7 December 2018
A WEEK OF FLOWERS

The Greater Kruger National park is teaming with life. Leopards, lions, elephants and the like usually take centre stage during any safari, but the bush has so much more than that on offer! This week I have decided to focus on the gorgeous flowers that have popped out in the Timbavati at this time of year.

We have had some good rain over the last week, with over 40mm falling so far. The rain along with the warmer weather spurs all forms of life into action and suddenly the bush is alive with colour and sound. All too often we think of Africa as a stark and unforgiving wilderness, but the effects of summer on the areas around Tanda Tula are incredible to witness.

The African Weeping Wattle


 

These stunning trees are just starting to come into bloom and the riverbanks are awash with their bright yellow flowers at the moment. The “weeping” part of the name is used to describe this sort of tree because they host spittle-bugs.These small creatures bore into the stems of the plant to harvest sap, they then produced waste. When enough of these bugs are present all the dropping waste gives the impression that the tree is weeping. Due to their lovely soft leaves, this species is often referred to as the “toilet paper tree” - I don’t think I need to go into detail... 

The Crinum Lily


 

Crinum lilies are most noticeable after the rainswhen they pop out of the ground having lain as a dormant bulb during the dry wintery months, these beautiful white flowers eventually turn to a pink candy stripped blossom. The bulbs are a great source of food for elephants and I have had a number of wonderful sightings when these large mammals attempt to find these delicious morsels. The elephants will curl their trunks into a fist and then lightly tap the ground until a hollow echo is herd. They then use their enormous feet to kick soil out of the way so they can dig the bulbs up. However, this is when the conundrum occurs. How does an elephant get a football sized tuber from the ground into his mouth? He will resort to gently rolling the treat all the way up his leg, over his chest and somehow into his mouth.

The Mopane Pomegranate

This is definitely one of the most striking plants to see when in flower! I guess what makes them so dramatic is that they are often the very first shrub to produce colour right at the end winter.Nothing else is blooming yet and so they are in stark contrast to their surroundings. Their bright yellow flowers creating hives of activity around the Timbavati. The insects who are around at this time of year are drawn to the luminous yellow plants like bees to a honeypot. They represent the first ray of hope that summer is coming!  

Tree Wisteria

 Sometimes being scarce does help these trees stand out when the time is right. Often in the distance, deep in the bush,we can just make out the vibrant purple flowers of the tall and somewhat slender Tree Wisteria. Finding one in full bloom before the baboons get to it is always a special find on safari. I haven’t tried eating the flowers yet, but if baboons like them then I am fairly tempted.So far their taste in fruit has never let me down.  

The Baboons Tail

This plant could be the lead character in its very own “Ugly Duckling” type story, after all it follows a very similar path. For most of the year the Baboons Tail lays perched at the highest and coarsest parts of the Greater Kruger landscape as a dry, tough brownish tail - like scaly cucumber. Only after the rain does it become so much more than that when it graciously sprouts a number of bright green leaves before making way for a stunning white or lavender coloured flower.

The Ground Lily

I don’t think I have ever had a group of guests at Tanda Tula Safari Camp that have allowed me to just drive past one of these flowers.All of the guests want to hop off the vehicle to get a closer look at this alien like puff of red and pink protruding from the coarse sand of a sodic sight. These magnificent plants occur in much the same way as the Crinum Lily. They also grow from a large underground bulb. Their leaves are loved by the many hungry herbivore which is evident due to their short and squared trimming. Luckily the flower doesn’t seem to appeal to any of the hungry grazers.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog on just a few of the flowers that begin to emerge at this time of year. There are still more of them to come and I look forward to sharing some more information based on my experience as well some ecological and traditional medicinal uses. The season is just getting started!

And remember, when in nature, no matter where you are, to stop and smell the roses!

Until next time, happy snapping

Luke

 

 

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