Monday, 19 January 2015

Summer at Rookwood

a view from above overlooking parts of Rookwood in the summer

Summer time is always a very rewarding time with many wonderful sights and sounds that surround us. Depending on the seasonal rains, the veldt comes alive with many different flowers and fruits.

a pair of Greater Striped swallows

This year the rains have been reasonably good and the veldt has grown well. From the time we hear the very characteristic call of the Black Cuckoo singing its’ mournful tune of “I’m so sick” or maybe “Time to plough,” we know that possibly the rains are imminent. With the rains the mud is produced for the Greater Striped Swallows, who work very hard at producing their rather precarious type mud houses to be able to nest.

the tiny heads of the African Paradise Flycatcher in their web-bound nest

The apricot tree outside the kitchen is now fully leafed – enough for the African Paradise Flycatchers to build their tiny little nest bound with spider webs in the branches.

the tall Maermanne!!!

While the birds are busy nesting, the plants and trees at Rookwood start flowering. One of the plant species that start early summer is that of the Maerman (Urginea altissima). This strange looking plant sends out a long flower that is extremely tall. The bulb and leaves are toxic to all stock and the cattle and sheep do not eat it at all. However, during the winter months they readily eat the dried leaves. Not a very attractive plant, but very conspicuous due to its height.


the very attractive Maerman flowers

The Puzzle bush in fruit

At about the same time another bush often bursts into purple flowers all over. This bush is commonly called a Puzzle Bush or Cape Lilac, but is known as an Ehretia rigida. It then produces fleshy orange fruit, which the Barbets particularly love (Pied and Black-collared).

Brides bush in flower

One particular small tree/bush that has very pretty flowers is the Brides bush (Pavetta species). There are not many on Rookwood, but when they are in full flower, they truly stand out from a distance. Apparently the roots can be used for rheumatism.

a close up of the Pavetta species

By the middle of December the Acacia karroo is full in flower with yellow flowers. This is the main representative of the savannas of the Eastern Cape. These small round flower heads will later turn into pods that are highly nutritious for livestock and game and sought after by all animals. No wonder it is called Sweet thorn. Although it is commonly used as firewood for braaing (barbecuing), it can produce some very pretty furniture.

Acacia karroo or sweet thorn in full bloom

Common poison bush
the fruit of the poison bush

By the middle of summer the Common poison bush (Acokanthera oppositifolia) has produced its’ seed. Many of these bushes can be found on all the ridges of Rookwood. There are truly some magnificent specimens on Rookwood. This plant is highly toxic and even grilling some meat on the fire made with the wood of this bush can be fatal. The bark and wood were used to make a very potent arrow poison and the only part of the plant that is edible, is that of the ripe fruit.


the flowering Agave
Depending on the rains the alien Agave or sisal will produce a wonderful show of yellow flowers. These flowers are a hive of activity with many different bird species either feeding off the nectar or the insects present. They will flower for almost a month before they die and the whole ‘shoot’ then dies off. Many people use this dried up part for a South African Christmas tree. The plant was introduced into South Africa from South America and can be utilized as fodder during the dry periods when the leaves are sliced into pieces, particularly for the cattle. This is also the plant that the famous alcoholic drink (tequila) can be made from.

the flowers of the sisal plant being uitilized by the bees

the Bulbine in flower in the river

Not every summer is the same at Rookwood and the amount of rainfall will be reflected in the growth of the veldt, however, it is always rewarding to take a walk down the river or up the hill on the farm.

a severe thunderstorm with hail approaching

As the direct rays of the sun turns and starts retreating towards the equator, the domestic stock and all other animals make maximum use of the summer season to breed, feed and stock up for the winter months.

young lambs observing a Glossy starling looking for insects

We are truly blessed to live in such a diverse country and I am always saddened at how few of our own indigenous plants (trees and bushes) are actually planted in cultivated gardens. I am fortunate to live with one very big indigenous garden!

a tranquil summer scene at the dam at  Rookwood

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