Flowering Noors

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 in the veld outside Matatiele

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. 

Succulent flowers at Kuzuko

Succulents always surprise me with the beautiful flowers that they produce specially when they grow in dry and arid areas.  The flowering succulent in the picture was growing next to the path to our room at Kuzuko Lodge in the northern part of the Addo Elephant National Park.

After reading the post, Alan Fogarty of Alan Tours helped me out a bit with the name:  Crassula ovata or Kerky bush, Beestebul, iPhewula also commonly known as the “Botterboom”

Walter Sesulu Botanical Garden

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.