Saving the Bride's Journal

March 09, 2022

Friends of the Bride

After the hugely successful Baby Bride Bioblitz and 2 Invasive Alien Hacks conducted in Assegaaiboskloof in 2021, CapeNature invited me to present our work at the South African Department of Forestries, Fisheries and Environment's Invasive Alien Species Forum, held in Stellenbosch in January 2022.

The presentation was very well received and I was encouraged to take the next step and establish the project as 'Friends of the Bride' in order to generate more awareness and to become eligible to raise donations and sponsorships to further this work.

You are welcome to have a look at the website from where you can contact me to find out about further hacks and bioblitzes in Assegaaiboskloof:

https://www.friendsofthebride.org/

Posted on March 09, 2022 14:12 by dryfveer dryfveer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 27, 2021

Invasive Alien Pull-out *Extravaganza* - 12 December 2021

"'It is a question of discipline,' said the little prince to me later on. 'When you have finished your toilet in the morning, it is time to attend to the planet's toilet with great care. One must pull out the baobabs very regularly as soon as they can be distinguished from the rosebushes they resemble so closely when they are very young. It is very tedious work, but also very easy'" from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, first published 1943

Those of you who have read The Little Prince will remember that he came from a very small planet which held his favourite flower, a very vain little rose, but that the soil was infested with baobab seeds which, if left unattended, would spread across the entire planet, its roots boring clear through it, causing it to explode.. therefor, his daily tasks included pulling out baby baobabs!

Well, Assegaaiboskloof certainly won't 'explode' if the invasive aliens are left unattended, but that they are a real threat to the spectacular fynbos and Blushing Brides (Serruria Florida) occurring in the valley, is a reality that shouldn't be underestimated. 12 December 2021 therefor once again saw a dedicated team of 11 hackers, mostly MCSA* members from various branches, returning to the valley, this time with the specific goal to tackle as many of the baby wattle and baby stink bean plants as possible, easy to pull out whilst still young.

We entered the valley at 8am, drove to the drif from where we split up into the wattle and the stink bean teams. I am still taken by everyone's energy and excitement for tackling this tedious task this late in the year of 2021.. but Assegaaiboskloof did not disappoint. One month after the previous hack, the veld has changed completely.. large stands of comb irises (mycranthus), blue ladies hands' (cyanella) crown lobelia and pseudoselago... purple flowers dominating inamongst the tall grass and rocky slopes. The wattle stand occurs close to the drif, and the wattle pullers really performed. Andries Louw counted 1310 baby wattles he pulled out!!.. For the slightly larger wattles, http://treepopper.co.za lent us some of their handy tree poppers, thank you guys! It works well, but it is still slow, hard work. The stink bean covers an area of about 50 ha, occurring roughly 3km into the valley. There are thousands, if not hundred thousands of baby plants threatening to completely smother the blushing brides occurring on the same steep slope. Liesbet Malan single-handedly pulled out 520 stink bean babies!! Well done Liesbet! The rest of the team worked equally hard, and the tea break spot at a stunning little waterfall provided great opportunity to refresh halfway through. A successful day for sure!

There are thousands more left.. but the spirits are high and our 'planet', Assegaaiboskloof, has our commitment of care, discipline and attendance... one hack at a time, one baby stink bean, baby wattle or canary island pine at a time.. we WILL overcome.

*MCSA - Mountain Club of South Africa

Posted on December 27, 2021 14:13 by dryfveer dryfveer | 1 comment | Leave a comment

November 10, 2021

Assegaaiboskloof Hack - 6 November 2021

'Start doing what is needed, then, what is possible, and soon, you will be busy doing the impossible' Francis of Assisi

I first set eyes on the canary island pines in Assegaaiboskloof in January 2021. At the time I had been regularly hiking in the Western Cape mountains since my return from Gauteng in 2012, and my love and appreciation for the beauty and biodiversity of fynbos grew and expanded on a weekly basis. I had joined iNaturalist and had started adding photo after photo after photo of the magnificence, turning a blind eye to pine and other invasive alien species occurring in the midst of it. I remember saying to someone that I was hiking in the fynbos to escape the world's problems, not look for more...

Invasive pines are a very real threat to fynbos though. They grow faster and burn much hotter than fynbos. They also keep on smouldering for much longer, potentially destroying seed banks, even altering the structure of the soil. Best to get to them when they are young, pull them out, or cut them down, already not an easy task. Hacking has never really been my thing, but, being of strong and pioneering spirit, not exactly knowing what I am letting myself in for, I took on the challenge in November 2020 of arranging this hack in Assegaaiboskloof in conjunction with the Blushing Bride Bioblitz.

My heart really sank in January 2021 when I realized what we are up against. Large stands of canary island pine used to occur in Assegaaiboskloof when it was still a plantation. They were diligently taken down for the construction of the Berg River Dam, even those that have spread to the areas that never used to be under plantation. Problem solved? ... Nope, not so simple. These guys resprout. They are not killed by simply cutting them down. On a hike there in January 2021, there in front of my very eyes, was this large bright green shrub-like bush with needle-shaped leaves. Closer inspection revealed a thick, old, cut-down stump at the base.. this was a canary island pine, very much alive.

Come the Feb '21 fire and fast forward 6 months to when we did the first post-fire recce trip into the valley. Now one had the advantage that the fire cleared the vegetation and you can see what is going on. The veld is beautiful, flowers, new growth everywhere... as well as there there there and there.. bright green knee-high 'shrubs' with needle-shaped leaves.. the more you look, the more you see. Even the fire did not kill the canary island pines, they were happily resprouting, right there in paradise. I looked at this, I remember thinking... this is impossible... how on earth are we going to solve it..

The hugely successful 'Baby Bride Bioblitz' followed, we took loads of observations of all the beautiful new life, already about 1300 have been uploaded. We managed to record over 280 species in one day!! .. but still, the pines and the hack loomed.. are people REALLY going to want to deal with them? Who on earth is going to want to carry a chainsaw in here, 7kms there and back .. then struggle to come in low and cut the short, old, burnt stumps underneath the new stems, close to the ground, real hard work!.. then work together and apply poison, not missing one.. battling through burnt protea bushes.. not to even speak of dealing also with the large patches of young invasive alien stinkbean.. who on earth is going to want to come and sit in the sun for a whole day long pulling out stinkbean??.. but I started advertising nonetheless..

Well, I am still quite gobsmacked! 23 absolutely awesome, absolutely inspired and energized hackers and puller-outers pitched up at 8am on Saturday morning 6 November 2021 geared with saws, axes, chainsaws, gloves, high spirits and lots of smiles! The veld was beautiful, the valley beckoned... where were thousands of lachenalia a month ago, now were large stands of purple pseudoselago... the fields of yellow moraea ochroleuca were replaced by masses of pale yellow wachendorfia... deeper in, the most exquisite tritoniopis parviflora species were flowering en masse underneath the burnt proteas, little baby proteas everywhere.. the river, waterfalls ... little surprises like the delicate disa filicornis and ivory satyre orchids here and there.. It was as if the spirit of the valley welcomed us in, whispering beauty and promise at every step forward we took, thanking us in advance..

The team went in with gusto! When the chainsaw's battery went flat, out came the hand saws and axes.. those pines did not stand a chance! We managed to get to about 120 to 150 of them. A half a large slope was cleared of stinkbean.. the weather was cool and forgiving, the spirits high throughout.. We arrived back at the vehicles just after 4pm, dirty hands clothes faces, but everybody so happy and inspired... Santie, we have to come back, when are we doing the next one.. thanks thanks thanks for arranging.. keep us posted.. let's share photos, how can we get more involved... and so it went on...

Sjoe, wow... I am humbled.. I say thank you... we'll be back!

Posted on November 10, 2021 08:04 by dryfveer dryfveer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 05, 2021

3 October 2021 - Baby Bride Bioblitz - first small step towards a giant leap

...not quite sure today whether to quote Armstrong, Martin Luther King or Milan Kundera... be that as it may.. a beautiful baby step has been taken towards saving the brides..

The response to all my nudgings, iNaturalist stalkings (I'm sure I've been forgiven!), fb sharings and prophesies about the Bioblitz has been amazing.... By Monday 27 September already +20 people showed interest. I duly checked the weather, for rain would push the trip out to who knows when... as the days passed, the numbers kept on growing... as also the certainty of rain for the entire weekend... but I persisted, sent e-mails with participant forms and final arrangements (and please remember your raincoat!), checked a variety of weather reports, prayed!, .. shared my anxiety with Tony..

.. and wow, Sunday morning 3 October 2021 ALL 30 participants that signed up, arrived! fully kitted for rain and whatever else mother nature would throw at us

and did she shine.... the overcast weather rendered the valley dramatic as we entered.. stark krantzes and cliff faces lightly touched by the whisper of breakaway cloudlets .. the deep green of new life inamongst the blackened aftermath of the fire enhanced against the grey cloud backdrop, some faint waterfalls still visible in the deepest gorges surrounding..

The posse gradually, in spread-out fashion to be able to capture interesting observations wider than just the path, moved into the valley under Tony's experienced and knowledgeable lead. Fynbos occurs in two distinct forms, we were informed, the resprouters, less widely spread, and the re-seeders (about two thirds) more widely spread. And this was clearly visible in the after-math of the fire that raced through the valley in Feb '21. No, the fire was not devastating and disastrous. Not at all. It was regenerative in a way I could never have imagined. Bracken everywhere as we entered, large patches of bulb baroe, still flowering since a month ago, little patches of pterygodium catholicum here and there,at least three or four different moraea species and so much more! My absolute favourite on the way in was the hundreds, or was it thousands, I kid you not, of lachenalia all in full flower along the mountain slopes.. as per Tony the Afrikaans name 'viooltjie' refers to the sound it makes when the wind blows through large patches such as these... the sound like violins laughing together..

We took a well-deserved tea-break along the top old forestry jeep track overlooking a magnificent waterfall in the opposite krantzes. Along the way we came across wachendorfia thyrsiflora just about to open, the tiniest crassulas I have ever seen, pelargoniums in all shapes and sizes, cucculatum, myrrhleaf, fire, elongata.., signs of porcupine returning after the fire, baboon, fan aloes in full flower - they are so beautiful- albuca, bokkie baroe, the most beautiful lobelia coronopifolia with voluptuous large deep blue flowers... all the time I am aware of the sharing of this experience with 30 others, just as in love.. most of which it is their first time in this special valley.

we reached the little baby brides just after lunch. oh, the excitement!! there were lots and lots...there were also king proteas resprouting, mountain ceder, leucadendron spissifolium.. pinus canariensis right there in the back of the valley in amongst pristine fynbos!.. wind flowers (literally blows me away).. tiny little baby protea repens and protea laurifolium,. it melts your heart!!.. little baby agathosma ovata.. crassula capensis already flowering, masses of daisy plants resprouted, can't wait to see them a month from now when in flower! the lower foothills covered in deep purple flowering daisies of some sort!..

My dear friend Lizelle put it so clearly.. wow, I have seen the Blushing Brides in the only place they naturally occur, their natural home. If you have not seen them like that, you have not seen them.

If you joined us on the day, please don't delay in adding all your observations. And do join me in the pleasure of looking at them all, and trying to ID what everyone else have posted! This is the real beauty of it, our collective observations and experience.. I am already noticing so much which others have added which I myself have missed on the day, and learning their names as they are being ID'd..

a week ago, the valley was a closed secret on the brink of being lost... no more

Posted on October 05, 2021 19:08 by dryfveer dryfveer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 30, 2021

'baby bride' bioblitz - Assegaaiboskloof, upper Berg River - 3 October 2021

Finally! After a year of planning, the moment has arrived :-) ... we will be going out there into Assegaaiboskloof on Sunday, with CapeNature's permission and blessing. The kind, inspirational and so knowledgable Fynbos specialist, dr Tony Rebelo will be leading this 1st of many Blushing Bride Bioblitz's. Thank you Tony!

This year's Bioblitz will be a 'baby bride' Bioblitz as the valley totally burnt down in Feb 2021, but new fynbos is sprouting and resprouting everywhere. It is our perfect opportunity to start mapping out the regeneration of Fynbos in the valley and continue build up data in the years to come.

I am overwhelmed and actually totally gobsmacked by the response... 30 - THIRTY! - Fynbos enthusiasts (mostly citizen scientists, but including several specialists) have signed up for Sunday's excursion, even though weather will be quite cold. Thank you to each one!

So... if you are keen to join, although the group is already quite big, my arm is also quite rubbery.. just let me know, then we can see how to make a plan... mayhaps.. ..

... I am also thinking to start a 'Friends of the Bride' group to continue arranging bioblitzes and hacks and restoring paths, educational things etc.. in the valley. We will need all kinds of skills.. fundraising, website building, marketing, restoration ecology, etc.... do let me know if you are interested and keen to help set it up.

blessings
Santie
@dryfveer

Posted on September 30, 2021 17:39 by dryfveer dryfveer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 07, 2021

a 'baby bride' bioblitz :-)

This past weekend saw us venturing into Assegaaiboskloof, what I now refer to as 'blushing bride paradise', to scout out the area in preparation of the upcoming blushing bride bioblitz in October. We were fortunate enough to be joined by THE two epic fynbos gurus, Dr Tony Rebelo (who will also be leading the bioblitz) and Prof Pat Holmes. We were on a dual mission. Top of the agenda was to see whether any blushing brides, Serruria florida, have started sprouting after the recent fire and subsequent rain. (In my impatient layperson's mind, I still grapple with the fact that fynbos needs fire, that the entire miracle burns down, and then regenerates itself over several years..) Secondly, our aim was to check the status of invasive alien species in the valley.

I was slightly nervous that the mountain streams might be too full to cross after the recent good rains, but the small posse was unperturbed as we took off boots and successfully crossed the 1st stream close to 8am on Saturday morning. We were soon greeted by masses of purple bergbaroe (from the Khoikhoi), or cyphia bulbosa, flowering in amongst the bracken..., alongside mmmm, also patches of invasive alien baby black wattle...

The valley lay large and magnificently stretched out in front of us, Assegaaiboskloof luring us deeper and deeper in. It was slightly overcast, but that just rendered the surrounding mountains and krantzes more dramatic, a tall waterfall visible in the distance, as if dropping from the clouds. Little miracles of returning fynbos abounded, a striking moraea to my left, tiny drosera, bokkie baroe twirling around a grass.. (let me just state it here clearly.. all this new knowledge is due to iNaturalist.. a year ago I knew nothing)..

We started heading into Assegaaiboskloof itself, the scenery growing more dramatic with every step. Here you find a leucadendron resprouting, the burnt parent patiently watching over.. a step further an erica plukenetii that has escaped the fire and is in full flower. Is that a bugweed in this cross-stream? then the masses of yellow lilies, might it be moraea ochroleuca, apricot tulp? The whole journey permeated with questions and learning/sharing of the experience but also the passion ... curiosity, excitement about each find, awe .. What on earth did I ever do to deserve all of this?

Deeper into the kloof the mountain narrows down on you with every step. The slopes become steeper, waterfalls abound. The old plantation road is in total disrepair. Gravity and the forces of nature are taking over as gushing side streams have strewn massive boulders across the once concreted stream-crossings. We forge our way across. Tony explains that sandstone soils prevail on some slopes, and granite in others, and you can see it in the fynbos differing from one stretch to the next. Some sections were previously under pine, others not. Some escaped the Feb fire, most did not. Here we come across a rocky section with fan aloe abounding and in full flower, widdringtonia nodiflora resprouting.. there a bad patch of stinkbean babies (highly invasive aliens) .. and then.. can it be..YES! a Serruria florida, blushing bride plant, in the middle of the road! and look, some babies! tiny little baby brides right here at my feet, 2cm tall.. I melt inside.. even now, looking back and thinking about it.. my heart expands, I get all dekselswil tearry-eyed! :-).. we found them. they are doing there thing, and completely OK!

deeper into the valley the invasive canary island pine are sadly also resprouting en masse and at speed..... deep, hard work is needed.

but the fynbos currently in amongst.. disa bifida, satyrium, baby brides, restios and grasses.. fan aloes, baroe, ants, baboon, klipspringer, fire pelargonium, baby leucadendron, king protea resprouting, leucospermum lineare.. LIFE.. is alive..

hope you can join us for the 'baby bride' bioblitz planned for 2 or 3 Oct, weather will decide final date.

please message me with your e-mail address if you are interested, then I will send you the details.

blessed as always
Santie
@dryfveer

Posted on September 07, 2021 19:18 by dryfveer dryfveer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 24, 2021

Rape of the Blushing Bride

Rape of the Blushing Bride

Frank Batchelor named his beautiful Serruria florida X barbigera (now phylicoides) hybrid: ‘BRIDESMAID’)

Rapturous with sweet allure
the ‘BLUSHING BRIDE’, aloof and pure.
Was gossip for permissive minds
Of proteas blessed with evil minds.

Monoecious need no double bed
Like other types of newly wed.
Sex motivations – a la Freud
In her make-up were null and void.

Though males of the other plants would plead
She spurned their obvious lecherous need.
No A1 leuco sperm came near
No leucadendron would she bear.

No pity would she show to Phylla
(The mere idea might even kill her).
His ardent advance appraised as spurious
Made protea SULabashed and PHURious.

So if such a BRIDE were never laid
How come her seeds produced a "MAID"?
A case for immaculate conception
Received unanimous rejection.

You can blame the bees or even the birds
But the judge summed up with these few words.
"Barbigera" must take the blame
for putting ‘BLUSHING BRIDE’ to shame.

But why condemn when compassion leans
To results that can justify the means?
With cynical sympathy, just say rather:
"It’s a clever child that knows its father".

H.L.D. Wood, 1979
(from https://www.proteaatlas.org.za/poems.htm)

Posted on August 24, 2021 08:57 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 09, 2021

Blushing Bride Bioblitz - 2 or 3 Oct 2021 - area/life forms to be bio-blitzed

For those of you who do not know the area, we will be heading into the upper regions of the Berg River, where it is but a mountain stream. Have a look at the map here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yytjILttDul0VpUqXkYouhg5GlNO54bcuHKBLuNgSfw/edit

With special permission from Cape Nature, we will be driving in to the Parking Spot, then hike in 5km via the upper jeep track until we reach the Blushing Bride Paradise. Another 2 km or so into pristine fynbos and a beautiful little waterfall. And back out via bottom river trail.. terrain is rough - proper hiking boots and gear, long pants and shirts will be a requirement.

The idea is to map out ALL life forms, alien, indigenous, plants, insects, lichen, lizards etc etc.. we are really about eco-system restoration.. remove aliens and allow indigenous fauna and flora to thrive.

Please do let me know in advance via message ( I need your e-mail address and cell nr) if you would like to join, as numbers are limited and we need to plan vehicle access etc. I will try my utmost to accommodate you all.

blessed
Santie

Posted on August 09, 2021 18:16 by dryfveer dryfveer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 05, 2021

The first of many: Blushing Bride Bioblitz - weekend 2 or 3 October 2021!

I am super excited to announce the 1st of many: Blushing Bride Bioblitz, taking place on the weekend of the 2nd/3rd of October 2021. The final date will be announced closer to the time, depending on the weather.

The aim of this Bioblitz is to get the Franschhoek and Stellenbosch communities, and everyone else who is keen, to record as many species, alien and indigenous, as possible, in Assegaaiboskloof in the upper Berg River, the home of the last wild population of the well known and loved Blushing Bride, Serruria Florida. We really want to ignite hearts, souls and minds to this incredible gem in our midst, so that it can be re-appreciated and loved and ownership taken thereof in order to protect and restore its home.

We sit at a spectacular juncture in time... let me take you one step back.. we started planning this bioblitz in December 2020, it would have been part of a beautiful programme of talks and training sessions in Woordfees, the annual cultural festival in Stellenbosch, in September 2021, coinciding with the flowering time of the Blushing Brides. After all had been planned, specialists committed, excited and lined up,... a devastating fire scorged the whole of Assegaaiboskloof and Jonkershoek valleys in Feb 2021, razing the home of the blushing brides to the ground...... then followed more covid-related waves and lockdowns... and Woordfees changed its format so that it was unfortunately not possible any longer to host our programme there... back to the drawing board it was.. !!

The Feb 21 fire broke my heart in two... I am a visual and tactile person, and seeing and being in fynbos has become my reason for being.. yes, I know now that fynbos needs fire, but over the years, Assegaaiboskloof has become a sanctuary to me, an escape into paradise.. and when smoke billowed across the Boland for 8 days, and I saw paradise going up in flames, I won't deny it, I was devastated.

... it took some persuasion ( I won't mention names) about new life, bulbs and orchids to be discovered .. to take me back into the valley 3 weeks ago, just to realize that paradise is not lost! Quite the opposite. Fynbos has evolved and has survived with fire for millenia past and will continue doing so for millenia to come... I witnessed first hand with my own eyes how the skeletal frames of widdringtonia nodiflora are sending out new shoots, how baboon have returned, buck spoor... fan aloes, blackened by the fire but very much alive, are in flower en masse, reseeding proteas, the skeletons in tact all over the hills, not destroyed but presenting perfect seeds on outstretched arms... but also canary island pines resprouting and already at knee hight.. hakea.. wattle...

...which brings me back to this spectacular juncture, opportunity in our midst.. from now on, year on year on year after Feb 21, we have the opportunity to map out growth and life and regeneration of this unique patch of fynbos. Now is our moment to really get to know it intimately. And it will not disappoint.. AND in parallel, we have to note and take action against invasive aliens in the midst, from the ground up, not stopping, until all is eradicated... (hack is planned for Nov 21.. watch this space)

2 or 3 Oct 2021 is when the 1st of many Blushing Bride Bioblitzs' is happening. Let me know via inbox message if you would like to join, please add e-mail address and cell nr. Numbers are limited and participation will be on a first come first served basis. (I will try my utmost to accommodate everybody! I promise)

Take care, look after yourselves,
Santie
@dryfveer

Posted on August 05, 2021 19:10 by dryfveer dryfveer | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 23, 2021

Blushing Bride Serruria florida, Trots van Franschoek

Blushing Bride Serruria Florida, Trots van Franschoek
(from https://www.proteaatlas.org.za/blushing.htm)

The Blushing Bride is part of our local folklore: few plant species can have had as much conflicting information written about them. One thing is certain, however! Botanically Serruria florida was officially discovered by Carl Thunberg in the Fransch Hoek Mountains in 1773. It then disappeared from the scientific annals for over 100 years. From then on authorities differ in their accounts. However, it appears to have been generally accepted by botanists of the day that it was extinct.

According to Conrad Leighton (Cape Floral Kingdom, 1960, Juta), the Blushing Bride was rediscovered at the French Hoek flower show in 1914, by Professor Harold Pearson (then director of the one-year old Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens), in the company of Dr Rudolf Marloth and Rt Hon. G. Brand van Zyl, who collected a few seeds from which "all the thousands of plants grown at Kirstenbosch subsequently, distributed as seed to members of the Botanical Society and the horticultural trade, and now grown commercially in South Africa and introduced to other countries" are derived.

Sima Eliovson (Proteas for pleasure, 1967, Howard Timmins) attributes the rediscovery to Professor Peter MacOwan in 1891 in the Assegaaibos Valley. She also notes that security guards were used to protect the plants while the seeds, destined as the source of almost all the cultivated specimens available around the world, ripened in the Kirstenbosch Gardens.

Prof Brian Rycroft (Proteas, 1977, Philatelic Services) states that in 1900 Arther Buller and Lionel Baker rediscovered the species at the far end of the Franschhoek Valley in a remote kloof. He also states "even if the entire population of Serruria florida should die out in its natural home, the species is no longer threatened with extinction because thousands of plants are now in cultivation".

If the rediscovery of the Blushing Bride is so uncertain, imagine trying to determine how it got the name "Blushing Bride":

Professor Robert Compton suggested that the flowers may have been formerly used as a favourite bridal bouquet at French Hoek weddings.

However, the most popular version is attributed by Conrad Leighton to Mr C Hayes of Port Elizabeth:

Historically it is reputed that French Hugenots farmers would approach their girlfriends with a S. florida flower in their lapels when about to ask for their hand in marriage. The common name, Blushing Bride, apart from the obvious inference of the flowers colour, derives from the fact that the suitor's intention was apparent to all who met him, much to the embarrassment of his bride to be. The deeper the pink colour the more serious the intentions of the suitor.

However, Cristo Smith (Common names of South African Plants, 1966) curtly dismisses the name to "poetic conceit". In fact, there is little to suggest that the species had a common name until the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens started to distribute the seeds and plants.

The issue of the common name is not one to be taken lightly. If Serruria florida was used extensively by suitors and florists, then its rarity may be attributable to over-exploitation, and the species may have been more widespread within the Franschhoek Mountains. However, it may be a naturally rare species, sufficiently rare for it never to have been noticed by the farmers of the Hugenot Valley. Thus the name may be appropriate as "blush" derives from the Middle English blusche meaning a gleam or glimpse: until 1914 no more than glimpses of the rosy glow of Serruria florida were obtained.

Knowledge of the ecology of the Blushing Bride summarizes attitudes of the conservation authorities towards fire. During the 1930's the number of known plants were found to be declining. A bush fire in 1943 destroyed the only known wild population. Three years later sixty plants were flourishing at the site. Surely the lesson should have been obvious! And yet the decline in numbers which occurred as the vegetation grew older was attributed to frequent fires and consequently the area was rigorously protected. In 1962 not a single plant remained in the original area. A few additional colonies were found, some with only old straggly plants, others with young ones. Under Marie Vogts guidance the area of the original colony was cleared of undergrowth to encourage any seeds to germinate and to prevent competition from other plants: to no avail. However, an accidental fire which swept the area resulted in massive germination and soon there were lots of plants in the colony. This lesson, that Fynbos plant species must have fire and that seed banks must be considered when estimating plant numbers, was also discovered from research on the Marsh Rose Orothamnus zeyheri in the same decade.

Serruria florida has a high economical potential. It is easily grown from seeds, responds very well to pruning, is a fast grower, and flowers within 15 months of germinating. However, it is relatively short-lived and only produces a commercially viable crop for about three years. As a garden plant it is superb, provided you remember not to disturb its roots and preferably not to plant it in flowers beds which are regularly disturbed (and therefore ideal breeding grounds for Phytophthora).

Posted on July 23, 2021 20:30 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 4 comments | Leave a comment