of 35% from June to December 2017. This has led to intensive examination of all husbandry and monitoring systems at Abagold. Within the research and development of new technologies are programmes leading to early warning of sea conditions and algal blooms.  The National Oceans and Coastal Information Management System (OCIMS) and the CSIR are working closely with Abagold Hermanus.

Red Tides are a natural occurrence.  However, the maintenance of natural filters (wetlands and estuaries), the reduction of fertiliser run-off, and even coastal planning (waste-water discharge, etc) are all to some extent, within our control. With climate change, incidences of HABs are likely to increase and consequently global effort is required to mitigate against the effects of increased carbon dioxide and greenhouse emissions.

Deirdre Richards


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Orchid Hunting around Sedgefield

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Originally posted on roncorylus:
We have just returned from a four day outing to the area around Sedgefield where we went in search of Orchids.  This trip was precipitated by the devastating fires of last June in the area, as…

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The fascination of Plant Names


Vic Hamilton Attwell had us all fascinated at our October talk with his wide knowledge of the history of plant names.  Perhaps we had all thought that until Linnaeus sat down with his quill pen and his hand lens, plants came a long way behind the animals in their interest to humanity.  Not at all! Away back in 7000 BCE the Hindu Rig Veda scripts describe many plants with reference to their therapeutic medical properties.

Very many years later, in 70 CE, the Greek scholar Dioscorides’ probably compiled his authorative book, De Materia Medica, on sources such as these Rig Veda scripts. Linnaeus was a great admirer of his work and considered him the “Father of Botany”.

Linnaeus was very conscious of the immense amount of study which preceded his own work, de Systema Natura to be published in 1753. Throughout the 1700 years following the publication of Dioscorides’ text, Arab philosophers, generally based in Andalusia, continued to search for the underlying system which they felt must underpin the variety they saw in plant life.

Linnaeus sought to reduce the long descriptive names currently in use and acknowledged that the Swiss scientist, Caspar Bauhin had probably got it right in 1596 by adopting a binomial system.  Linnaeus refined his ideas, added rules and standards on using the generic epithet followed by the specific epithet.  And thus was born the system we use today.

Vic’s unpacking of many of the familiar names we hear all the time gave us insight into the historical characters honoured in this way. And of course a cursory knowledge of botanical Latin or Greek does help enormously in remembering the characteristics of a particular plant. You will keep well away from an asparagus plant when you realise that “a” means “very much”, and “sparagmos”  describes a “tearing” action!

Vic acknowledged that his talk was inspired by Geoff Andrew’s book on Plant Names. Published privately it is available from Geoff or from the Hermanus Botanical Society.  He has recently developed an app which can be accessed from a smart phone. Please contact Geoff Andrew for further information,

Deirdre Richards

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Walking the Jeep Track Circuit

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Originally posted on roncorylus:
This morning eight keen botanists and nature geeks ventured up the ZigZag above Voelklip.  As we arrived at the start of the Jeep Track, we were met by Frank, who had left before us.  A welcome…

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Botanical outing to Hoogie’s farm, in the Diepgat area near Shaw’s pass

An enthusiastic group of 25 botanisers headed up the Hemel en Aarde Valley on Thursday 11 October instead of the usual Wednesday,  to the stunning van Hoogstraten farm at Diepgat. This area burnt in December 2012.

Soon after we had parked cars we were exclaiming at the masses of Erica species around, Erica rubiginosa, E elimensis, E cruenta, E collina, E plukenetii, E coccinia and the white E viscaria longifolia. For the orchid fans we saw Satyrium humile, S bicorne, S coriifolium, Disa bracteata and Holothrix villosa.

There was a field of tall, bleached white Phaenocoma prolifera as far as the eye could determine. Special finds for some were Cyanella lutea, Diosma hirsuta and Gladiolus liliaceus. Hoogie can be justly proud of all the clearing he has done of masses of  invading alien vegetation. What a reward.

Di Marais

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Walking at Button Quail Farm

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Originally posted on roncorylus:
Fifteen Hurriers set out this morning for Button Quail Farm in the Elgin Valley.  We drove through many farms before eventually reaching the Palmiet river where we parked at the accommodation site.  From there we traversed…

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