The South African autumn affords those who venture out upon the hills before sunrise the most ethereal views of the Overberg. Wet with the rains of May, puddles punctuate the paths, lanes and dirt roads—mirrors crudely shaped but polished to perfection, faithfully reflecting the sky.
Surrounded by such beauty, I work diligently at my anthology. Though presently developing “Rietpypie”, I occasionally revisit poems already completed, testing those new ideas that come with re-examination, and thus, “A Batis” returns to the writing desk as I try to improve upon it.
It is late spring in the Overberg (the southernmost region of South Africa) and whilst many waysides yet are in bloom1, others are high with wild oats. In the early evening, they sway in the breeze as the sun makes gold of the stubble on the hills.
On Friday (13 November 2020), when the photograph below was taken, I happened upon a swath of Lobelia erinus, Ornithogalum strictum and even Micranthus tubulosus.
Last Friday, I walked up the Little River Mountains range, which often appears in my writing and photography, in the company of Dr Chris Whitehouse, a botanist who owns—or rather stewards, as he reverently puts it—a swath of land upon one of its eastern slopes.
A fount of knowledge—how envious was I of his command of botanical names1—he introduced me to many species that bloom there this time of year (the end of winter in South Africa), waiting patiently whilst I admired and photographed the flowers and scenery2:
The mountain was laden with Leucadendron whose green conquered the slopes in spectacular fashion.
Rocks and rock formations, expertly composed by Nature’s hand, created intricate visual scherzos.
At times, the cliffs were surreal in photomontage-like contrast with the surrounding landscape.
In their seams, Ikebanaesque arrangements burst forth whilst lichens freckled their faces.
We would often encounter my beloved Lobelia, mostly L. Pinifolia, in violet and white.
I also saw for the first time, Gladiolus debilis, a lily my mother sometimes recalls from her childhood3.
Other first sightings included Cyphia volubilis winding up the slender stems of a reluctant Restio;
Drosera cistiflora and D. pauciflora with their delicate petals distracting from tentacles below;
Salvia africana, its scruffy flower perching with a twig in its mouth (a protruding stigma);
Manulea cheiranthus with its small yellow starfish flowers cavorting atop the stems;
and a little Nemesia lucida4, most delightful of all, which, were it not for the attentiveness of my companion, I would have missed! Its adorable expression so captivated me that, reflecting upon it yesterday, I composed to it a little ode—a sketch for a future anthology!
In retrospect, I should have taken notes there and then—supplementing my DSLR photography with iPhone shots, which I could have annotated in the moment—saving me the subsequent search for botanical names (my occupation these past few days, hence the delay of this update), some of which I will doubtlessly have gotten wrong. Incidentally, Dr Whitehouse identified the mysterious flower I discovered two weeks ago (mentioned in “A Buck, a Bush and a Lily”, the fourth image in that update): a member of the genus Roepera, most likely Roepera fulva.
Photographed with the encumbrance of a visor (due to the pandemic), the images are not as good as I would have liked, but I trust they convey some of the beauty of the mountain and its flora.
She would pick “armfuls” of them when she was young, on her way home after a day of watching the sheep on the Little River Mountains. Incidentally, I used an iPhone 11 Pro to take the photograph above (I wanted to share the encounter with my mother in the moment, but there was no service) and must recommend it for detail and ease of use; it captured the delicacy of the tepals, lost in the Nikon images (of which I include one below, for comparison).
The closest match in my reference book is Nemesia macrocarpa which this flower does not resemble. Other sources lead me to believe it is N. lucida.