Hiking With Friends

I’m heading off the beaten path in this blog with a personal memoir, a little gift to good friends – but you can come along too, if you like. A few weeks ago, we hiked at a favourite location, the Torrance Barrens in the Lake Muskoka region. It’s a place I visit regularly and blog about, too – and indeed, it’s a spot my hiking gang has visited a few times before, using our cottage as lodging. What’s significant, for me, is that this year’s walk represented the 25th year my husband and I set aside a weekend in autumn to hike with the group. For it was October 1993 when we were invited “in” and posed, below, near the famous Bruce Trail in Beaver Valley, Ontario – a suitable christening for a pair of novice hikers (I’m in the hat, he’s in the yellow jacket) as we slogged through forest and field in cold, pouring rain.

1993-Beaver Valley-hikers

The Bruce Trail has been our favourite hiking venue, and we’ve slowly bitten off chunks of its 890 kilometre (553 mile) length,

Bruce Trail

… all the way from the spectacular Lion’s Head Provincial Park up on the Bruce Peninsula overlooking Georgian Bay way back in 1994….

1994-Lion's Head Provincial Park

….where we took turns posing on the rugged Amabel dolostone (limestone) cliffs high above the water – capstone that was the bottom of a shallow limestone sea some 420 million years ago…

1994-Lion's Head-limestone cliffs

…..and ate our picnic lunch, as was our custom, on the rocks overlooking the water……

1994-Lions-Head-Lunch

…. to the Niagara Gorge at its south end, in 1995.

1995-The Niagara Gorge

In 1996, we ventured off the Bruce Trail and headed to Pelee Island for the weekend. Later, as Lake Erie waves crashed onto shore, we strolled the sand at Point Pelee, Canada’s most southerly point of land.

1996-Point Pelee-Hiking

1998 saw us head east to ‘the County’, i.e. Prince Edward County and Picton, Ontario – just emerging then as the choice destination it has become since then. There we found a particularly picturesque bed & breakfast called The Apple Basket Inn (sadly no longer there)….

1998-Apple Basket-Inn-Picton

…. and lovely scenery nearby, including actual apple baskets at Hughes’ Orchards!

1998-Hughes' Orchard-Picton

2004 was a special year, when we hiked the tropical hills of Mustique in the Caribbean, courtesy of John & Anne. This is the view of Britannia Bay….

2004-Mustique-Brittania Bay

….. and this is the view of Bryan Adam’s house!  (Honestly, we did hike….)

2004-Mustique-Bryan Adam's House

In 2006, we were back on the Bruce Trail over the forks of the Credit River in Caledon….

2006-Caledon-Forks of the Credit River

…. where the group posed for my camera.

2006-Hiking Group-Forks of Credit

The year 2007 saw us beginning our Saturday hike under a rainbow in Collingwood…..

2007-CollingwoodRainbow

….before hiking the Bruce Trail in the Owen Sound area.  It rained that year, as we slogged our way through a carpet of sugar maple leaves in Sydenham Forest.

2007-Sydenham Forest-hikers-Bruce Trail

The glacial potholes in the Sydenham forest were so fascinating, created from the action of glacial melt-water roughly 12,000 years ago, their damp walls home to maidenhair and provincially rare hart’s tongue ferns.

2007-Glacial Pothole-Sydenham forest-Bruce Trail

The most spectacular sight was Inglis Falls, which was the site of an 1840s grist mill.

2007-Inglis Falls-Bruce Trail

Looking back at our picnic lunch in the rain that day, I recall that we were not going to let the rigors of the hike derail our South Beach diet!

2007-SouthBeachPicnic

In 2008, we again hosted the hikers at Lake Muskoka where I’d asked Orillia naturalist and mycologist Bob Bowles (navy cap) to give us a walking seminar on mushrooms.

2008-Mushroom Lessons-Lake-Muskoka-Bob Bowles

Though the forest floor on our peninsula was laden with maple and beech leaves by that point in October, we were able to key 29 species of mushrooms.

2008-Lake Muskoka-Page's Point-Beech Bracket Fungus

We also hiked the Torrance Barrens that year, where the blueberry bushes were bright red and the paper birch skeletons shimmering white.

2008-Torrance Barrens-beaver pond

We eased into our 2009 hiking weekend in Prince Edward County with a wine-tasting personally conducted by Norman Hardie at his renowned vineyard.

2009-Norman Hardie-Wine-tasting

We all enjoyed a sip — best be prepared ahead of a hiking trip!

2009-Wine-Tasting-Norman Hardie Wines

The next day, when we hiked the soaring dunes of Sandbanks Provincial Park….

2009-Sandbanks Provincial Park

….. where some found time to wade in the waters of Lake Ontario…..

2009-Sandbanks Provincial Park-hikers

… I did a little botanizing, and  was thrilled to see fringed gentians (Gentianopsis crinita) in flower.

2009-Gentianopsis crinita-Fringed gentian-Sandbanks

In 2010, we headed back to Niagara, but this time we walked about 10 kilometres (6 miles) of the Niagara River Parkway…..

2010-Niagara River Parkway

….where the view of the river was spectacular…..

2010-Niagara River

….before getting into our cars (ah, the magic of the pre-parked cars!) and driving to Ravine Vineyard for lunch.

2010-Niagara Ravine Vineyard

In 2012, we hiked near Susan’s beautiful farm…..

2012-Farm

….. where we sat for a group photo (again, of most of us, but not quite all).

2012-Hikers

As with many of our hikes, we enjoyed brilliant fall colour – here of Susan’s gorgeous paper birch…..

2012-Paper Birch-Betula papyrifera-fall colour

In 2014, we bunked in at Anne and Bob’s in Collingwood, and headed out on the Kolapore trail, which Bob helps maintain.

2014-Kolapore sign

Though it sometimes feels like a dark cathedral of trees as we hike amidst thousands of slender trunks of sugar maple, beech and birch….

2014-Kolapore hiking

…. it’s good to look up occasionally, and see fall-coloured leaves fluttering against the autumn sky.

2014-Kolapore-maples

The trail that year was muddy in places – there was the odd little spill…..

2014-John-mud

The vegetation was wonderful: here are hart’s tongue ferns (Asplenium scolapendrium), quite rare in the region.

2014-harts-tongue ferns-Asplenium scolopendrium

Though non-native, it’s always a treat to see watercress (Nasturtium officinale) in a clean, moving stream.

2014-Watercress

In 2015, eight of us decided to pack our bags and head to a different kind of forest for our autumn hike: a rain forest. In Costa Rica!

2015-Beach Trail sign-El Remanso Lodge-Osa Peninsula-Costa Rica

And do you know how mother nature makes a rain forest? That’s right…….

Let’s just say our hiking attire was a little lighter than normal, given the almost total humidity and warm temperatures.

2015-Felix-Long Hike-El Remanso

Five of us did the zip-line through the jungle. I chickened out but served as the documentary photographer.

2015-Ziplining

(I wrote  a special blog about El Remanso Lodge on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, if you want to read a little more.)

In 2016, we hiked the Mad River Side Trail near Glen Huron, Ontario. The colours were spectacular.

2016-Glen-Huron-Fall-Colour

Here’s a video I made of that lovely hike along the Mad River.

When we arrived at the base of the Devil’s Glen Ski Club to have lunch, I made a group shot, (well, most of us and one guest – a few had wandered away) and just managed to get myself back into the frame before the shutter clicked.

2016-Hiking Group-Devils Glen

Heading back to our lodging, we stopped at an apple stand and stocked up on Northern Spy apples, my favourite for pies and crisps.

2016-Spy Apples-Glen Huron

Which brings me to this year, the 25th edition of our hike, when we once again met in Muskoka and walked the beautiful Torrance Barrens.  We marvelled at the fluffy white clouds reflected in Highland Pond….

2017-Highland-Pond-Clouds-Torrance Barrens

…and noted the tamaracks (Larix laricina) at the water’s edge.

2017-Pine-Sumac-Tamarack-Torrance Barrens

Bob pointed out aspects of geology, as in ‘this is gneiss, not pure granite’.

2017-Gneiss

We walked past my favourite paper birch….

2017-Paper birch-Torrance Barrens

…..and saw the fluffy cotton grass (Eriophorum vaginatum) flanking the bog.

2017-Cotton-grass-Eriophorum

The little bridge over the small pond is sinking in the middle and necessitated a ‘one-at-a-time’ rule.

2017-Bridge

It’s always fun to stop and look at the erratic boulder left behind when the ice retreated, and it appears that Alex Tilley, founder of Tilley Hats, agreed. This little interpretive sign was paid for by Tilley, whom I’ve seen hiking the Barrens.

2017-Erratic-Precambrian Shield-Torrance Barrens

With so much rain this summer and autumn, many parts of the path were waterlogged and Bob (the veteran trail groomer) pointed out drier spots to navigate.

2017-Water on trail-Torrance Barrensl

We crossed Southwood Road and finished our hike in the deeper soil of a forest….

2017-Hikers-in-oaks-Torrance Barrens

….featuring bracken ferns and beautiful red oaks.

2017-Red Oak-Torrance Barrens

A tiny red-bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) was on the path (it’s only my lens that makes it look huge) – one of many reptiles I’ve photographed in the Barrens over the years.

2017-Red-bellied snake-Torrance Barrens

And at the end of the trail, we posed for our traditional photo (minus four who couldn’t be with us this year).  Over a quarter-century, we’ve seen our children grow up, marry, change jobs, and have their own kids. We’ve talked about books, theatre, food, health and travel to faraway places. We’ve lost spouses or partners, and felt the comfort of the friends who knew them well. And we’ve welcomed new partners to the group and made them feel welcome and loved. It is a simple thing to do, walking a trail, and it reminds us that we need nature – and the company of friends – to live full lives.

2017-Hiking Group-Torrance Barrens

*****

In memory of Murray, Tim and Jim.

Botanagrams and Facebook Fun

A few years ago, I launched a series of plant-based puzzles with some of my plant-obsessed friends on Facebook. As an admin of a group called Plant Idents – a page where members can either post photos of plants whose identities they don’t know and wish solved, or plants whose identity they do know and wish to challenge other plantaholics – I thought it would be fun to start something a little different.  The basic idea: using Photoshop, I created a numbered puzzle using my own plant photos. As a stock photographer of plants, I have thousands of photos organized by Latin name. The puzzle had a name or solution — often regarding something that had happened on that day – which I kept secret, the name being spelled out with the first letter of the genus (botanical name) of each plant. To make it much tougher, I mixed up the letters/photos anagram-style, and told members what they were looking for, e.g. 4-word puzzle.   After the members (often with lots of clues) guessed the plant genus (sometimes, to be mean, I made them guess the species too), I’d put the first letters of the guessed plants together. Then it was time to solve the anagram and the puzzle. (there are good anagram solver sites on the web).

I stopped doing the puzzles on the Plant Idents page when the members became too numerous, since it involved a lot of rapid-fire guessing and meant everyone had to be looking at the same guesses and answers minute by minute, so fast broadband speed was vital.  Running the puzzles was like being an air traffic controller at a very busy airport! But I came across them in my files and thought it would be fun to gather some of them here in my blog, to commemorate a particular time and friendships that Facebook has enabled amongst like-minded people who, without meeting each other in person, share a passion for plants and a fanaticism for fun.  So here goes…..

Holiday greetings! I explained the rules – but the points were virtual….

"MERRY CHRISTMAS" 9 Marrubium vulgare - Horehound 5 Eucharis formosa – Amazon Lily 12 Restio quadratus – Square-Stalk Restio 3 Ruellia humilis – Wild Petunia 5 Yucca filamentosa - Adam's Needle 13 Chamerion angustifolium – Fireweed 7 Hydrocleys nymphoides – Water Poppy 6 Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Lo’ – Fragrant Sumac 11 Illicium floridanum – Purple Anise 2 Schisandra sphenanthera - Schisandra 1 Tacca chantrieri – Black Bat Flower 4 Metapanax delavayi – Delavay’s False Ginseng 14 Ajania pacifica – Pacific Chrysanthemum 10 Stewartia rostrata – Upright Stewartia

“MERRY CHRISTMAS”
9 Marrubium vulgare – Horehound
5 Eucharis formosa – Amazon Lily
12 Restio quadratus – Square-Stalk Restio
3 Ruellia humilis – Wild Petunia
5 Yucca filamentosa – Adam’s Needle
13 Chamerion angustifolium – Fireweed
7 Hydrocleys nymphoides – Water Poppy
6 Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Lo’ – Fragrant Sumac
11 Illicium floridanum – Purple Anise
2 Schisandra sphenanthera – Schisandra
1 Tacca chantrieri – Black Bat Flower
4 Metapanax delavayi – Delavay’s False Ginseng
14 Ajania pacifica – Pacific Chrysanthemum
10 Stewartia rostrata – Upright Stewartia

But, as a Canadian, I felt it needed to be done in French too!

"JOYEUX NOEL" 5-Justicia carnea 4-Orlaya grandiflora 6-Yucca filamentosa 3-Enkianthus campanulatus 2-Urtica dioica 10-Xeranthemum annuum 9-Nyssa sylvatica 7-Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Starry Eyes’ 8-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’ 1-Leucoryne coquimbensis

“JOYEUX NOEL”
5-Justicia carnea
4-Orlaya grandiflora
6-Yucca filamentosa
3-Enkianthus campanulatus
2-Urtica dioica
10-Xeranthemum annuum
9-Nyssa sylvatica
7-Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Starry Eyes’
8-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’
1-Leucoryne coquimbensis

This one  commemorated Martin Luther King Day: “I HAVE A DREAM”. And you can see that here I recorded the FB friends who guessed correctly.

6-Isotoma axillaris - Alys 5-Hardenbergia violacea - Jo 1-Abutilon striatum -Rebecca 11-Veronica ‘Eveline’ - Liberto 7-Euryops acraeus – Liberto 9-Alocasia cuprea – Sven 3-Diervilla lonicera – Jo 2-Rodgersia aesculifolia - Jo 10-Erinus alpinus – Liberto 4-Alkanna tinctoria-Alys 8-Melinis nerviglumis – Jo

6-Isotoma axillaris – Alys
5-Hardenbergia violacea – Jo
1-Abutilon striatum -Rebecca
11-Veronica ‘Eveline’ – Liberto
7-Euryops acraeus – Liberto
9-Alocasia cuprea – Sven
3-Diervilla lonicera – Jo
2-Rodgersia aesculifolia – Jo
10-Erinus alpinus – Liberto
4-Alkanna tinctoria-Alys
8-Melinis nerviglumis – Jo

Then came Valentine’s Day, and I thought a little Fred-and-Ginger was in order:

A DANCE STEP (for Valentine’s Day) 6-Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ – Japanese spikenard 8-Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’- Bleeding heart 10-Amaranthus caudatus – Love-lies-bleeding 2-Nigella damascena – Love-in-a-mist 9-Catanache caerulea – Cupid’s dart 7-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’ – Love Grass 3-Sutera cordata - Bacopa 4-Tilia cordata – Little-leaf linden 1-Euonymus americana – Hearts-a-busting 5-Pontederia cordata – Pickerel weed

A DANCE STEP (for Valentine’s Day)
6-Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ – Japanese spikenard
8-Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’- Bleeding heart
10-Amaranthus caudatus – Love-lies-bleeding
2-Nigella damascena – Love-in-a-mist
9-Catanache caerulea – Cupid’s dart
7-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’ – Love Grass
3-Sutera cordata – Bacopa
4-Tilia cordata – Little-leaf linden
1-Euonymus americana – Hearts-a-busting
5-Pontederia cordata – Pickerel weed

 

 

 

Birthdays were fun to commemorate. This one honoured the father of reggae (note the Rasta colours)….

" BOB MARLEY" - RBBALEOMY 3. Bouvardia ternifolia 7. Oncidium goldiana 2. Brugmansia aurea 8. Malvaviscus arboreus 4. Allamanda cathartica 1. Rhapis excelsa 5. Licuala spinosa 6. Euphorbia pulcherrima 9. Yucca aloifolia

” BOB MARLEY” – RBBALEOMY
3. Bouvardia ternifolia
7. Oncidium goldiana
2. Brugmansia aurea
8. Malvaviscus arboreus
4. Allamanda cathartica
1. Rhapis excelsa
5. Licuala spinosa
6. Euphorbia pulcherrima
9. Yucca aloifolia

And here he is:

Bob Marley-Rasta plants

This one sang the blues, in honour of Billie Holiday’s 100th on April 7, 2015:

LEUSBBLESILI = BILLIES BLUES 6-Brunnera macrophylla 10-Iris sibirica ‘Bennerup Blue’ 7-Linum perenne 11-Lobelia erinus ‘Sapphire Blue’ 12-Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’ 8-Echium vulgare 9-Scilla siberica 5-Borago officinalis 1-Lithodora ‘Grace Ward’ 3-Utricularia resupinata 2-Eryngium planum 4-Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’

LEUSBBLESILI = BILLIES BLUES
6-Brunnera macrophylla
10-Iris sibirica ‘Bennerup Blue’
7-Linum perenne
11-Lobelia erinus ‘Sapphire Blue’
12-Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’
8-Echium vulgare
9-Scilla siberica
5-Borago officinalis
1-Lithodora ‘Grace Ward’
3-Utricularia resupinata
2-Eryngium planum
4-Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’

 

There was a bonus photo that day…..

Billie Holiday-Gardenia-Janet Davis

The birthday could be of a writer, like……

"EZRA POUND" - DRNOEAZPU 5-Euphorbia pulcherrima 'Maren' 2- Rotheca myricoides 7 - Z - Zantedeschia aethiopica 6 - A - Acanthus hungaricus 8 - P - Penstemon barbatus 'Rondo' 4 - O - Olea europea 9 - U - Ulex europaeus 3 - N - Nepenthes sp. 1 - D - Datura metel

“EZRA POUND” –
DRNOEAZPU
5-Euphorbia pulcherrima ‘Maren’
2- Rotheca myricoides
7 – Z – Zantedeschia aethiopica
6 – A – Acanthus hungaricus
8 – P – Penstemon barbatus ‘Rondo’
4 – O – Olea europea
9 – U – Ulex europaeus
3 – N – Nepenthes sp.
1 – D – Datura metel

Or perhaps a modern writer like…..

"VONNEGUT" - GETUVNON 5 – Vriesea carinata 7 – Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Ogon’ 6 – Nyssa sylvatica 8 – Nephrolepis biserrata ‘Macho’ 2 – Encephalartos villosus 1 – Glaucium corniculatum 4 – Ulmus glabra 3 – Taxodium distichum

“VONNEGUT” – GETUVNON
5 – Vriesea carinata
7 – Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Ogon’
6 – Nyssa sylvatica
8 – Nephrolepis biserrata ‘Macho’
2 – Encephalartos villosus
1 – Glaucium corniculatum
4 – Ulmus glabra
3 – Taxodium distichum

It might be a performer, a favourite comedian.  I had fun with layered meanings on this botanagram, for as we know, the legumes or “bean” plants make their own nitrogen from the soil via nodules on their roots. Thus the inclusion of an atomic number in #2.

"MR BEAN" (so legumes) 4. Medicago sativa – Alfalfa, Lucerne - Alys 5. Robinia pseudoacacia – Black locust – David & Amrita 6. Baptisia sphaerocarpa ‘Screaming Yellow’ – Yellow baptisia – David & Amrita (& Liberto’s clues...) 1. Erythrina caffra – African coral tree – David & Liberto 3. Amorpha canescens – Lead plant – Amrita & David 2. Nitrogen – atomic number 7 - Liberto!!

“MR BEAN” (so legumes)
4. Medicago sativa – Alfalfa, Lucerne – Alys
5. Robinia pseudoacacia – Black locust – David & Amrita
6. Baptisia sphaerocarpa ‘Screaming Yellow’ – Yellow baptisia – David & Amrita (& Liberto’s clues…)
1. Erythrina caffra – African coral tree – David & Liberto
3. Amorpha canescens – Lead plant – Amrita & David
2. Nitrogen – atomic number 7 – Liberto!!

I liked marking the seasons.  This one was June 21, 2014. School’s out!

SUMMER…. 4 –Stapelia gigantea 8-Umbilicus rupestris 14-Myrrhis odorata 7-Menyanthes trifoliata 11-Encephalartos horridus (steward’s enquiry) 6-Rubus cockburnianus ‘Golden Gale’ SOLSTICE!!! 9-Salvinia auriculata 12-Olearia x scilloniensis 13-Limnanthes douglasii 3-Scilla peruviana 2-Tapaeinochilus ananassae 1-Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’ 5-Catalpa bignonoides ‘Aurea’ 10-Erodium manescavii

SUMMER….
4 –Stapelia gigantea
8-Umbilicus rupestris
14-Myrrhis odorata
7-Menyanthes trifoliata
11-Encephalartos horridus (steward’s enquiry)
6-Rubus cockburnianus ‘Golden Gale’
SOLSTICE!!!
9-Salvinia auriculata
12-Olearia x scilloniensis
13-Limnanthes douglasii
3-Scilla peruviana
2-Tapaeinochilus ananassae
1-Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’
5-Catalpa bignonoides ‘Aurea’
10-Erodium manescavii

And school’s heading back in so it must be…..

"SEPTEMBER" (marking the first day of Sept. 2014) 5-Staehelina unifloscuosa 6-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’ 2-Poncirus trifoliata 9-Tedradium danielli 7-Eumorphia sericea ssp. robustior 8-Marrubium vulgare 1-Barleria cristata 3-Eurybia furcata 4-Reseda odorata

“SEPTEMBER” (marking the first day of Sept. 2014)
5-Staehelina unifloscuosa
6-Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’
2-Poncirus trifoliata
9-Tedradium danielli
7-Eumorphia sericea ssp. robustior
8-Marrubium vulgare
1-Barleria cristata
3-Eurybia furcata
4-Reseda odorata

Not far into autumn, and it’s time for Thanksgiving when we express our….

"GRATITUDE" - For Thanksgiving 5-Gunnera manicata-Jo Astridge 9-Rhodotypos scandens-Liberto Dario 7-Actaea erythrocarpa-Liberto 1-Trochodendron aralioides-Liberto 3-Illicium floridanum-Liberto 8-Trachelium caeruleum-Liberto 4-Urtica dioica-Jo 6-Deinanthe bifida-Liberto 2-Erodium chrysanthum-Rosemary Hardy

“GRATITUDE” – For Thanksgiving
5-Gunnera manicata-Jo Astridge
9-Rhodotypos scandens-Liberto Dario
7-Actaea erythrocarpa-Liberto
1-Trochodendron aralioides-Liberto
3-Illicium floridanum-Liberto
8-Trachelium caeruleum-Liberto
4-Urtica dioica-Jo
6-Deinanthe bifida-Liberto
2-Erodium chrysanthum-Rosemary Hardy

Winter in Canada is cold and snow, so I like to do a little……

CALIFORNIA DREAMING 7. Calandrinia spectabilis 8. Arctostaphylos spp. 17. Layia platyglossa 6. Impatiens omeiana 15. Ficinia nodosa 14. Ozothamnus diosmifolius ‘Pink’ 16. Retanilla ephedra 13. Nicotiana glauca 11. Iochroma cyaneum 1. Amsinckia grandiflora 2. Dodonea viscosa ssp. cuneata 18. Ruta chalepensis 3. Erica patersonia 5. Azara dentata 9. Maianthemum flexuosum 12. Isopogon anethifolius ‘Curra Moors’ 4. Nothofagus obliqua var. obliqua 10. Greyia radkoferi

CALIFORNIA DREAMING
7. Calandrinia spectabilis
8. Arctostaphylos spp.
17. Layia platyglossa
6. Impatiens omeiana
15. Ficinia nodosa
14. Ozothamnus diosmifolius ‘Pink’
16. Retanilla ephedra
13. Nicotiana glauca
11. Iochroma cyaneum
1. Amsinckia grandiflora
2. Dodonea viscosa ssp. cuneata
18. Ruta chalepensis
3. Erica patersonia
5. Azara dentata
9. Maianthemum flexuosum
12. Isopogon anethifolius ‘Curra Moors’
4. Nothofagus obliqua var. obliqua
10. Greyia radkoferi

The botanagram below suited a day that appealed to mathematicians. Why? Because March 14, 2015 at precisely 9:26:53 = the famous equation 3.141592653 = π (and yes I punned with “pie” which, of course, is round).

PIE ARE SQUARED 12- Paradisea lusitanica-John Lamin 13-Isatis tinctoria-Bradley Newton 9-Eccremocarpus scaber-Bradley Newton 7-Abelia mosanensis-David Mason 8-Rostrincula dependens-John Lamin 2-Echium wildpretii-John Lamin 6-Symphoricarpos albus-Rebecca Alexander 4-Quercus agrifolia-Davis Mason 5-Uncarina grandidieri-Bradley Newton 3-Reseda luteola- ? 10-Eumorphia sericea-? D-Dombeya wallichii-?

PIE ARE SQUARED
12- Paradisea lusitanica-John Lamin
13-Isatis tinctoria-Bradley Newton
9-Eccremocarpus scaber-Bradley Newton
7-Abelia mosanensis-David Mason
8-Rostrincula dependens-John Lamin
2-Echium wildpretii-John Lamin
6-Symphoricarpos albus-Rebecca Alexander
4-Quercus agrifolia-Davis Mason
5-Uncarina grandidieri-Bradley Newton
3-Reseda luteola- ?
10-Eumorphia sericea-?
D-Dombeya wallichii-?

How about plant parts? Instead of boring terms like stamens and stigmas, I made a puzzle for……

"THE VITAL SEXY BITS" 9-Tibouchina urvilleana 15-Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’ 8-Epimedium x rubrum 13-Vicia cracca 7-Inula helenium ‘Goliath’ 12-Turnera ulmifolia 1-Amorpha canescens 16-Lobelia siphilitica 6-Sinopodophyllum hexandrum ‘Majus’ 14-Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’ 5-Xerochrysum bracteatum 4-Yucca rigida 2-Bauhinia kockiana 10-Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’ 11-Thalictrum rochebrunianum ‘Lavender Mist’ 3-Silphium perfoliatum

“THE VITAL SEXY BITS”
9-Tibouchina urvilleana
15-Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’
8-Epimedium x rubrum
13-Vicia cracca
7-Inula helenium ‘Goliath’
12-Turnera ulmifolia
1-Amorpha canescens
16-Lobelia siphilitica
6-Sinopodophyllum hexandrum ‘Majus’
14-Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’
5-Xerochrysum bracteatum
4-Yucca rigida
2-Bauhinia kockiana
10-Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’
11-Thalictrum rochebrunianum ‘Lavender Mist’
3-Silphium perfoliatum

…. and one that featured those interesting leaf-like and flower-like parts…….

"LOVED THOSE BRACTS" (yes, they're all bracts) 10. Leucadendron ‘Jester’ 12. Ochna serrulata 7. Vriesea carinata 1. Eryngium planum 15. Davidia involucrata 9. Tillandsia cyanea 13. Heliconia rostrata 6. Euphorbia fulgens 5. Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ 14. Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ 2. Bougainvillea glabra 4. Rhodochiton atrosanguineus ‘Purple Rain’ 16. Aechmea fasciata 3. Clerodendrum thomsoniae 8. Tacca chantrieri 11. Spathiphyllum sp.

“LOVED THOSE BRACTS” (yes, they’re all bracts)
10. Leucadendron ‘Jester’
12. Ochna serrulata
7. Vriesea carinata
1. Eryngium planum
15. Davidia involucrata
9. Tillandsia cyanea
13. Heliconia rostrata
6. Euphorbia fulgens
5. Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’
14. Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’
2. Bougainvillea glabra
4. Rhodochiton atrosanguineus ‘Purple Rain’
16. Aechmea fasciata
3. Clerodendrum thomsoniae
8. Tacca chantrieri
11. Spathiphyllum sp.

…. and one for summer’s end, so I could fill a…….

"FRUIT BASKET" 6. Fagus grandifolia –Alys 8. Rhodotypos scandens – Liberto 11. Ulmus glabra –Jo 7. Ilex verticillata ‘Afterglow'-Marcel 1. Thuja occidentalis-Jo 2. Bismarckia nobilis –Liberto 10. Ailanthus altissima – Liberto 4. Sambucus candensis – Alys 3. Koelreuteria paniculata –Amy 5. Euonymus sachalinensis –Jo/Alys 9. Taxodium distichum-Liberto

“FRUIT BASKET”
6. Fagus grandifolia –Alys
8. Rhodotypos scandens – Liberto
11. Ulmus glabra –Jo
7. Ilex verticillata ‘Afterglow’-Marcel
1. Thuja occidentalis-Jo
2. Bismarckia nobilis –Liberto
10. Ailanthus altissima – Liberto
4. Sambucus candensis – Alys
3. Koelreuteria paniculata –Amy
5. Euonymus sachalinensis –Jo/Alys
9. Taxodium distichum-Liberto

As a music lover, it was fun to find fellow music-lovers to challenge. This was a fun one of a favourite old song with a colour theme…..A Whiter Shade of Pale

“PROCOL HARUM” – (Colour theme: A Whiter Shade of Pale) 11-Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Albus’ 4-Rodgersia aesculifolia 9-Orlaya grandiflora 5-Crataegus mordenensis ‘Snowbird’ 10-Ornithogalum saundersiae 1-Lysimachia clethroides 12-Hosta ‘Hoosier Harmony’ 2-Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal Virgin’ ** 6-Rehderodendron macrocarpum 7-Umbilicus rupestris 3-Mukdenia rossii * Odd one out is #2 – Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal' for Vestal Virgin

“PROCOL HARUM” – (Colour theme: A Whiter Shade of Pale)
11-Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Albus’
4-Rodgersia aesculifolia
9-Orlaya grandiflora
5-Crataegus mordenensis ‘Snowbird’
10-Ornithogalum saundersiae
1-Lysimachia clethroides
12-Hosta ‘Hoosier Harmony’
2-Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal Virgin’ **
6-Rehderodendron macrocarpum
7-Umbilicus rupestris
3-Mukdenia rossii
* Odd one out is #2 – Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal’ for Vestal Virgin

I’m just mad about saffron, yes I am…..

"DONOVAN" (Mellow Yellow) 3-Draba brunifolia 6-Osterospermum 'Summertime Breeze' 4-Nuphar lutea 7-Opuntia humifusa 'Lemon Spreader' 2-Verbesina helianthoides 1-Aeonium 'Voodoo' 5-Narcissus 'Tamar Fire'

“DONOVAN” (Mellow Yellow)
3-Draba brunifolia
6-Osterospermum ‘Summertime Breeze’
4-Nuphar lutea
7-Opuntia humifusa ‘Lemon Spreader’
2-Verbesina helianthoides
1-Aeonium ‘Voodoo’
5-Narcissus ‘Tamar Fire’

And as a child of the 60s, I tried a different puzzle – one that combined actual music with plants. Not sure it worked so well, but it was a hoot(enanny) to do.

This one was more of a logic puzzle, and required both Genus and Species names.

"ALPHABET" (not an anagram, a logic puzzle) 1 – Melinis nerviglumis 2 – Encelia farinosa 3 – Kalmia latifolia 4 – Ophiopogon planiscapus 5 – Clematis dioscoreifolia 6 – Iris japonica 7 – Quercus rubra 8 – Geranium himalayense 9 – Astrantia bavarica Ab, Cd*, Ef, Gh, Ij, Kl, Mn, Op, Qr (* I went with the plant label, but learned after I made up the puzzle that Clematis dioscoreifolia is a synonym for Clematis terniflora)

“ALPHABET” (not an anagram, a logic puzzle)
1 – Melinis nerviglumis
2 – Encelia farinosa
3 – Kalmia latifolia
4 – Ophiopogon planiscapus
5 – Clematis dioscoreifolia
6 – Iris japonica
7 – Quercus rubra
8 – Geranium himalayense
9 – Astrantia bavarica
Ab, Cd*, Ef, Gh, Ij, Kl, Mn, Op, Qr
(* I went with the plant label, but learned after I made up the puzzle that Clematis dioscoreifolia is a synonym for Clematis terniflora)

Finally, a little homage to the honey bee, or as we say in Latin…..

"APIS MELLIFERA" - Latin for honey bee 9-Asclepias syriaca 5-Pycnanthemum virginianum 8-Ilex verticillata 11-Silphium perfoliatum 2-Malva sylvestris 10-Eremurus 'Cleopatra' 3-Lychnis flos-cuculi 6-Lathyrus latifolius 13-Iris pseudacorus 12-Filipendula ulmaria 1-Eranthis hyemalis 4-Ruta graveolens 7-Althaea officinalis

“APIS MELLIFERA” – Latin for honey bee
9-Asclepias syriaca
5-Pycnanthemum virginianum
8-Ilex verticillata
11-Silphium perfoliatum
2-Malva sylvestris
10-Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’
3-Lychnis flos-cuculi
6-Lathyrus latifolius
13-Iris pseudacorus
12-Filipendula ulmaria
1-Eranthis hyemalis
4-Ruta graveolens
7-Althaea officinalis

On the Bus from Johannesburg

It’s the afternoon of our second full day in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Having visited a number of private gardens, including beautiful Beechwood Gardens this morning, we’re on the bus headed northeast to the Kapama Game Park near Kruger National Park for our two-day safari (a part of this 2-week garden tour we’re really looking forward to).   While it’s true that a bus travelling 50 miles an hour is a photographic challenge, on the other hand you are often passing amazing scenes that you’ll never see again. So, if your camera has an adjustable ISO setting, set it to a fast speed of 1600 or 3200 and start clicking. There might be a lot of blurry shots and the quality is not good enough for publication, but it is fine for recalling the details of a once-in-a-lifetime journey like this.

Our principal route is the lower line on this map, but we’ll be resting for the evening in a sweet little hotel in the town of White River, before heading to Kapama the next day via stops at God’s Window and the Bourke’s Luck Potholes in the spectacular Blyde River Canyon.

Route-Johannesburg to Kapama

Johannesburg is in the Gauteng province, one of nine in South Africa.  Geographically, it sits on a plateau called highveld.  Today, we’ll travel northeast out of Gauteng into Mpumulanga province and tonight we’ll sleep in the lowveld of White River.  Not having equivalent language, these velds are confusing to most of us North Americans.  But now, on the highveld not far from Johannesburg, we see beautiful rolling hills and native acacias through the bus window.

Landscape with acacias

And we also see the odd splash of purple, the flowering canopy of the beautiful jacaranda trees (J. mimosifolia).  Beloved by many South Africans, they are nonetheless exotics from South America which have displaced much of the indigenous wild flora and are now targeted for removal. In a country with so many other needs, it seems paradoxical that funds would be earmarked for this project, but South Africa is quite sophisticated in its embrace of native flora.

Jacaranda mimosifolia-Mpumalanga

We slow to pay a highway toll at Middelburg. Its name came from the fact that it was the “middle” town in the journey between the gold mining town of Lydenburg and Pretoria, capital city of Transvaal.. Though this is generally farming country, it was here that the British had a concentration camp during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, at the end of which the South African Republic and the Free Orange State were annexed to the British Empire.

Middelburg Toll Plaza

South Africa is mineral-rich and its prosperity, beginning with the 1866 discovery of diamonds in the Kimberley Cape and the Johannesburg Gold Rush of 1886 is still largely built on the profits of mining companies. Still, it’s a bit of a surprise to see piled slag heaps of open-pit mines close to the highway, like this chrome mine.  Chrome, of course, is a vital component (with iron) in the manufacture of stainless steel.

Chrome mine-Mpumalanga

And just a few miles away is the pile from an open-pit coal mine. Seventy-seven percent of South Africa’s energy needs are met with coal-fired plants.

Coal mine-Mpumalanga

We are now in the Crocodile River Valley heading for the Drakensberg escarpment. Northeast of us, the river forms the southern boundary of Kruger National Park.

Crocodile River Valley

But this area seems mostly agricultural.  Here is a sophisticated irrigation setup on a farm field.

Farm Country-Middelburg-South Africa

Farming is also of the subsistence variety, as with this small house and yard.  There are a number of ethnicities in Mpumalanga province, but this region is mostly home to the Nguni people and we see the Nguni cows wandering along the roadside from time to time.

Rural house & farmyard-Mpumalanga

South Africa’s black population is divided into 4 major ethnic groups:  1) Nguni (Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi), 2) Sotho, 3) Shangaan-Tsonga and 4) Venda. The largest population is Zulu and Xhosa. Of the white population, approximately 60% is of Afrikaans heritage with the remaining 40% British or European.  Then there is a mixed race population, mostly of indigenous Khoisan peoples combined with African slaves and white settlers.  There are 11 official languages: Zulu (22.75%), Xhosa (16%), Afrikaans (13.5%), English (9.6%), Sepedi (9.1%), Tswana (8%), Southern Sotoho (7.6%),  Tsonga (4.5%),  Swazi or SiSwati (2.5%), Venda (2.4%) and Ndebele (2.1%).

Our wonderful South African tour guide, Deon Romijn is Afrikaans. He is also a remarkable font of information about his country,  its geology (his degree was in geology), its customs, its politics and its people. I worry that my many questions will tire him, but he assures me they do not.

Deon Romijn

Deon grew up on a farm in Pretoria and speaks all 11 languages, including the Xhosa’s famous click-language.  Later in the trip I ask our him to give me a short sample of Xhosa.  He complies….

Of course there’s no one who makes the click sound quite like Mama Africa, the amazing Miriam Makeba (1932-2008).  Hailing from Johannesburg where she was born to a Xhosa father and Zulu mother, she was my first exposure to this magical language.  When I was but a young teen and she was but a young woman. I had heard her singing the Click Song in a concert in Vancouver on her inaugural North American tour with Harry Belafonte.  Here she is in a 1974 concert in Zaire, Congo, speaking to the audience in French, but clicking in Xhosa…..

Back to the bus. We pass a field of sweet prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica), their fruit (itolofiya in Xhosa and turksvy in Afrikaans) an important edible for many, including Xhosa women who use them to make a kind of beer.  Spined prickly pears or doornblad were once the target of a massive government eradication program to protect farms; however since there is an established prickly pear company in the area, this field may well be the spineless (kaalblad) prickly pear hybrids developed in California by Luther Burbank.

Prickly Pear-Mpumalanga

As we pass through low-lying, foggy valleys we begin to see the first plantations of Australian red gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis).  These are part of 4-million square kilometres of man-made forests (termed afforestation), mostly of red and blue gums (E. grandis) and various pines (P. patula, P. elliottii, P. taeda).   On the far side of the Drakensberg escarpment, we will see many more gum tree plantations.

Red gum trees in fog-Mpumalanga

We now pass by the little town of Waterval Boven, then into a tunnel under the Drakensberg.

Waterval Boven-Mpumalanga

On the other side of the mountains the landscape is amazingly different, with bitter aloes (Aloe ferox) dotting the grassy slopes of the hills amidst acacias.  Winter-blooming, they are now out of flower in the southern hemisphere spring.

Acacias & Aloe ferox-Mpumalanga

We pass numerous fruit plantations of avocado, guava and mangoes, below.

Mango trees-Mpumalanga

A little settlement with vegetables fenced off from wild animals.

Houses in the lowveld-Mpumalanga

We stop for gas and I wander around a bit. This tall, yellow-flowered shrub catches my eye – it’s Tecoma stans or yellow bells, a pretty but invasive native of the Americas. Its a weed here in South Africa, as it is in many parts of the world, including India and China.

Tecoma stans

Back on the road, we pass the Giraffe Stadium near Nelspruit, more properly called the Mbombela Stadium. One of 10 stadiums build for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it is charming in its architecture, but also represented the great disparity of fortune in this nation, despite the proud face shown to the world during the soccer championships.

Giraffe Stadium

As we near our hotel in White River, we pass a number of fruit vendors. This pair is selling avocadoes and other fruit farmed nearby.

Fruit vendors-Mpumalanga

We arrive at our lovely rest for the night: the Casterbridge Hollow Boutique Hotel.

Casterbridge Hollow Hotel2-White River

After freshening up, it’s just a short walk to dinner, then to bed. It’s been a long day.

Casterbridge Hollow Hotel-White River

Rain begins in the night so the next morning the garden is wet, but I’m intrigued by an unusual shrub with camellia-like flowers.  I later learn it’s the Africa dog rose, Xylotheca kraussiana.

African dog rose-Xylotheca kraussiana

After breakfast, we’re back on the bus and soon travelling again between the big gum forests of Mpumalanga.  This one has been freshly logged….

Logged stand of red gums-Mpumalanga

…While the one below has been interplanted with young stock.  Gum trees are harvested at 15 years so interplanting of saplings is done at approximately 7 years.  Prior to 1972 when gold mining formed the main industry in the region, this area was indigenous forest, but once gold mining stopped, permits were granted to grow these forests.  Some of those permits are now expiring and the area will return to indigenous forest.

Young trees in Red Gum Plantation

Gum tree timber is used extensively as mine pit props, telephone poles and in pulp and paper production.

Red gum-poles-Mpumalanga

We pass a banana plantation with the bunches wrapped in blue plastic bags. Our guide said this was so they don’t ripen too fast, and also to protect them against marauding birds, monkeys and other animals.  (Having Googled this, I see that these blue bags are ubiquitous on banana plantations around the world; in some places they also refer to the bags protecting the fruit from rain that causes blemishes.)  All first class fruit is for the export market, sent to Asia and Europe. South Africans get second and third class fruit.

Bananas in Mpumalanga

The woman below is picking some type of grass or herbs from the side of the highway. Deon says she is likely harvesting plants for muti or traditional medicine.  Her garment seems to have some significance, but I was unable to learn what that might be by looking online.  A mystery (and some things should remain that way!) – NB: Thanks to Namhla in comments below, I can confirm that the woman is wearing the traditional wrap of a sangoma, a healer. 

Woman gathering herbs

Finally we arrive in the Blyde River Canyon area, but the heavy mist will likely make our next stop problematic.  That’s my next blog!  Stay tuned….

Blyde River Canyon

In Mandela’s Shadow

On our first day of garden touring in Johannesburg, we travel to a shopping mall in the affluent suburb of Sandton for lunch.  On the way, we pass the home of the late Nelson Mandela, who died here  surrounded by family on December 5, 2013, at the age of 95.

Mandelas house

It is a remarkable thing that this man, who fought so hard against the apartheid government and endured more than 27 years in prison, much of it doing hard labour, would ultimately triumph and become South Africa’s first black prime minister, enjoying the adulation of people of all colour and bringing the nation together in a spirit of reconciliation.  He was never forgotten by his supporters in those prison years; on the contrary, they pushed hard for him to be released, a movement that grew stronger as apartheid weakened. I loved this song by exiled South African musician Hugh Masekela, sung to a cheering crowd in Zimbabwe in 1987 during Paul Simon’s controversial  Graceland concert tour.

Nelson Mandela’s name would come up often on our two-week tour. We would hear it as we gazed out the bus window at “Mandela’s houses” – more properly RDP or Reconstruction and Development Project houses – lined up like dominoes all over the country.  It was his desire and the official policy of the ANC government to put roofs over the heads of all South Africans.  More than 1.4 million homes have been built under the plan, but many millions more still live in shanty towns, and the nation continues to struggle with illegal immigration from poor African countries on its borders.

Mandela Houses

We would see him smiling from the windows of the civic building in Cape Town.

Mandela Mural - Cape Town Civic Building

And now, at an outdoor table of a restaurant overlooking Nelson Mandela Square at the Sandton City mall, as I tuck into a delicious and rather ornate-looking lunch of prawn salad…..

Seafood salad

….I see his likeness in a 10-metre tall bronze statue,installed in 2004,

Mandela Square

The statue attracts wave after wave of shoppers and business people, kids and old folks, tourists in safari gear and women in burqas, all wanting to have their photo snapped posing against his massive bronze legs. Something about this parade of people makes me put down my fork and pick up my telephoto lens.  And as I watch them take their turn, I feel tears coming to my eyes. It might just be molten bronze, but the man left a long, indelible shadow over this country and changed it forever. He has gone, but his legacy lives on in the rainbow nation he left behind.

Mandelas legs

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  Nelson Mandela

Strolling London’s Columbia Road Flower Market

As part of our ‘crammed-with-fun’ long weekend in London in late October, our eldest son made sure we experienced one of the city’s most colourful traditions on Sunday morning: the Columbia Road Flower Market.

Vendor at Columbia Road Flower Market

The market has a rich history.  It was established in 1869 by Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts, the daughter of a reformist politician and one of the wealthiest women in England at the time, having inherited the £1.8 million banking fortune of her step-grandmother. Most of her money was spent on philanthropy, including scholarships, endowments and charitable acts such as the co-founding, with Charles Dickens, of a home for young women who had “turned to a life of immorality”, including theft and prostitution.

Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts - National Portrait Gallery

Baroness Burdett-Coutts was also a benefactor of the Church of England and endowed the bishoprics in Cape Town (where she was active in improving the condition for blacks), Adelaide and British Columbia. On land in East London’s Bethnal Green, she pioneered social housing, establishing the housing development Holly Village on a corner of her estate (now part of Highgate) In 1869, she founded the Columbia Market in Nova Scotia Gardens, a small slum in an old brick field near St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, that had become notorious in the 1830s for body-robbing and murder by a gang called the Resurrection Men (what a great name!)

Vintage Card of Columbia Market

Built as a covered food market with 400 stalls, the market was originally held on Saturdays but changed to Sunday by royal edict in order to accommodate Jewish traders. The change also allowed vendors from Covent Garden and Spitalfields to sell their left-over Saturday flowers.  After the second world war (when the market and its underlying bomb shelter suffered a direct hit in September 1940), it went into gradual decline.  In the 1960s, new rules obliged vendors to attend their stalls on a regular basis and the market enjoyed renewed popularity. (Source: Wikipedia)

Today there are little antique shops, jewelers and home furnishing boutiques lining the market, and a few stalls for non-flower vendors.  Buskers work the crowds, the coffee is rich and dark, and the croissants are divine!  But the real draw are the flowers: fresh, inexpensive and beautiful……

Tulips at Columbia Road Flower Market

And sometimes labelled with rather creative names.

Cotinus

It’s such a shame not to soak in the atmosphere that I decided to make a little video to give you a real flavour of the place. Enjoy!  And do sniff those lilies, why don’tcha, darlin’? Just 5 quid a bunch!!