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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Strelitzia nicolai

(Camera Canon EOS 550D - Sheffield, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa)

The Natal Wild Banana (Strelitzia nicolai) grows up to 12m high and 4m wide. It is an evergreen tree with multi-stems that form dense clumps.

The stem is woody and smooth in texture. It is light to dark grey and marked with old leaf scars. Attached to the stem by long, thick leaf stalks are the enormous, opposite leaves that are shiny and grey-green, with blades capable of reaching up to 2m in length. These tear in the wind and come to resemble giant feathers.

Camera Canon EOS 550D - Sheffield, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

The inflorescence is composed of a dark blue bract, white sepals and a bluish-purple "tongue". The entire flower can be as much as 18 cm (7.1 in) high by 45 cm (18 in) long and is typically held just above the point where the leaf fan emerges from the stem. Flowers are followed by triangular seed capsules.

Pic from Wikipedia

The flower of the Natal Wild Banana is a typical Crane Flower inflorescence, up to 500 mm long. The flowers of this tree have white sepals with blue petals and consist of 5 purplish blue, boat-shape sheaths.The whole flower resembles the head of the bird, with a white crest and purple beak. The tree flowers throughout the year with a peak in spring-summer. The inflorescence is compound (more than one flower).

The seeds are black in colour, with a tuft of a bright orange woolly aril on the lobe. They are produced mostly in autumn and winter, March to July. The easiest way to propagate this tree is from root suckers, but it will also grow from seed.

Restricted to evergreen coastal forest and thicket of eastern South Africa from the Great Fish River northwards to Richards Bay. It is also considered native to Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and is reportedly naturalized in eastern Mexico.

Strelitzia Nicolai is among the few plants which have been verified to contain the pigment bilirubin, which is usually found in animals.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Lala palm (Hyphaene coriacea)

This is my first gardening post since moving to the North Coast, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, almost 9 months ago and at last I am actually learning about some of the weird and wonderful fauna and flora that surrounds me here. I say weird (and wonderful), because it is SO unlike the Gauteng Savannah landscapes of browns, yellows and oranges. Here everything is tropical, very green, and grows in such abundance that, if you close your eyes for too long, you will immediately be overgrown!

Lala palm (Hyphaene coriacea)

This is the beautiful indigenous Lala palm (Hyphaene coriacea) which is a very slow-growing, ascending or prostrate, evergreen palm tree eventually reaching a height of 6 meters or more. I have always admired these awesome indigenous, very KwaZulu-Natal palms. There are some beautiful specimens all over Ballito, but this one is inside the estate or gated community where I live, and the grey fans contrast beautifully against the rest of the lush green surrounds.

The plants flower from November to February, so that is something I still have to look forward to! The fruit takes two years to ripen and this can stay on the palm for a further two years, before falling. Elephants and baboons eat this fruit (luckily we do not have ANY elephants or baboons inside the estate! but we do have Vervet monkeys, and I'm wondering if they also eat the fruit...?), and therefore disperse it to various regions. Apparently, in this manner, the fruit can take only a month to germinate. Birds like to nest in these Lala Palms, because it is quite spiny, so detracting the predators. There is a big craft market, that the fibre of this Palm supports, such as, baskets, mats, etc. A palm wine is also made from the sap and is a source of Vitamin B.

Plants succeed in moist tropical climates where temperatures never fall below 10°c, the average annual rainfall is 1,500mm or more and the driest month has 25mm or more rain. They can also succeed in drier areas with an annual rainfall as low as 250mm and one month or more where rainfall is below 25mm.

Plants grow well in full sun, even when small but prefers growing in alluvial sands. Found in the wild on poorly drained, light, dry soils of low fertility. It is a suckering palm, forming a clump of trunks. Dioecious, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.

P.S.: This palm was identified for me by Sasha Ireland on the FaceBook Group "Dolphin Coast Neighbours".

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Today ...

It has been 6 weeks since we sold our smallholding in Gauteng and moved down to the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa) (ONLY 6 weeks??!! feels like a life-time!) and it has taken me all this while to find my feet, gather my thoughts and feel as if I once again belong somewhere. The biggest thing about moving from a place where you have lived for 43 years is seemingly losing your 'identity' - an identity tied to the bird life you studied for so many years, an identity tied to the grass, trees and the very soil you were walking on, an identity tied to "your" plants and birds and insects and little animals nurtured in your garden for so long.

I open my eyes in the mornings and in stead of hearing the Cape Robin-chat singing on my patio, I hear the exotic sound of the Burchell's Coucal outside my window, the sound of the surf pounding on the beach in stead of traffic whizzing past my front gate, and when I rise and go for an early morning walk, I see tropical (and unknown!) vegetation in stead of veld grass and Bluegum trees. A big a change as you can ever imagine!

Yes, it has taken me 8 weeks to get into the swing of things in this new life we have chosen and although I was, and still am, mourning the loss of my pets (my chooks will forever be ingrained in my heart), I now look forward to discovering all that is new in this exotic coastal location; insects I have never seen in my life, the names of the trees and plants which thrive in these hot and humid conditions and finding out which succulents like to grow here!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

I've waited 13 years for this!

Male cone of Cycas revoluta

My Cycad - Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm), which now proves to be a male, has produced a cone! OMG! For 13 years I've been waiting for this event and it happens now that I'm a week or two away from moving and leaving my garden behind! As with other cycads, the Sago Palm is dioecious, with the males bearing pollen cones (strobilus) and the females bearing groups of megasporophylls. Pollination can be done naturally by insects or artificially.

The white leaves you see on the fronds is the result of the terrible hail storm we had on the 9th October which all but annihilated my garden. It seems these hail storms are quite beneficial to gardens (despite the havoc they wreak) as I believe my Cycad responded to that pounding by producing this cone.

The Water lilies at my wildlife pond were also smashed to smithereens by the hail, some as big as tennis balls!, but within a week new leaves emerged above the left-over leaves and a proliferation of yellow flowers appeared. Also a first for me, I normally only have one or two flowers at a time.

However, I suffered a major loss with my Aloes - three of my 15-year old Aloe ferox were almost completely destroyed by the hail storm and it will take years and years for them to recover from this tragedy. Only once all die damaged and broken leaves are dead and brown and new growth has sprouted on the top will the Aloe be back to its former beauty. So unfortunately I won't be here to tend to them and help them over-come this damage and I sincerely believe the new owners are also nature lovers and will help these aloes through their difficult period.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Please don't go away!

I know I've been awfully quiet over the past few weeks, but there's a very good reason for that. As you may (or may not!) know, our smallholding has been up for sale for the past year and twice we've had a buyer, and twice the sale has fallen through. We now have an offer in place and it seems that THIS IS IT! I'll be moving to the coast in a few weeks!

Although I'm looking forward to the change, there's a lot of sadness ... saying goodbye to a garden that has been part of my life for the past thirteen years is not easy, and even more devastating is saying goodbye to my girls. I've had to find a new home for my chooks as it is impossible for me to take them with me.

Lots has happened since our last summer rains, like a tornado and a mega-storm with hail as big as tennis balls hitting the area. My garden is pretty much annihilated, but nature is wonderful - already the trees and plants are bouncing back and will probably look much better for the wear!

This picture was taken the next morning, the day after the storm, and none of the hail in the garden had melted yet.

So please don't go away, as soon as I have more news, I'll be back. See you later!

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Our summer rains are here!

05:00h - Oh, how joyous! Our summer rains are here! Had 10mm yesterday and the garden is smiling! Listening to the sound of the rain on our roof at the moment - applauding every drop - nothing better than being inside on a rainy day watching raindrops run down the window. A high of 17℃ for Gauteng today. Will be cuddling under the duvet watching Law & Order!

Like me, my garden will be  enjoyng our first seasonal rains and I wil visit her as soon as it clears up.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Clivias, and Bronchitis

My Clivias flowered right through winter (weird, right?) and some of the flowers show a bit of frost damage.The later flowers, like the ones below that started flowering last week, are a gorgeous colour and large and healthy.

Now, of course, I'm looking forward to the "rose hips" seeds, which also make the most beautiful display post-flowering. Two years ago I gathered some seeds and tried to grow my own plants, but it was a dismal failure. So now I know why these gorgeous plants are so expensive!

I have not  been around blogging for some time now (well, it feels like AGES!) At the end of May I went down with Pneumonia and just as I thought I was getting better 3 or 4 weeks later, I developed Chronic Bronchitis and ended up in bed, deadly ill, for three weeks and after surviving that, it took me another two weeks before I could get out of bed and function properly. Not something I would wish on my worst enemy.

But now I'm better, finally able to get round to my favourite past-times, gardening and blogging! At one stage I thought I was going to die and it has given me a new appreciation for life and being able to breathe in particular. I hope you have all been well and looking forward to connecting with you again.

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