Fynbos Diaries

March 12, 2018

Erica cerinthoides


A relatively common heath, widespread and native to South Africa, Erica cerinthoides is flowering in bursts of crimson on the reserve at the moment. It is also known as fire heath, red hairy heath or rooihaartjie. The flowers on Erica cerinthoides are fascinating as they are an unusually deep shade of red and are arranged in umbels of 7 to 10 flowers at branch tips. The tubular flowers are covered in red hairs which seem to have a swelling at the tip.

Photographs and text: Raquel de Castro Maia


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February 19, 2018

Bobartia Orientalis


Bobartia Orientalis is flowering all over the reserve at the moment. It is commonly known as the rush lily or blombiesie.

Flowers are yellow and densely clustered on the end of flower stalks. The main flowering season is from September to November, however plants may flower sporadically throughout the year, depending largely on rainfall.

Fire is thought to be important in its life history as woody rhizomes below the ground are able to re­sprout after fire.

Not much is known about its exact pollinators, however its flowers are hardly ever found intact as a variety of beetle have been found eating its petals.

There is reason to believe that the rush iris might have a special symbiotic relationship with bostrichoid beetles, three species of which have been found feeding on the plants. This is unusual as the bostrichoid beetles usually feeds on wood or dry organic materials throughout its life cycle. These are the beetles that are often found eating furniture and wooden floor boards.

It has been found that the seed capsule on the Bobartia Orientalis, has a capsule lid that is just large enough for the bostrichoid beetles to lay one egg in one of the three seed locules. The seed locules contain lots of red brown seed. As the larva of the beetle grows it will consume the seeds present in one of the locules, before it is ready to leave the seed capsule as a beetle. The seeds in the other two chambers then mature and are released when the capsule dries and opens, to produce more plants. The bostrichoid beetles also seems to favour eating Bobartia Orientalis petals and this may be where it is involved in pollinating the flowers as it moves from flower to flower.

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February 19, 2018

Solanum linnaeanum


The thorn apple also known as devils apple, apple of Sodom or Gifapple, is native to South Africa and was introduced to many countries including Australia. It occurs in most areas from the Cape to Zimbabwe. It grows to be about 1m tall. The scientific name is Solanum linnaeanum (previously S.hermannii).

It is a fascinating medicinal plant, and can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Fruits can be poisonous to sheep and children; green fruits are more toxic than ripe ones. Our APU and field rangers have used this plant out in the field to treat wounds and to treat people suffering from pain. The pulp from the green fruits of many Solanum species are applied directly to the tooth and gum for the treatment of tooth ache. Solanum supinum for example is also known as tyndpynbos (tooth ache bush). Solanum species contain toxic steroidal alkaloids (solanine and solasodine) these are used as base materials in the manufacture of steroidal drugs.

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January 21, 2018

Tritonopsis antholyza


Tritonopsis antholyza, also known as the karkarblom, is a gorgeous showy plant that can stand about 90cm tall. The flowers are a striking cluster of long tubular blooms that vary from pink to reddish pink in colour. These are flowering on the reserve at the moment and should continue to do so right into autumn.

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January 8, 2018

Micranthus plantagineus


One of the three species of Micranthus occur here in our region and was found on Gondwana at the end of November – the beautiful Micranthus plantagineus also known as the Vleiblommetjie. This plant is endemic to the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. It is not easily mistaken for any other member of the iris family. It can be up to 50cm tall with small blue flowers arranged in two rows on the flowering stem. Its leaves are narrow cylindrical hollow leaves. It is usually locally abundant and found in areas that have been burnt on moist slopes.

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January 8, 2018

A species of Alepidea found on Gondwana!


This is an exciting find! Brendan (Eco Camp), you will recall seeing this strange plant growing in the Nouga in September when we took Yvette van Wijk around on our fynbos scout…
It has taken months to identify and I think we may have found one of the two species of Alepidea that occur in this region. The two species that occur here are Alepidea delicatula (Rare) and Alepidea capensis. They should be in flower so please look out for them, this could be another rare species for Gondwana.

It can grow upto 20cm tall. Its characteristic leaves arranged in a rosette have long incurving soft spines that look like those found on insectivorous plants. The flowers are small and delicate.
The rhizomes and roots of some species are important medicinal plants.

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October 5, 2017

Spring is Blooming at Gondwana Game Reserve


Cyphia volubilis

Cyphia volubilis is a climber and the colour of the flowers can vary from white to purple with small white purple markings at the base of the three upper petals.

Plants from the Cyphia group are generally easy to recognise as they are mostly climbers that twine around stems of other plants. During the summer months the stems, leaves and flowers of Cyphia volubilis are dormant. They have an underground tuber from which they grow rapidly in Autumn after the first rains.

The tubers of Cyphia volubilis are edible and they were once an important wild food in the Cape. People would eat the potatoe-like tuber raw or slightly roasted. It was locally named “baroe”. Its fleshy tuber was considered to not only a staple food as well as a thirst quencher because of its high-water content.


Lobostemon fruticosus

Lobostemon fruticosus is also known as “Agdaegeneesbos” in Afrikaans. The vernacular name refers to the plants believed ability to heal a condition in eight days. (eight-day healing bush).

The leaves of Lobostemon fruticosus were pulped, or put into leaf decoctions and ointments and fried in sweet oil or fat. These were used to treat wounds, sores, ulcers, burns, planter’s warts and ringworm.

The crushed leaves of this plant and other species of Lobostemon are mucilaginous (produce a thick and gluey substance) and are thus emollient (having the quality of softening or soothing the skin). The leaves were chewed until a slimy mass formed which was then applied to a fresh wound like a plaster. The outer layer dried to form a soft brown layer. This “plaster” was left on the wound for more than a week.

Lobostemon is closely related to comfrey and may also contain a chemical compound known as allantoin which is well known for its wound healing properties.


Tritonia securigera

Tritonia securigera, is a striking bloom with 3 characteristic prominent yellow teeth on the lower flower lobes. Honeybees grab onto these when they visit the flowers and then crawl over them to reach the nectar. The distance between the top of these teeth and the anthers is just less than the diameter of the bees. The bees squeeze into this gap and this ensures that the pollen of a flower is deposited on the back of the bee and is carried to the next flower for pollination.


Indigofera heterophylla

Indigofera heterophylla. The roots of many Indigofera species are recorded to have been used medicinally as a treatment for infertility. The leaves of some Indigofera species (usually the larger ones) were boiled up to extract the chemical indigo which is the main source of indigo pigment used as a dye.


Satyrium muticum

This critically endangered orchid was found growing on a rocky slope at Gondwana Game Reserve in September. It is only found in the Mossel Bay Region and is extremely rare.


Hermannia filifolia

Hermania filifolia is also known as “broodblom” it has beautiful characteristics twisted to flaring hanging flowers. Most Hermannia species are highly palatable and readily browsed by game. The flowers of Hermannia filifolia  have an unusual taste, and are a wild flower that can be enjoyed in salads.


Agathosma capensis

The Agathosma genus is restricted to South Africa and is a typical fynbos species, not easily mistaken by any other as the leaves are usually strongly scented. Traditionally the Khoi had many medicinal and cosmetic uses for different Agathosma species. Also known as “buchu” this plant makes a delicious Buchu tea. Medicinally many Agathosma species were also used to treat chest, stomach and urinary tract infections.

The leaves of Agathosma capensis above, have a strong aniseed or liquorice scent when crushed.


Gladiolus floribundus

A beautiful Gladiolus with large showy flowers. Growing all over the reserve in spring – it cannot be missed.


Freesia alba

Freesias are delightfully fragrant and are known for their unique mixture of spicy and floral scents. Freesias have been used as a vital ingredient in many scented oils because of their captivating fragrance. Their oils are used for aromatherapy and in perfumes.


Babiana patula

There are a number of Babiana species that flower around this time of year their bright colours are a sight to behold. The name is derived from a Dutch word – baviaan, referring to the Chacma baboon that relishes the underground corms of plants in the genus. Most Babianas are adapted to Renosterveld and its shale-derived clay soils so much of their habitat has been destroyed.


Watsonia Laccata

A gorgeous smaller species of watsonia flowering in tones of pink to red. Their blooms are dotted all over the reserve in Spring and appear as beautiful flame like blooms that are about 30 – 40 cm tall.


Gerbera crocea

These beautiful Gerberas grow in open fynbos areas and are a wide spread species. They are most abundant in areas that have experienced fires. Gerberas form the whimsical (puffy ball-like) seed heads on which most childhood wishes are placed before being blown to the wind.

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