The benefit of remaining in a locality for an extended period is the opportunity to adjust to its pace and, to an observer, experience it in its own time. To move past one’s first impression and to start to understand the nuances and subtleties that come with time and shared experiences together is a gift. Having the opportunity to visit gardens, natural areas and plants more than once allows for this relationship to be built and to get to know these places and organisms in their own right.
Donald Peattie stated it best when he described getting to know the trees that typify the landscape in the Northeastern United States:
“The first reward of tree study – but one that lasts you to the end of your days – is that as you walk abroad, follow a rushing stream, climb a hill, or sit on a rock to admire the view, the trees stand forth, proclaiming their names to you. Though at first you may fix their identity with more or less conscious effort, the easy-to-know species soon become like the faces of your friends, known without thought, and bringing a host of associations” – Donald Culross Peattie “A Natural History of Trees”
Learning a new herbaceous or bulb flora is much the same but the time spent getting to know each is fleeting. For South African botanists each year brings the promise of traveling to new localities to meet new floristic friends or returning to the tried and true sites to be greeted with the familiarities of old acquaintances.
Being a neophyte to a flora, especially one as diverse as South Africa’s, is a humbling experience and I must admit I am still in the gawking phase of my floristic relationships. Drawn to the more garish, my eye is slowly adjusting to the refined beauty of the glasslike Restios or scrambling shrubs. The shrubs and Restios at times can have a rather drab appearance but cannot be missed because of the structural components they play in the landscape. Appreciating and understanding these elements allows one to see the “forest from the trees.” As the season turns away from bulbs and into early summer so does the botanist’s attention turn towards the greater diversity of plants and the ecological role they play.
Tienie Versfeld is a site that I have had the pleasure to explore on three occasions so far. The site is 2,072 hectares (5,120 acres) in size and was donated to Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden in 1957. It is a site with marshy lowlands, drier grasslands and has not been plowed or extensively managed (aside from fire) for many decades. Just driving past on the road on a cloudy day, it would be easy to miss out on the great diversity of bulbs and geophytes that occupy the site. When the weather is warm and the sun is shining, the majesty of the site is fully expressed. A natural treasure and attraction for visitors who are exploring the town of Darling or heading to the West Coast National Park, this reserve is a must see from August – October.
The photos from this post will display some of the flora encountered while visiting this site with a break of about two weeks between observations. The community was drastically different in display even over this short period of time.
First visit to Tienie Versfeld – Early September
Tienies Versfeld late September
During the second trip out to visit Tienie Versfeld we also had an opportunity to visit the Darling Flower Show. The show in principle was similar to the Bredasdorp with displays featuring wild collected plants exhibited in naturalistic settings. The Darling Flower show was smaller in size compared to Bredasdorp but the attention to detail was higher and the displays more naturalistic in feel.