John the Farmer went up the Swartberg pass!

PassRecently re-opened after flood damage, the Swartberg pass was built in 1887 by Thomas Bain. It connects the Little karoo to the Groot Karoo through the majestic Swartberg mountains. It is 24km of gravel road barely wide enough for two cars to pass. A favourite for mountain bikers.

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Aloe ferox tapping in the Little Karoo.

Tapping

Aloe tappers near Calitzdorp in the Little Karoo arrange the cut aloe leaves in a ring around a depression in the ground lined with plastic. Aloin sap flows from the aloe leaves and is collected in the plastic. It is then boiled and reduced to a resinous form taken as a laxative and for arthritis.

Leonotus leonurus – Wild dagga. Featured plant at Towerkop Nursery.

Leonotus

Leonotus, also known as wild dagga, a reference to the mild psychoactive properties of the plant. This popular garden shrub is widepread in South Africa and in addition to it’s many medicinal properties attracts sunbirds to it’s bright orange inflorescences.

Calpurnia aurea – Yellow keurboom. featured tree at Towerkop Nursery.

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Calpurnia aurea¬†being attended to by a pollinator. This small evergreen tree is indigenous to the eastern cape, natal and gauteng provinces of South Africa. It grows to 4m. It is fast growing and produces yellow pea-like flowers from 2yrs, making it the ideal ‘instant’ tree. It can be pruned into a compact shape and is frost tolerant.

Seven new duckies on the allotment.

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Seven new duckies on the allotment !

Appropriately named call ducks: So cute at this stage before they start quacking and tearing into the succulents…

Helichrysum cymosum – Feature plant at Towerkop Nursery.

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Helichrysum cymosum 

Related to everlastings, this perrenial shrub volunteered on the allotment at Towerkop nursery. It grows to a metre high and flowers profusely from spring well into summer.

Occurs naturally on sandy slopes in damp places from the southwestern cape to Mpumalanga.

Euphorbia caput-medusae (Medusa’s head). Featured plant at Towerkop nursery.

Caput-medusaCaput-medusa_flower

Sprawling succulent shrublet with a rosette of warty club shaped branches arising from a short thick stem (caudex). Endemic near Cape town, South Africa found in deep sand and on rocky outcrops.

“Euphorbias are characterized by their milky latex. Stipules are usually present, often modified into prickles and spines.

Many species produce peduncles (inflorescent stalks) which persist after the cyathia (cup-shaped structures) and capsules have withered.

In some species these persistent peduncles become sharpened at the tip and become true spines.

The individual flowers, set within a cyathium, which is the basic unit of the inflorescence of euphorbia, are surrounded by a number of bracts which form a unique floral envelope or involucre.

The flowers are unisexual with the male flower reduced to a single stamen on it’s own pedicel.

Curiously there is never more than one female flower in a cyathium, whereas the male flowers are always numerous.

Capsules usually consist of three cells. the cells seperate at maturity from a persistent axis, often freeing the seed with great force.”