Taking stock of plants

The first Mountainlands bioblitz kicked off last week. Volunteers, including academics, scientists and a limited number of members of the public participated in this race against time where as many plant species as possible were surveyed and documented over the allocated days.

A record number of plant species were collected. According to Renee Reddy, Herbarium Manager of the C.E. Moss Herbarium at Wits, the specimens now need to dry and the task of identifying them will then begin in earnest. One of the many highlights was finding the vulnerable Brachystelma dyeri, a Red Data List plant that was previously only known from only one other location in the Makhonjwa mountains.

Herbert Otto, Barberton’s own butterfly fundi collected a rare butterfly, Spialia secessus or Wolkberg Sandman, a specie that prefers montane grasslands.

The information gained from the survey will be used to compile a complete list of plant species for the reserve, as well as the occurrence and distribution of threatened plants, which in turn will feed into future management plans.

During the next week, more researchers will be on the reserve. This time ichthyologists will study the fishes of the reserve’s river systems.

This bioblitz was made possible by the generous support of sponsors such as Crossings Superspar, Farmer’s Meat Supply and various individuals. “We appreciate their support in what we are trying to achieve as this bioblitz is a stepping stone for further surveys planned for next year,” says Delia Oosthuizen, who co-ordinated the arrangements for the bioblitz.

From left: Tandiwe Nkonki, (SANBI), Herbert Otto (Lepidoptirists’ Society), Dr Robert Archer (SANBI), Prof Kevin Balkwill (Wits), Louis Loock (MTPA), Barbara Turpin (Buffelskloof Herbarium and Nature Reserve), Charles Hopkins (Mpumalanga Plant Specialist Group), Nonkululo Phephu (SANBI), Nico Oosthuizen, Prof Glynis Goodman (Wits), Renee Reddy (Wits) and Donald McCallum (Wits). Back from left: Johan Eksteeen (MTPA), Sandy and John Burrows (Buffelskloof Herbarium and Nature Reserve). Photo taken by Roland Jones.

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