Knee-Deep

Jen is a really clean person and always beautifully groomed. After a visit to a burn site, she emerges spotless, whilst the rest of us rival Chimney Sweeps. This is probably partially due to her job and training as the Theatre Matron at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, where she worked before she married Thys. At Dune Molerat on Friday, we ignored the “Closed” notices and did the longest route around the northern and eastern shores of Swartvlei. The mouth is obviously closed and the water is at the highest level that I’ve ever seen it and I have been hiking here since 1970. It wasn’t long before we were up to our knees in water and sometimes suppurating mud, which smelt awful. Jen’s cream hiking pants were soon covered with black mud, much to her displeasure. She had joined us for the first time after a long absence because of looking after her sick husband. It was great to have her back, if only for a day. She still manages to help us with all our Erica id’s.

The shady spots were alive with the magnificent Green Wood Orchid (Bonatea speciosa). Lots of Crassula orbicularis in full flower were companionably growing next to it . The wet and muddy walk was all made worthwhile by finding Printzia polifolia in full flower on the new path on the south-eastern side of the Reserve, which leads up to the Lookout. Here we also saw Gnidia chrysophylla (Golden Stripper – Near Threatened). We saw one Pelargonium lobatum in flower. Of Nanobubon hypogaeum (Endangered) there was no sign. Other show-stoppers were Gladiolus tristis (Yellow March Afrikaner) growing in the wetland, the tall Hibiscus diversifolius, Eriocephalus racemsous (Vat hom Fluffy) and fields of Geranium incanum (Carpet Geranium) side by side with the bright orange Papaver aculeatum (Wild Poppy). The Dune Molerat Reserve always has something for us to Ooh and Ah about, although walking along the tracks between the huge molehills is fraught with the danger of the path collapsing under you.

We then moved over to the Sedgefield Dunes, which are very depressing. They are covered with aliens like Lantana, Black Wattle, Bluegums, Kikuyu and a host of others. There are lots of Rares fighting for survival in these infested Dunes. It is more than time that the place was cleaned up. Sedgefield property owners and the Municipality need to wake up and do something about the situation. Apart from all other considerations, the fire hazard is enormous. Don’t wait until we have another situation like the June fires in the Southern Cape.
Di

From Forest to Vlakte
In late September Pam and I headed off on a short Western Cape jaunt. Generally we struggle to find places that are as peaceful as our home but on this occasion we excelled in finding quiet spots.

After checking out the Vetplantfees we headed to "Keurkloof", a very neat farm near Matjiesfontein. The area was very dry and the weather was cold and windy but our short forays onto the low koppies produced some pleasant surprises. Crassulas were in full flower and some specimens were utterly breathtaking, like the very pink C. barbata and the adorable squat C. pyramidalis.

Our next stop was a night outside Montagu on the farm of friends. If anything, the Klein Karoo looked even drier than Matjiesfontein; our friends proudly pointed out the one new species they'd come across recently, a Holothrix. We had a little rain overnight and the mesems were quick to open their seedpods in response.

The next two nights were in a rather dark and draughty (but peaceful!) cottage on Honeywood Farm, which borders Grootvadersbosch. Most of the farm is grazed, but there is the odd strip of fynbos and thicket and access to the forest. I was astounded to come across a giant earthworm the size of a snake, having no idea these occurred in South Africa, It was quite hard to hold, being incredibly slimy.

We weren't sure what to expect at Platbos, "Africa's southernmost forest" (http://www.platbos.co.za/index.html) where we'd booked a tent - this private reserve near Gansbaai is only 27ha in extent but is completely magical. What a surprise to discover massive, ancient Celtis africana and gnarled old milkwoods on the windswept coastline. As charming as the old trees were, I think I was most excited about finally seeing Ferraria crispa in the flesh!

Sally

Groeneweide
…HAT Evie joined in with a WAGS hike on Wednesday. Lovely day out, good socializing as well as mainly flora observations. This stretch of easily accessible Garden route indigenous forest is always a treat with towering Outeniqua yellowwoods looming throughout. On the forest margins – mauve Virgilia spp; and interesting shaped orange and white fungi, as well as Cladonia sp on the forest floor/or tree branches. The forest though still under stress from dry weather- evidence of thick dry old leaf carpeting, numerous trees lying sideways, and branches scattered on the ground - no doubt uprooted by the high winds during the winter months. As the pictures show an adventurous outing with numerous obstacles - to circumnavigate, or stretch straight through the middle of. Had our amazing Outramps Di been there – we would also have been treated to some interesting comments.
In the open Fynbos on higher ground – Agathosma ovata was in flower as well as being studded with 5 chambered fruit; a few special Erica unicolor subsp georgensis were close to the river descent with a couple of delicate miniature Erica peltata.

Evie

The tale below has already appeared in a Reportback in March 2017. But it is worth retelling and has a sequel, which I have added at the end.
The Ant Story
On the 11th of February I (Sally Adam) tagged along on a Mountain Club hike in the Ruitersberg/Moordkuil area. It was a large group and some of the hikers were struggling and slowing the party, so with other members clamouring about their rumbling tummies it was decided to take the lunch break a good two kilometres early. This proved to be most serendipitous.

We sat on a rocky outcrop overlooking a stream with a lovely view of the mountains to the north of us. While the others were tucking into their lunch boxes and complaining about all the ant activity on the rocks, I busied myself taking a few pictures of the flowers around us. I also took photos of a pair of ants on a Crassula flower, careful not to disturb them. I soon realised they were undisturbable - they were not only dead but their jaws were firmly clamped to the flower.

I was reminded of a nature documentary I had seen: ants, infected by a fungus, are compelled to climb to the very ends of branches or blades of grass, embed their jaws in the vegetation and die. The fungal fruiting bodies then grow out of the small corpse and the spores can be spread more widely due to the elevated position.

I started looking around and immediately found at least 10 other corpses on grass, restios and other bushes. Something was going on! I took lots of photographs but failed to spot any fruiting bodies. I duly posted my find on iSpot and it became obvious that this is a phenomenon not many people have come across. I also spoke to an entomologist friend at UCT who kindly forwarded me a paper on ant parasites. It was suggested that I contact the lead author, David Hughes, who I tracked down at Penn State University. He responded immediately, confirming that the ants had been attacked by the fungus Ophiocordyceps. He also wrote:

"It is very rare so I would be very keen if you could collect other samples. Is that possible? "

So a couple of weeks later, and with the help of Greg and Janet Moore, I anxiously retraced our route. I kept an eye out as we walked but there were few live ants and no dead ones. After 5km we reached our previous lunch spot and as soon as the habitat changed to rocky outcrop/Crassula sp., we started seeing dead ants attached to a wide range of vegetation (what a relief). I pulled out prepared matchboxes lined with cotton wool and gleefully got to work pulling ants from leaves with a pair of forceps.

The ants will be posted off to Dr Hughes in two separate batches and I can't wait for the results of his sequencing. More details can be found on the iSpot observation http://www.ispotnature.org/node/869711
Sally
PS – A note from David Hughes “We sequenced the fungi you sent and it is a really interesting finding. They are a group of fungi called Entomphthora which are evolutionarily very distant from what we studied. About 500 million years apart. What is cool is that your ants were manipulated so this is an undefended evolutionary event where a fungus manipulates ants to bite. We do know that this group of fungi do this to ants in Northern Europe (attached)” . This all very exciting and if that wasn’t enough for 1 week, Sally won the Observation of the day on iNaturalist with her magnificent photo of Crassula pyramidalis which is featured on the Album. She has only been posting on iNat for about 1 week.
Once again, we have a busy week ahead of us. Prof Muthama Muasya from UCT and Prof Charlie Stirton from the UK are coming up to the Southern Cape for a series of Field trips. They will be staying at Strawberry Hill for 2 nights. We will have dinner for them on Wed night with the Outramps and then join them for a field trip on Thursday. In the meantime we are grappling with iNaturalist, but with combined resources, even the “oldies” are beginning to get a handle on it and we’re starting to go great guns. The final decision (on whether or not we’re going the iNaturalist route) will be taken by SANBI later this week.
Hamba Kahle
Groete en dankie
Di Turner
Outramps CREW Group
Southern Cape

Abbreviations Glossary
MCSA – Mountain Club of South Africa
MSB - Millenium Seed Bank based at Kew in the UK
WIP – Work in Progress
HAT – High Altitude Team
LOT – Lowland Team
SIM – Somewhere in the Middle Team
WAGS – Wednesday Adventure Group
VB – Vlok Boekie “Plants of the Klein Karoo” and our Plant Bible
ITRTOL – Another thread “In The Rich Tapestry Of Life”(It describes a challenging situation, usually to do with the Buchu Bus)
ITFOT – In the fullness of time
WOESS – Fair Weather Hiker
FMC and JW – too vulgar to translate, but the equivalent is “Strike me Dead” An expression of surprise and delight on finding a new “Rare”
Kambro – same as above
Fossick – A meter per minute, scratching around looking for rares
SIDB – Skrop in die Bos – Another name for a field trip, this one coined by Prix
BAFFING – Running round like a blue-arsed fly
SYT – Sweet Young Thing - Anyone under the age of 40
TOMB – Get a move on
Mayhem - Needless or willful damage or violence
SESKRYNG – “Sit en staan kry niks gedaan” ,with thanks to Brian
SOS – Skelms on Scramblers
FW – Idiot
BOB – Another name for the Buchu Bus when she’s misbehaving.
CRAFT – A symptom of Old Age
DDD - Metalasia tricolor (Damned Diabolical Daisy)
VP – Vrekplek – Retirement Village
Qàq – Self-explanatory Inuit word describing some of our local problems
Mr Fab – Our Fabaceae specialist, Brian Du Preez – originally Boy 1
TMCH -The Mathematician or the Computer Helpline – Peter Thompson
Boy 2 – Kyle Underwood who works on Orchids and is still at school
Sharkie – Finn Rautenbach – Our latest SYT is a surfer in his spare time
Sicko – Someone who suffers from Car Sickness. With 4 in the Group, allocating seating in the Buchu Bus is tricky
VAG – Virgin Active Garage, which is our meeting place when we head north
MATMUE – Meet At The Mall Under E - Meeting place when we head West
WG – Waves Garage in Wilderness East. - Meeting place when we’re going east.
VU- Vulnerable
DDT – Data Deficient and Taxonomically ?
NT – Near Threatened
EN – Endangered
CR – Critically Endangered
PE – Presumed extinct
LC – Least Concern
TBC – To be Confirmed
TLC – Tender loving care
JMS – An expression of absolute disdain
FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
Milk – the fruit of the vine
Condensed Milk – Scotland’s finest export
Full Cream Milk or Fat Milk – Any product of Humulus lupulus eg. Milk Stout
Milk of the Gods – Rooibos and Brandy
Milk Shake - Sparkling Wine
NS – Species of conservation concern new to the Outramps
PS -Priority Species allocated to the Outramps by our CREW Cape Co-ordinator , Ismail Ebrahim
iNFD – iNaturalist for Dummies

Publicado por outramps-tanniedi outramps-tanniedi, 30 de octubre de 2017

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