“Serendipity”, meaning the spirit of happy and unexpected discoveries was the order of the day during the latest bioblitz held on Mountainlands Nature Reserve. A flock of scientists, members of the public and children were hairpinning up and down the hills documenting plant and insect species during the one-and-a-half-day stint, which aimed to expand the database of species found on the reserve.
An especially thrilling surprise was finding the plant Senecio triodontiphyllus in the north of the reserve. According to the Redlist of South African Plants it was known from three collections made before 1930 and was again rediscovered in 2008 at one of the historical locations. Thus a new location within the reserve can now be added for this vulnerable plant. Hemizygia stalmansii, a rare endemic plant that was first recognized as a new species by Mark Stalmans in 1994 and is also known from only a few locations was also collected. It is currently in flower and could be easily spotted on a remote and steep hillside.
Members of the Lepidopterists’ Society of South Africa netted and photographed butterflies aided by children from Barberton Primary and Swaziland. Dr Alan Gardner, a Lecturer from the South African Wildlife College close to Orpen Gate was richly rewarded with a new butterfly species for this area known as Grass Yellow (Eurema floricola).
With the photos of butterflies taken by Christopher Willis from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and contributions made by other members of the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa, the database can now also be expanded with between 20 to 25 species. Christopher is currently also contributing towards the dragonfly atlas of South Africa and will be the first to contribute species records towards a dragonfly/damselfly database of the reserve.
“Through the volunteer contributions of experts and the sponsorship of Crossings SUPERSPAR, surveys such as this help to create awareness about the beauty and natural treasures of the Barberton Centre of Plant Endemism,” says Delia Oosthuizen who co-ordinated the arrangements for the bioblitz.
The next bioblitz will take place in Spring.