Sunday, 27 September 2015

Outing report- 27 September 2015 Beacon Hill, Umtamvuna NR

Text & photos by Hazel van Rooyen

Attendees: Herbie & Jeanette Osborne, Stan & Val Culley, Doug & Angie Butcher, Barry Willis & Sue Hansbury, Margaret Jones, Irma Smook, Keith & Maureen Roach, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen
Plant experts: Dorothy McIntyre, Graham & Kate Grieve

The main purpose of our visit to the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve  at this time of year is to see the lovely spring flowers which carpet the veld and grow in between the pretty sandstone rock formations around the Beacon Hill entrance.  Plant experts Dorothy McIntyre, and Graham & Kate Grieve kindly joined us and led us through the veld and boggy areas, sharing their vast knowledge of all the flowers, many of them endemic to this area.  These experts are members of the Pondoland CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) and if you are interested in seeing what plants are currently at their best in the reserve and other interesting information, their blogspot is

yellow daisies (Berkheyas) and white everlastings (Helichrysums)

The weather was very misty with rain threatening and a cold breeze so we bundled up and began with a walk southwards.  We saw tall yellow daisies (Berkheyas) and white everlastings (Helichrysums) nodding their heads amongst the long grasses.

white everlastings (Helichrysums)

Looking in another direction swathes of blue Asters greeted us.  As we got closer, hiding shyly amongst the taller flowers were delicate hairbells, Gladiolus and the endemic rarity Eriosema umtamvunense.

blue Asters
endemic rarity Eriosema umtamvunense

After our coffee, the “experts” arrived and after some interesting information on the geology of the area, took us over a rocky outcrop pointing out Cyrtorchis arcuata from the orchid family, explaining that the yellow petals indicate that they have already been pollinated which tells the insects not to waste their precious energy. 

Cyrtorchis arcuata from the orchid family

A tiny but beautiful plant is Brachystelma australe.  Keith pointed out a variety of Hypoxis which is the famous African Potato and another plant used in traditional medicine is Ledebouria revoluta.

Brachystelma australe
variety of Hypoxis which is the famous African Potato
Ledebouria revoluta

In the grasses next to the rocks the bright red and yellow splashes of red hot pokers (Kniphofia coddiana) caught the eye and brightened up the misty day. My own favourite was the Doll’s Powderpuff (Cyanotis speciosa).

Kniphofia coddiana
Doll’s Powderpuff (Cyanotis speciosa)

Further down the valley, the ground became damper and this was favoured by Watsonia umtamvunae, the Orange Ifafa Lilly and Disa stachyoides (a type of orchid) and lower down became quite boggy underfoot which was enjoyed by another Disa called similis.

Watsonia umtamvunae
Disa stachyoides
Disa similis

In the meantime some of our party had got side-tracked and actually did some birding!  A Gurney’s Sugarbird attracted some attention and Stan took the attached great photo.

Gurney’s Sugarbird
(Photo Stan Culley)

Species seen (18):
Boubou, Southern
Bulbul, Dark-capped
Canary, Yellow-fronted
Cisticola, Croaking
Goose, Spurwing
Harrier Hawk, African
Oriole, Black-headed
Pigeon, African Olive
Pipit, African
Seed-eater, Streaky-headed
Starling, Red-winged
Stonechat, African (M&F)
Sugarbird, Gurney’s
Sunbird, Amethyst
Sunbird, Greater Double-collared
Weaver, Cape
Widowbird, Fan-tailed
Widowbird, Red-collared