In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous – Aristotle. This aptly describes a recent weekend outing of the Mpumalanga Plant Specialist Group (MPSG) to the Makhonjwa Mountains. A trip to Heemstede – one of the highest and little explored areas in Songimvelo Nature Reserve south west of Mountainlands seduced 27 people to pitch up. But Mother Nature had no intention of sharing her secrets so easily. Mist, drizzle and gushing winds prompted the group to botanise on lower lying, more amicable areas and this is where Hester Stein and Marinda Koekemoer from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in Pretoria were delighted with an Aspidoglossum species find. “According to Pieter Bester this is most likely a new species as it does not match anything in the Pretoria herbarium! A very exciting find,” wrote Mervyn Lötter, acting manager: Biodiversity Planning, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency) later in an e-mail to the MPSG. Other threatened plants were also found and include Thorncroftia thorncroftii and Aloe chortolirioides chortoliriodes. Many orchids are in flower this time of the year and seven species were seen of which a photo of Disa Nervosa Schultzenhorst is attached.
The Sunday was spent on the higher lying southern parts of Mountainlands and the hunt for more threatened flora continued. Lize von Staden who works for SANBI’s Threatened Species Programme and is responsible for maintaining the Red List of South African Plants collected live Oxalis specimens that correlate with those of herbarium samples of the vulnerable species Oxalis davyana. The plants will be identified and studied by dr. Kenneth Oberlander from the University of Stellenbosch. Several other plant species were also collected by John Burrows and Barbara Tulpin who will identify and house it at the Buffelskloof Nature Reserve herbarium.