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Monday, 18 March 2019

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise)

(Pic taken with my iPhone 6s Plus in Sheffield, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal)

Strelitzia reginae, the crane flower or bird of paradise, is indigenous to South Africa. An evergreen perennial, it is widely cultivated for its dramatic flowers. In temperate areas it is a popular houseplant.

(Pic taken with my iPhone 6s Plus in Sheffield, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal)
 
After many, many attempts of growing this beautiful plant in my previous garden in Tarlton, Gauteng (South Africa) and having it frosted down to the ground every year until it succumbed to the cold winters, I am now totally surrounded by masses of these plants here in Ballito. I just can not get enough of looking at the intricacies of the flower, it truly could be a bird of paradise and take to the skies any minute!

Strelitzia reginae is one the most popular horticultural perennials around the world. It flowers for long periods with its vivid orange and bright purple/blue inflorescence and is an ideal pot plant and cut flower subject. The inflorescence stalk is 700 mm tall with 4-6 flowers that emerge in succession in a boat-shaped spathe ± 200 mm long, producing a mucilaginous substance when in bloom. The flowers have orange sepals and blue/purple petals (May to December). 

It occurs naturally only in South Africa along the eastern coast from Humansdorp to northern KwaZulu-Natal in coastal bush and thicket. It grows along river banks in full sun, however sometimes it occurs and flowers on margins of forest in shade.

Bees are common visitors when the spathe is in flower. Sunbirds may be the pollinator, but this has still to be proven. The role of sunbirds in Strelitzia pollination needs to be investigated, as they have been observed "robbing" the flowers by taking nectar but by-passing the pollination mechanism. Birds eat and disperse the seed. In nature, where its distribution overlaps with that of  S. juncea, in the Humansdorp District, they hybridise easily.
(This info from SANBI)

It is regarded as a perennial herb by the abakwaMthethwa clan in KwaZulu-Natal, who use the strained concoctions from the inflorescence to treat inflamed glands and venereal diseases. The seeds are also used in the Cape to sour milk.

Read more about Growing Strelitzia reginae here.


Special Features of Strelitzia reginae :

Attracts birds
Drought resistant
Feature plant
Good pot plant
Medical plant
Useful plant
Feeds honeybees
 

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Invasive species - Pom-pom weed (Campuloclinium macrocephalum)

Following the tractor around on our smallholding in Tarlton, Gauteng (south Africa), I also get a chance to ‘rescue’ small wildlife and flowers, giving the driver strict instructions to ‘go around’ it. This Pompom weed was blowing around briskly in the breeze and I had to hold it still to get a shot. These wildflowers have been blooming on our smallholding the whole summer, making bright pink splashes against the blue-green grass all along our fence.


The Pompom weed (Campuloclinium macrocephalum) is an ornamental South American herb belonging to the daisy family, Asteraceae. It is rapidly becoming the most serious threat to the conservation of grasslands in South Africa. Infestations become conspicuous when the plants are in flower between December and March, transforming the veld from green to pink. The plant initially establishes itself in disturbed sites such as roadsides, but then invades natural grasslands, open savanna and wetlands. This weed displaces native species, reducing both the biological diversity and carrying capacity of vleis and veld.


The plant initially establishes itself in disturbed sites such as roadsides, but then invades natural grasslands, open savanna and wetlands. This weed displaces native species, reducing both the biological diversity and carrying capacity of wetlands and veld. During winter the plant is not visible above-ground.  

However, now there is good news! Bio-control scientists have released a tiny insect to wage war on the dreaded invasive Argentinian pompom weed and save our Highveld grasslands. Recently, bio-control scientists celebrated the release of a tiny insect known as the pompom thrips (Liothrips tractabilis) by releasing them  into fields of pink-flowering pompom weed at Rietvlei Nature Reserve, south east of Pretoria.    



Very difficult to remove (I tried pulling out a few of them and actually got nowhere - this weed breaks off just above the ground, leaving the large, tough roots underground.) Recruited from Argentina, where pompom weed is indigenous, the newly-released pompom Liothrips causes significant damage to the stems and leaf tissue at the growing tips. This causes deformities in plant growth, reducing the height, biomass and flower production of this unwanted weed. Scientists also warn that it will take several seasons for entomologists to build up large enough populations of Liothrips to halt the spread of pompom weed.

You can read more about this bio-control here

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Planting love

Thought for the day ...


David Hobson said, "I grow plants for many reasons : to please my soul; to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience; for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow," and I whole-heartedly agree!

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Starburst!

Flowers of Syzygium australe

Looking much like a fireworks display, Syzygium australe has many common names that include brush cherry (because of the bright red berries it produces), scrub cherry, creek lilly-pilly, creek satin-ash, and water-gum, and is a rainforest tree native to eastern Australia. It can attain a height of up to 35m with a trunk diameter of 60cm. In cultivation, this species is usually a small to medium-sized tree with a maximum height of only 18m. The flowers attract many birds and insects, especially bees and, believe it or not, there was a bee on this flower which took off just as I pressed the shutter!

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The blossom is spent...

A Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus) in an Acacia karoo

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature ― the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. 

And there’s something so absolutely pleasing about a bunch of carrots with tops on! Maybe it’s the thought of pulling them out of the ground. As I stood there looking down at the carrots, thunder rumbled its way into the distance, and then the rain came, dropping words to the ground all around me. 

The blossom is spent and the trees are now all clothed in fresh green. Nature is throbbing with the sound of summer, a loud bird chorus. I feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulders and I feel at peace. If I had a song that I could sing for you, I’d sing a song to make you feel this way.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Where the wild grass grows


This was a corner in my Gauteng garden at my wildlife pond where I allowed the indigenous wild grasses and weeds to grow wild. It was a real haven for small wildlife, birds and insects. All the trees there were indigenous as well – White Stinkwood (Celtis africana) and some Sweet Thorn (Acacia karroo), a favourite for nesting birds because of all the thorns.

Dedicated to all wild-grasses lovers!

They’re building ’em up
skeletons of brand new palaces,
glass is shining everywhere
so neat are the lines
converging and rising from the sea
that feeds my eyes with watery
veins. Though
the place I like most,
is where the wild grass grows,

where angry bikers hit mud hills
and thick-skinned fishermen cradle
pet-boats between one pint
and the other.
—Eszty Arod
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