West Bank Roundabout

– Tim Attwell

The weather forecast promised a clear but chilly day. Well, it was clear, but certainly not chilly at Fairy Glen when we set off across the R44 and the bridge over the Palmiet River to pick up the path which took us southwards along the west bank of the Palmiet River towards the sea in the distance.

West bank Roundabout path beside the Palmiet River Estuar

The aim was to have tea at the mouth of the Palmiet Estuary and return via a path which took us away from the river through Overberg Dune Strandveld, Hangklip Sand Fynbos and a little bit of Cape Lowland Freshwater Wetland, complete with a happy show of the medicinally useful Osmitopsis asteriscoides, aka Swamp daisy or Belskruie.

Osmitopsis asteriscoides, swamp daisy or belskruie

We also had an absorbing discussion about the therapeutic properties of the spiny Arctopus echinatus that we encountered in the middle of the path. It turns out that, according to Ben-Erik van Wyk, Bosch van Oudtshoorn and Nigel Gericke, in their book ‘Medicinal Plants’ (Briza, 2009), the roots of A. echinatus, commonly known as ‘sieketroos’, ‘platdoring’ or ‘pokkiesdoring’, really do have antioxidant, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antibacterial and antiviral effects and was used traditionally as a sedative and anticonvulsant. How did our Khoi and Dutch trekboer forebears find this stuff out, especially its usefulness in the treatment of venereal disease?

Arctopus echinatus, or ‘sieketroos’, ‘platdoring’ or ‘pokkiesdoring’

Happily our aim was met, but at a much slower pace than we anticipated – with many a stop not only to examine the flowers just coming into bloom but also simply to drink in  the splendid views this inexplicably little known but delightful path has to offer.

Podalyria calyptrata, ‘keurtjie’, ‘ertjieblom’ or ‘Cape Sweet pea’
Podalyria calyptrata, ‘keurtjie’, ‘ertjieblom’ or ‘Cape Sweet pea’

Stars of the botanical show were undoubtedly the showy Podalyria calyptrata (aka keurtjie, ertjieblom or Cape sweet pea) and extraordinary shows of that fragrant member of the buchu family (Rutaceae), Agathosma ciliaris.

Agathosma ciliaris, fragrant member of the buchu family, Rutaceae.
Agathosma ciliaris, fragrant member of the buchu family, Rutaceae.

The walk was delightful but thirsty work! It was a harbinger of the spring and summer walks to come and a warning to us to bring appropriate refreshments and headgear from now on and for the next few months.