South Africa – August 2000

Overlooking the Overberg

Slept well on the plane ride from JFK to JNB, so well that I woke with a start when the lights first came on for breakfast. My two days at Glaxo Pharmaceutical went well. Students were well prepared and have done brilliant work. Had a nice dinner at a German restaurant with the head man Colin Giltrow. Flight to Port Elizabeth Tuesday night was on time. Maddy Lehmann picked me up at Glaxo at 4pm and drove me to her home which is 10 minutes from the airport. I met her husband Peter and their two children Monica and Daniel. Monica is ready to graduate from high school. Like the Brits the South Africans call this educational stage “Matric” after matriculation. She hopes to go to technicon to study conservation. While at the Lehmann’s home Monica was finishing her maths homework and working on geography maps. She knew on her map right where her mother and I were going.

Maddy brought along a great book – “Vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland” edited by A. Barrie Low and A. (Tony) G. Rebelo, ISBN 0-621-17316-9 (C) Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, 2nd edition February 1998.

August 9 – Women’s Day (SA public holiday) Reed Valley Cottage – Rodney and Tracy Weeks, cottage built in 1900 as a storage room, later expanded and converted to living quarters. Two very large bedrooms with baths, kitchen, and living room, patios. Had a nice breakfast; good strong coffee, scones, cereal, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, bacon, toast. And a nice conversation with Rod and Tracy.

The Cottage at Reed Valley

Then off to Alicedale Station to meet Tony Dold and on to Swartwaterspoort. Tony is a botanist at the Selmar Schonland Herbarium at Albany Museum in Grahamstown. Not sure that we found the same place Bruce collected at but did find Haworthia cymbiformis and not-so-cymbiformis in the poort. From Alicedale we went north of toward Reibeek Oos on a dirt road that lead through the Swartwatersberg. The northern end of the poort is the most steep and readily accessible. Tony said the area had been turned over to a conservation venture. Did see one Black Eagle, and numerous Vervet Monkeys, and not much other wildlife other than a variety of birds. We had to cross a few stream along the way. Tony was driving an Isuzu bakkie, I was driving a VW Chico. We got to one crossing that was deeper than I was willing to cross. I parked and Maddy and I jumped in Tony’s truck. A km or so further along we parked and right there on the side of the road where the ridge came down we found Haworthia cymbiformis growing on the cliff face in the deep shade. These two are typical of the plants found lower down near the road.

Cymbiformis Classic cymbiformis

We decided to climb up the ridge anyway. Tony was looking for a Faucaria nemorosa, a plant described in a recent Faucaria revision as being from a single locality and lost.

Faucaria nemorosa?

Since I climbed the higher part of the ridge I can upon the Faucarias and didn’t think much of them until I remembered Tony saying he was looking for something.

All along the ridge on the cool side were Haworthia cymbiformis in large numbers, some growing in with the Faucaria. The plants higher up the ridge were different than the ones seen at the bottom. The higher I climbed the plants became less flat, not as dark green, and maybe more like cooperi.

It took about 2 hours to climb up, over, and down the ridge. We then crossed to the west side of the road where I climbed a short way up a smaller ridge and found cymbiformis growing in small clumps in cracks in the shear rock face. These plants had longer, thinner, rounder leaves. Not typical boat shaped cymbiformis.

We then drove northeast up the N10 a short while to near Ripon Station and found bolusii var. blackbeardiana growing in shale.

Then back over the dirt roads through the northern end of the Swartwaterpoort when Tony forded the deep stream and dropped Maddy and I at the car. Then back southward to Alicedale and Paterson and Reed Valley Cottage. Hot shower felt great. Dinner with the Weeks was great. I showed them digital pictures of our day’s adventures which pleased them. We talked about dairy farming, changes in society and economy, wandering the world, families, conservation. What a wonderful young couple.

August 10 Howisonspoort just west of Grahamstown and found Haworthia cymbiformis growing out of reach high up on the cliffs. Luckily was able to find a few plants that had fallen laying on the ground. Albany Museum, met Tony Dold and got introduced to the library and herbarium. Not nearly as many Haworthia sheets as Compton, perhaps 300. Needs reorganizing. C.L.Scott donated his literature, photographs and notes. Of particular interest were the G.G. Smith log books. Had lunch at Spur.

Then headed south to Kenton-on-Sea. Found Haworthia coarctata. Looked for access to Boesmansrivier but din’t get very close so didn’t find any cymbiformis. Saw the ocean, looked like a lot of fun, big dunes, lots of surf. Drive Northwest of Kenton-on-Sea through Hopewell and Southwell.

Met Hannelie van der Merwe for dinner with the Weeks. Interesting lady, she is radically close to mother earth and all her children. Lost power from 7:15 until 10:40pm. Had dinner by candle light.

August 11; Went for a walk with Tracy Weeks and the kids through their farm. Saw various bulbs and shrubby mesembs. Spent from 10:30 till 3:30 with Hannelie on Shamwari. We found Haworthia coarctata in large numbers in a small 150′ by 50′ area on a ridge overlooking the Bushmans River. Plants had fewer spots then plants seen on Thursday. At another location we saw small Aloe humilis in flower along with Faucaria felina. We were very close to elephant, and could smell them, hear them trumpet, and snap branches. Felt nervous taking pictures, good thing Hannelie was watching over us.

On August 12th Trace and Rod Weeks took us for a game drive through a part of the Amakhala Game Reserve, we stopped at the Woodbury Chalets and made a climb up the ridge to find cymbiformis and a beautiful view, overlooking the chalets, waterfall, krantz, zebra, springbok.

Zuurberg Pass – took little six year old Damon Weeks, long and winding road. Haworthia glauca, massive fire, huge numbers of plants, mostly toast, but some with green hearts, a few patches miraculously unscathed.

I stopped at a rocky hillside, a chance to rest from the rattle of the washboard and obstructions of a tiny dirt road. I was hoping to find Haworthia angustifolia. Instead after having traversed the length of the hillside back and forth at three elevations I was turning back when Maddy called out, in a tone of voice I hadn’t heard before, something between wonder and doubt. She had found a Haworthia flower, but hadn’t yet found the plant. I came running. There at the bottom of the flower stalk was Haworthia cooperi. Maddy found her first Haworthia! I’m glad I stopped at this spot and I’m glad Maddy asked to join me on this trip. The cooperi would have been impossible to find had in not been for the flowers and Maddy’s sharp eye.

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