All four of us, at some time have stayed in the small settlement of Cataviña in Baja Mexico and some how I had a mental block on the name of the town that we were going to next – Calvinia.
To get there, we again needed to climb up the Bokkeveld Escarpment at Vanrhynsdorp Pass, the twisting pass to Nieuwoudtville that had been shrouded in clouds when we were last here on 26 September. This time it was nice and clear and we pulled over into the car park at the top of the hill for some scenic shots of the Knersvlakte that stretched out before us. We had seen many interesting plants here and enjoyed taking their pictures.
At the view-point car park (S2733), David told us that this had been called ‘Compton’s Corner’ by Gordon Rowley when he had visited here in the 1970s. Various succulents named after Robert Compton, Director of the National Botanic Garden at Kirstenbosch grew here, I don’t recall which – IPNI lists an amazing 121 taxa of plants with the epithet comptonii, but if David reads these notes, he might drop me a line with the full story. Alternatively, when I visit Gordon for another cup of tea, he might tell us the story himself. It’ll be a good opportunity to pick his brain on the many Crassula, Anacampseros and Avonia that we photographed and still await an ID.
These days a barbed wire fence stands between the car park and where David remembered the plants grew. David had already disappeared over the fence, while Cliff and I searched for an easier access point. I was already in and helped Cliff by steadying the fence when a pick-up truck pulled in and the driver asked us, angrily,what we were up to. ‘Hoping to take pictures of some succulent plants’, we explained. ‘You’re on private land, my land, get off!’ We apologised and tried to explain that there were no signs to indicate where we should go to ask permission – there were no obvious buildings around where we could have asked. He did not want to listen, watched briefly as I climbed back out of his land and drove off. I dare say that we could have climbed back again, but the man was right, we had been in the wrong, so disappointed to have failed on this stop to see the plants, we returned to the car. A bit later, David joined us again, surprised that we had not followed him – I believe that he took some pictures of the plants that we had hoped to see.
Next we headed for a location for which David had received information. It was quite a bit out of our way, but we had travelled all the way to South Africa to see plants, so a few extra miles were not an issue for this special plant:
Exciting! Isn’t it? In this and many other gravel / sand pans around it in the rocky surface grew a range of exciting miniature succulent plants! Lets take a look at them;
‘fragaroides’ = like a strawberry. I first learned about this plant when I read its description as a new species in Bradleya 29 (pages 51 to 56), less than a year ago and had not imagined that I would be face to face with it so soon.
On the other hand, I took some persuading that this, to me, ugly plant is highly desirable amongst collectors of succulent and caudiciform plants. Why? Answers on a post card …. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess.
Now that I have seen it in habitat, perhaps I should try to grow this quartet, bought from European nurseries, in my collection in its own gravel pan.
It has been suggested that I’m a bit of a cactus and now succulent plant tourist, as I try to avoid endurance walks to see plants in remote places. I have nothing against making the effort to seeing plants in remote places, but I love it when the journey can be made by car!
For me this was one of the best stops of the trip!