Haarwegskloof is a new Renosterveld Reserve owned by WWF and managed by the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust. There are bunk rooms in the farmhouse but we were headed for the Old Dairy – now a comfortable, well equipped, three-bedroom house. Reserve Manager, Jannie Groenewald (doing a PhD on the plants of quartz areas in the reserve), was a welcoming host. First up was his presentation on the biodiversity of the reserve, then after our supper, which he shared, he led us on a chameleon hunt. It had to be really dark, we had to have torches, and very surprisingly, the chameleons were now white and hanging, fast asleep, from branches at the top of bushes – Klein Karoo Dwarf Chameleons.
It was a misty morning that greeted us with sheep grazing right up to the house and a pair of alpacas outside Gwen’s door. No good going out till the day warmed up. Rhoda and Cameron joined us as they were eager to see the renosterveld after a burn. We spent an absorbing couple of hours going up and down hillsides seeing many white Babiana patersoniae and Geissorhiza ovata, a few plants of Gladiolus vandermerwei, red with a touch of yellow, and the familiar blue Aristea africana.
There were many other splashes of colour against blackened branches, or just the leaves as of a Gethyllis or kukumakranka. An intriguing find was the usually coastal Ferraria crispa growing where there was an overhanging rock. Jannie says that long ago people brought Ferrarias to their shelters using the bulbs as food.
The afternoon expedition was up more hills to a magic quartz garden. There on the top of a koppie were more really rare plants than we are ever likely to see again in one place. Jannie knew them all. The carpet-like Aspalathus quartzicola had tiny flowers; a sedge, Ficinia overbergensis, was only 30 or 40 mm high; an elegant restio was Elegia squamosa; Acmadenia macropetala was flowering, a deep pink as was Drosanthemum quadratum. We saw several of the fewer than 90 plants in existence of Polhilla curtisiae named for Dr Odette Curtis, Director of OLCT. Then Jannie produced the hidden treasures, Haworthia maraisii, lurking in the middle of tufts of grass. Later on at a new site we were to see H. mutica, H.minima and the smaller H. heidelbergensis. It was there, just before sunset, that we saw a dried Nerine humilis, the form that has longer styles; its pollinator, a long-tongued fly, is now completely absent so the plant has to rely on vegetative reproduction. Jannie is very much an ecologist so gives a great picture of the biodiversity of this place.
A convivial supper with Chef Daniel’s delicious curry followed and so to bed went Gwen, Andrea, Barbara J and two Berrisfords.
The Old Dairy cost R1500 per night with bed linen, towels and hot water bottles provided.