Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas at Marloth Reserve ...

The family spent three days at Marloth Nature Reserve, just outside Swellendam, over Christmas.
What a wonderful place to chill.
Gigi and I drove out to Swellendam (3 hours) on Saturday morning.

Once one gets beyond the belt of pine plantations that fringe the Langeberg Mountains this is the view

The temperature reached above 30degC on most days so the most attractive places to be were the patches of relic Afromontane Forest in the kloofs (ravines) where it was cool

Beautiful cool mountain streams run down all the kloofs

Suikerbekkie (Sugar bird) Cottage where we stayed

As soon as we had unpacked we went exploring

Glenstroom hut is close to Suikerbekkie Cottage where we stayed and is the first hut on the Swellendam Hiking Trail

The cooking and 'dining' hut at Glenstroom


Cycle trail indicator lying in a local water canal

A typical local stream

Harveya stenosiphon

With magnificent red flowers

The Langeberg Mountains
Coloniesbos (left) and
Duiwelsbos (right)

The top of Coloniesbos (Colony's forest/wood) where Gigi and I walked on the first evening

The boys drove out to join us after they had finished work

Duiwelsbos (Devils forest/wood)

Rothmannia capensis

According to von Breitenbach, 'Southern Cape Forests and Trees', 1974, the name of the genus is in honour of a Swellendam farmer, Rothmann, host and helper of Carl Thunberg when the latter Swedish botanist explored the Doktersbos (so named after Thunberg who was originally a physician) and Grootvadersbosch in 1772 and discovered the tree there

We visited Doktorsbos the following day

Fruit of Rothmannia capensis

Leaves of Rothmannia capensis

Fruit and leaves of the the Red Candlewood tree, Pterocelastrus rostratus (I think)

The leaf shape is wrong for the more common Candlewood tree Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus

A typical Western Cape mountain stream

Leaves on the forest floor

A beautiful small pool

Gigi listening to bird calls

And there it is!

The Hard Pear (Olinea ventosa) is the big tree, centre rear
It's wood was so hard that the early settlers could not cut it with hand saws, so many mature trees remain in our forests

Lying horisontally is a Blossom Tree (Virgilia oroboides), a 'pioneer species', that is common on forest margins, grows fast and is relatively shortlived

Virgilia provides shelter for the slower growing dominant trees to establish

Decending through Coloniesbos we came across this magnificent stand of tree ferns

Leaving Coloniesbos

The boys arrived shortly after we got back to the cottage

Chris lighting a fire

Nic and Gigi downloading images

Gigi - chilling

Chris contemplating

Nic off to bed - falls asleep listening to music

We slept late and went off to explore Duiwelsbos and find the waterfall in the afternoon

Many trees in Duiwelsbos grow in rings like this

This ring of trees must have copiced from one large old single stem that has since died and rotted away

Who knows how old the rootstock is, from which this ring of relative young trees copiced

A closer view showing how all the trees are joined at their base

Perhaps the original tree was burned down like the one in the picture further down this post

Gigi and Chris in Duiwelsbos

Red Pear, (Scolopia mundii)

A stunning turning wood

On the forest floor we found this interesting specimen ...
This is the fruiting body of a fungus called Aseroe rubra.
It's apparently fungus from Australia - another Australian invasive in South Africa - enough already!

The brown 'chocolate' is foul smelling spore slime that attracts insects who then crawl/fly off and spread the spores.

Better pictures of Aseroea rubra in Kirstenbosch on one of my previous posts

The further up the kloof one gets into the forest the more big trees there still occur, not having been felled by the early settlers

This is a wonderful Outeniqua Yellowwood tree (Podocarpus falcatus)

Here is a big hardpear tree, burned out from the centre

It seems that the big fynbos fires outside the forest shoot burning debris into the forest

This causes localised fires within the forest itself

A huge Ironwood tree (Olea capensis)

A stunning, much sought after, turning wood

The waterfall at the top of Duiwelskloof

Gigi checking out the waterfall


Cape Holley tree (Ilex mitis)

Sunset from Suikerbekkie cottage

Pitty about the invasive eucalyptus trees!

Christmas dinner is taken on Christmas eve in the German tradition

The boys thank Esprit very much for the two Ipods

Next morning, Christmas day, we took a walk up to Doktorsbos (so named after Carl Thunberg who was originally a physician)

Nearby some idiot forester planted an extension to the local plantation high up on a ridiculously steep slope surrounded on three sides by Fynbos

Now knowing that Fynbos communities are fire driven ecosystems, guess what ...

The lower slopes of the mountains are dominated by invasive alien vegetation, pines, eucalypts, black wattle and blackwood among others

The temperature was over 30degC

So we stopped at a small stream

This was the most co-operative frog imaginable

He loved having his photograph taken

Red current tree (Rhus chirindensis)

Red current tree (Rhus chirindensis)

A pool in the stream

Foresters also have the habit of planting belts of Eucalyptus trees as fire belts between blocks of pines

Eucalypts just dry out and 'kill' the soil where they grow

Nic, our family geologist, pointed out to me when we were traveling in Namibia how the wind blows away the dry soil leaving a layer of rocks on the surface

Look at how dry that soil is

The soil drying out is causing the forest road to crack and slide downhill

If this is not repaired soon guess who is not going to get their vehicles to where they need to figh the next fire

Panorama to the south

The Langeberg to the north
See the burned plantation on the very steep slope

Another big errosion gully essentially caused by all those soil dessicating alien trees

The reserve buildings

'Nice' big swathe of invasive kikuyu grass growing where buildings previously stood

And on the way past those buildings we come across flowers of a passion fruit or Granidella (Passiflora edulis)

And its fruit

The next day the boys left early to get to work in Cape Town and we followed a more leasurely pace to join a family gathering in Stellenbosch


Andi Wolfe said...

Looks like a nice Christmas holiday! Thanks for posting it. BTW - the Harveya is H. stenosiphon. I collected one somewhere in that area several years ago.

Dennis Laidler said...

Yeh - we had a good break. Thanks Andi for the id on the Harveya.