Botsoc Kogelberg Walk Report 18th November 2017

For some reason the assembled Botsoc members and guests were reluctant to scan the distant heights of the contour path from the Fairy Glen parking area before we set off. ‘Let’s just get on with it’, they said. Sometimes it’s better to just sally forth and deal with the steep gradient as it comes. So that’s what we did.

The objective was to survey the early summer flowers on the western slopes of the Three Sisters Peaks by traversing the contour path from Kasteelkopnek to Spooknek and descend via Dot’s Dash and the Klipspringer path in the Kleinmond Mountain Nature Reserve. The area had burned early in the year and the winter rains and spring sunshine had done their work. We eagerly expected some surprises. We were not disappointed.

On the way up the rocky path past wonderfully wind sculpted sandstone boulders on the northern flank of Kasteelkop we were greeted by bunches of tiny rock loving Sonderothamnus petraeus in full flower and congratulated ourselves that if anyone was looking for them anywhere else, they wouldn’t find them.

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Sonderothamnus petraeus

A number of us had, on previous hikes up this path, been puzzled by a singular looking small tree with the conspicuous venation of its obsessively ovate leaves. At last we identified it. Of course! Why hadn’t we thought of it before? It’s Heeria argentea, Rockwood or Kliphout.

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Heeria argentea (female) Rockwood or Kliphout

On reaching the top of the path at Kasteelkopnek we began to see some of what we had come for, Pillansia templemannii, which one of our party irreverently dubbed ‘Temple maniacs’. Not a bad mnemonic if remembering scientific names is a challenge. These beauties are especially adapted to take advantage of soil that has been enriched by the ash of the previous summer’s fires and the winter rains.

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Pillansia templemannii

A striking feature of the vlakte at the top of the Kasteelkopnek path is the mass of Lanaria lanata, little woolly numbers that go by the jaunty Afrikaans common name of ‘Perdekapokblom’. I get the ‘kapok’ bit, but what has a horse got to do with it? The English common name, ‘Cape edelweiss’ alludes to the furriness it shares with the European Alpine daisy (Leontopodium nivale) of ‘Sound of Music’ fame, but there the association ends. Lanaria lanata is no daisy. It has an entire family, Lanariaceae, and genus Lanaria all to itself. No wonder it looks like no other flower you could imagine.

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Lanaria lanata Kapokblom or Cape edelweiss

Then there were the Aristea. The higher we went, the more there were, two species in particular, the little Aristea juncifolia with its thin rush like leaves and the one metre tall Aristea bakeri, which you only get to see if you climb more than 200 metres above sea level, on a stony sandstone slope, in early summer, after a fire the previous summer, and spring rain, in the Western Cape. We thought we were very clever to get all that right.

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Aristea bakeri

For some reason Spooknek is always breezy and often chilly so the tea break was short and we dashed off down Dot’s Dash which last summer’s fires had not reached.

If you want to see the extraordinary Erica massonii, this is the place to look, otherwise above the Houw Hoek pass near Elgin from whence it gets its English common name, ‘Houw Hoek Heath.’

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Erica massonii, Houw Hoek Heath

Sure enough, that other Aulax, not the Aulax umbellata familiar on the sandy coastal flats, but the mountain side loving Aulax cancellata was in bloom exactly where we expected it to be.

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Down the knee jarring zig zag Klipspringer path with its splendid views and waterfalls in spate brought us to another section that burned late last summer.

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Views and waterfalls on the Klipspringer path

Sure enough, Otholobium zeyheri, of the family Fabaceae, had taken advantage of the ash enriched soil and moist conditions, as it is supposed to do, and was in flower.

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Otholobium zeyheri

But wait! There was more. By now we were high tailing it towards the finish of our hike when an extraordinary little fern caught our attention, not in a forest, not by a riverbank or any visible surface water and with no shade in sight. Schizaea pectinata, commonly called ‘Curly grass’ or ‘Cockscomb fern’, looks more like a grass (Poaceae), sedge (Cyperaceae) or reed (Restionaceae), but it’s not, it belongs in the division Pteridophyta, a fern in the family Schizaeaceae and particularly abundant after fire.

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Schizaea pectinata Cockscomb fern

Then we went home.
Tim Attwell