Sunshine flowers

Aren’t these just yum? It’s a hybrid of Leucadendron called ‘Summer Sun’. I had ordered a wide variety of fynbos for a farm landscape outside Caledon (Western Cape), and of all the plants standing in my driveway, this one was my favourite.

The pompons which look like flowers are in fact cones – male cones to be exact. The genus Leucadendron (collectively known as Conebushes or tolbos in Afrikaans) is dioecious – in other words male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The flowers are clustered together in ‘cones’ and are pollinated either by wind or insects, depending on the species. The pale coloured ‘petals’ are in fact involucral bracts. That’s the science – and then there is the beauty…

Summer Sun is a hybrid between Leucadendron laureolum and a Peninsula endemic, L.strobilinum. They are adapted to winter rainfall and nutrient poor soils. If you live in SA and just have to have Summer Sun in your garden, you can get plants from Arnelia. Remember they require well-drained acidic soil. You can compost / mulch the plants, but no phosphorous, and remember it’s best to plant in autumn or winter.

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The Fan Aloe

This magnificent Fan Aloe (Aloe plicatelis) is flowering in a garden in Muizenberg. Although it is a true fynbos species – occurring only on Table Mountain sandstone soils, in fynbos areas – it is not native to the Cape Peninsula. Which means this one was planted.

I wonder who planted it, and when?
Judging by the size (height: 2.5m), thick woody trunk and slow growth rate of this species, my guess is that it could be 50 to 70 years old. A real grande dame

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This year I have my first show of Leucospermum ‘Spider’ in my garden. It’s a hybrid of Leucospermum tottum with typical grey-green leaves and salmon-pink flowers.

I think the flowers are breath-taking – can’t get enough of them!
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Winter Colour

Busy times! – months have passed since I have given an update on the Biodiversity Garden. Here are some pics taken in July:

The Mountain Aloe (Aloe arborescens) is in full swing.

Bright red torches of Aloe succotrina in the Mountain Fynbos section. This aloe species is a fynbos endemic – usually found in rocky areas or scree slopes.

Daisies such as Arctotis and Osteospermum are in full bloom.

Jordaniella dubia in the Strandveld section.

Lachenalia reflexa in the Lowland Fynbos section. I was surprised to see this diminuitive plant on the Alert List for Environmental Weeds in Australia. “Yellow Soldier was first recorded as naturalised south of Perth, Western Australia, in 1957, probably after escaping from a garden planting. It has since become a problem weed and is spreading through tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) and banksia woodlands”.

Plakkie or Pig’s Ears (Cotyledon orbiculata) are flowering now.

The newly planted Coleonema album hedge in the Hedging display area.
Restios, grasses and aloes in the Mountain Fynbos display.
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Biodiversity Garden – Signage Upgrade


There’s been much activity on the signage front in the Biodiversity Garden. Some new additions, an improved fixing method and new graphics all round.

In the Make a Difference theme area, there are five examples of people and organisations who are doing great work to promote biodiversity in communities and schools. Take BEEP (Beyond Expectation Environmental Project), for example, started by Lindela Mjenxane. Here’s one person who saw a need in his community, took initative and is making a real difference.

The City of Cape Town has an exciting programme for schools, involving drama and theatre. And there are three more inspiring stories one can read about in the garden.

In the Everything is Connected theme area, the Knock-on Effect display received new full-colour signs.

Metalgrapho have done the signage work – it has been a pleasure working with them.

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Flowering – right now!

After a long dry summer, and extended autumn, the winter rains have finally set in, and the Cape is lush and green again. The Biodiversity Garden is awash with flowers and colour.

Cheerful Kniphofia praecox in the Attract Sunbirds display.

The snowy white clusters of Wild Rosemary, Eriocephalus africanus.

Evening-scented Gnidia squarrosa. This dainty yet hardy shrub has proven to be a reliable filler where plants have died from poor drainage. I first saw this species growing wild in a seasonal wetland in Vermaaklikheid – and indeed it seems to tolerate wet feet, or even thrive under these conditions.

The Fire Heath, Erica cerinthoides, has been going strong all year.

Spiloxene aquatica – Sterretjies (Afrikaans: ‘little stars’).
You’ll find them in the pond.

And there’s lots, lots more. If you haven’t been to visit the Biodiversity Garden lately, it’s a good time to visit.

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Something new in Green Point Park

What’s this, lurking behind the bushes?
There’s something new behind the grysbokkie…

Aha! – it’s the new water wheel. It will be set into motion by spring water, which has been piped from natural springs in Oranjezicht to the Green Point Park. I am told the flow rate of the Camissa spring water is 4o liters per second – that’s 2400 liters per minute! (actually that sounds too much – need to check this info). Anyway, energy generated by the water wheel will be used to power street lighting in the Park. Very neat.

And another beautiful wintry evening scene…

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Biodiversity Garden – Visitors and Evaluation

Is the interpretive signage in the Biodiversity Garden effective?
It is not an easy thing to evaluate, but I would say people are reading them. However the degree of interpretation part is harder to evaluate. A few storyboards in the Garden engage the reader directly – e.g. Look up to Signal hill – and so when you see someone looking up at the hill, then it’s working.

I noticed these two ladies read almost every single sign in the People and Plants theme area, and looked pretty absorbed. The lady in black was leaning forward – means the text is a bit too small.

I just missed the moment: when this lady bent down to pick and smell a piece of wild rosemary – as invited by the storyboard: Reach out to the wild rosemary bush in front of you. Squeeze some leaves gently and smell your fingers. Would you cook with this herb?
John Roff was instrumental in co-writing the texts and finding opportunities to engage visitors. I find this kind of interpretation in action rewarding and exciting!

A cold misty morning (13 degrees) and yet there was a group of school kids in the garden.

Here Wendy Hitchcock is with a school group on another cold morning – playing a climate change game. I heard a roar of excitement and later I heard from Wendy that they were cheering for the roll of the dice which would create a mass extinction!

The visitor’s book is almost full. Many comments refer to people feeling proud of our City and what it has achieved (in the Park). There are hundreds of thank yous – a wonderful sense of gratitude.

And then there are the visitors of a different kind: a bee collecting pollen from the sour fig, Carpobrotus acinaciformis. Plus 2 other insects.

I was wondering why some climbers on the Dome had no leaves? One of the Kirstebosch guides pointed out this fat fellow – about 10cm long and as thick as a fat cigar. I wonder what moth or butterfly it will turn into?

Visitors from the Stellenbosch municipality testing the Exercise equipment. And a small sample of folk going through the Biodiversity Garden last Friday, 19th May:

On misty mornings the Garden is bejewelled with spider webs…it’s magical.

Our goal is that people leave the Biodiversity Garden with an understanding of biodiversity and why we need it; a love for our natural heritage and the desire to care for it for future generations.

Are we achieving this goal? How does one measure whether it’s working?
Although we’ve had a positive response from the public (in the visitor comments book, on radio phone-ins, emails, during guided walks) it remains a tricky thing to measure. How does one evaluate ‘love’ and a desire to care?

And the ‘understanding of biodiversity’ – how does one test someone’s knowledge without putting them on the spot?

I would welcome any ideas you may have.

Posted in Biodiversity Garden, Fauna, Green Point Park, people | 2 Comments

Walk up Muizenberg Peak

A few Sundays ago we walked up Muizenberg Peak from Boyes Drive, above Lakeside. It is a short but stunning walk, offering 360 degree views of the Peninsula.

The weather was sunny-cloudy, with ever-changing light and lovely saturated colours. There was a sailing regatta on Zandvlei – from afar it looked like white confetti on the water.

After a short steep ascent, I looked back and found myself perfectly on axis with Main Rd. It runs like a straight stripe into the distance, connecting a string of southern suburbs, from Kenilworth to Lakeside.

From Muizenberg Peak, there is a layered view featuring water: Zandvlei in the foreground; Marina da Gama – a housing development built on the water in the 1970s; and the sewerage works in the far distance.

Looking south-west, with Noordhoek beach visible in the gap…

And looking south-east towards Simonstown…

The King Protea doing its regal thing in the fynbos.

Erica urna-viridis – a sticky green erica which is endemic to the Silvermine Mountains.

Beautiful views across False Bay, towards Hangklip.
And a last pic taken of the False Bay coast.

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Sunday – Concert in the Park

On Sunday, 3rd April the City hosted its first concert in the Green Point Park. Stephen Granger attended the event with his photographer’s eye and long lens. Judging by the pics, there were many people enjoying themselves, and the event was a great success.

Thanks Stephen for sharing your photos.
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