One of my favorite things about driving through the Karoo Heartland during the winter is seeing the aloes in bloom. But there is another Karoo succulent that grows between the aloes that most people don’t really notice called Noors. The Noors is a type of euphorbia and found especially around the town of Jansenville. They are smallish, thorny plants with milky sap and the reason that the region is called the Noorsveld.
The origin of the name noors is uncertain but is believed to originate with the British whom the prickly plant with its yellow flowers reminded of gorse. It is supposed that “gorse” evolved via Dutch speaking settlers into “noors”.
The noors is frequently chopped as fodder for stock with the result that Noorsveld farms can carry one unit per morgen compared with one unit per three morgen in Karoo conditions where the noors does not occur.
Vygies come in all shapes, sizes and colours. These little ones I found on the mountain above Matatiele
on a visit to the Matatiele Mountain Lake. I have two types of vygies in my garden, both creeper type plants with tin green leaves. This specific one has ticker and rounder leaves and look a more like a typical succulent. A little search on the internet gave me the following:
Stone plants – Aizoaceae or Ficoidaceae is a family of dicotyledonous flowering plants containing 135 genera and about 1900 species. They are commonly known as stone plants, carpet weeds or vygies.
I have succulents like these in my rock garden but it was great to find this patch in Settlers Park a few week ago. They make for a nice ground cover and is beautiful with their pink flowers.
There is always something new to see even if one has been to a place many times. This is even true of one’s own home town, but this isn’t a story on my home town. There is so much I haven’t seen around Johannesburg and Gauteng, but I don’t always have a lot of free time when I am up there to go exploring. My last trip to Jozi left me an open morning and I decided to go and visit the Walter Sesulu Botanical Garden. Although the botanical garden was only founded in 1982, the area has been a popular picnic spot since the late 1800’s already. Back in those days Johannesburgers would go by train as far as the Witpoortjie Station and walk down to the waterfall for a day of leisure. And it was said waterfall I was actually here to see.
The natural vegetation of the area is known as the ‘Rocky Highveld Grassland’ and is a mixture of grassland and savanna, with dense bush in the kloofs and along streams. The botanical garden accommodates over 600 naturally occurring plant species with various walks and trails that visitors can explore. I especially liked the variety of succulents that was planted around a couple of the pathways.
The main path into the gardens took me all the way to the Witpoortjie Waterfall, named after the nearby railway station. Not quite sure why they would have done that though. The grassy area in front of the waterfall is a popular picnic spot with a lot of people going there with the hope to see the resident pair of rare Verreaux’s eagles that nest on the steep, inaccessible cliff next to the waterfall.
Verreaux’s eagles are spectacular birds of prey, with a wingspan that extends to over 2m. The pairs are monogamous and stay together, nesting on the same spot year after year. A couple of years ago the male eagle disappeared, followed shortly after by the female. It was feared that the carefully monitored 40-year breeding programme would end, but the female miraculously reappeared with a young male as a companion.
The sour fig grows quite easy and being a succulent they can survive well even in dry conditions. This one I found on the coast on the Sacramento Trail outside Port Elizabeth.
Quite a few of the succulents and cacti in my garden has been flowering lately being that time of the year. This one doesn’t have what I would call regulation thorns, but rather long spiny ones. The little pink flower looked soft to the touch although I wasn’t willing to venture a finger in between the spines to find out what it feels like.