Wednesday, 7 May 2014


Pastel colours of autumn

 Living in the Eastern Cape and living approximately 36 degrees south of the equator, we definitely experience a definite four seasons on Rookwood.  Over the years, one gets used to the signs in the veldt to the change of seasons.

Presently we are now in autumn.  I call autumn the pastel months as in the evenings the sky will give an array of pastel colours while the sun is setting.


There are two flowers that show the approach of autumn at Rookwood.  The Clematis brachiata (Old man’s beard), a creeper,  gives a beautiful show towards the end of summer and turns into what looks like an old man’s beard when it finished flowering.

Old man's beard in flower

Old man's beard at the end of flowering.

Nerina in flower

Another autumn flowering plant is that of the Nerina.  This year possibly due to the huge amount of rain we had in February, they flowered prolifically on the rock bank at the top end of the farm.  
A bank of Nerinas flowering

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During autumn the dragonflies and butterflies seem to come out in full force. They are truly very colourful but certainly not the easiest to photograph.

Golden orb web spider
When one walks through the veldt at this time of the year, one has to dodge the golden orb web spiders and their extensive webs strung between the thorn trees.

 It is during this season that the Match flower (Moquiniella rubra) and Mistletoe (Viscum rotundifolium) bloom.  They are parasitic and attach themselves to the stems of the Acacia, Euclea, Olea and Rhus trees. 

Match flower
 As autumn moves on into winter, the days become shorter and the nights longer and the temperature likewise takes a drop. 



However, in winter we are so lucky to have the Aloe ferox.  This Aloe, well known for its medicinal properties, is found quite abundantly on Rookwood and towards the end of May the first signs of red start to show. The hillside behind the house then becomes a hive of activity for many birds particularly the Malachite Sunbird as they feed off the nectar from the Aloes.  I am convinced that they are a source of food for many non-nectar bird species too as one just has to study the faces of the weavers or orioles for the tell-tale sign of some sort of involvement with the Aloe flowers.

Aloe ferox in bloom at Rookwood

Mapassa covered with snow

Our winters are cold and frost is common.  It does snow, but mainly on the mountains around us and once anintense cold front has blown over the country we will wake up to Mapassa covered with a layer of snow.


On 25th July 2011 we experienced the heaviest snowfall that has been recorded on Rookwood.  We woke up to a white world outside and it continued to snow throughout the day.

Oz looking at the snow covered ground outside!

Oz who was a pup still loved it – it fascinated him.

Our fowls were not sure as how to cope with this and looked for suitable shelter! 
Although the snow looked wonderful and it definitely gave rise to the best spring ever, we are not really geared to living with snow.

The winter nights are often clear and crisp and the night sounds of the Fiery-necked nightjar and the river frogs’ calls can be heard from afar.  It is also the best time to observe the night skies and the galaxies.  We are fortunate to have ‘clean’ skies with very little pollution. The rivers run trickles quietly and are extremely clean. By the end of August we are all looking forward to the winds dying down and the warmer, longer days.  July and August are known as the windiest months with the NW winds howling especially on the days the cold fronts pass over the Western Cape.  Hopefully the first early thunderstorms will appear during September, but not without caution as this is when the veldt is still at its driest and very susceptible to lightning strikes and burning.

Erythrina acanthocarpa

Towards the end of September the veldt starts showing signs of new life.  The Acacia Karoo and the White Stinkwood trees (Celtis africanus) will start sending out bright green shoots.  A very special plant found in our area only, is that of the Tamboekie thorn.  This bush is part of the Erythrina family and will flower before producing leaves.It has a very cork-like root system and the brown seeds of the plant were used as a charm against evil.
Tamboekie thorn in flower

The bright green trees of the Buffalo thorn in front
One of the trees that takes its time to shoot is that of the Buffalo thorn (Ziziphus micronata) however, it will be one of the last to loose its leaves during winter and the stock then love this. One can describe these leaves as ‘simba chips’ for the stock once they have fallen off the trees. 
Acacia karoo in flower

By mid- summer all the Acacia Karoo thorn trees will go into full bloom with their powdery little yellow flowers

A thunderstorm brewing at Rookwood

The insects, bees and birds love this period. During summer we experience thunderstorms.

Hail stones packed up against the stone wall

Sometimes it can be quite violent and at times it can be in the form of hail.
Hail storms if extreme can be very damaging to grass and can strip the trees of their leaves, however, are reputed to be very rich in nitrogen.

Thunderstorm clouds after a storm

Most of the storms develop in the late afternoon and we are subjected to spectacular colours at times.  Should the rainfalls been good the rivers are normally running strongly and the veldt is alive with energy.

Tuli river flowing strongly

Setting moon in autumn

The end of summer comes with many of the trees laden with fruit that is a source of food for many birds. And as the summer season draws to a close, the cycle is completed with the advent of autumn again.

Black duck in the evening sun on the Tuli river

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