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Thursday, 11 October 2012 – Rosh Pinah to Port Nolloth (South Africa)

It’s only some 21 km from Rosh Pinah to the small 2 car at the time ferry across the Oranje Rivier at Sendelingsdrift and the border with South Africa. There was one car already being processed but there was only one officer on duty. We knew what to expect from numerous border crossings elsewhere but here it was all done calmly and in a friendly manner. I can recommend this experience, but check the opening hours and after heavy rainfalls (rare) the ferry may not be able to cross the river (S2652).

S2652 - Sendelingsdrift, ferry crossing from Namibia to South Africa

S2652 – Sendelingsdrift, ferry crossing from Namibia to South Africa

The same applied to the South African side of the border. All the buildings were fairly new – this border post and the ferry have only been open as a public crossing since 2007.

From the customs post a number of not too well sign-posted tracks lead off in various directions. Sat Nav seemed a little confused until a few km along the first choice track it became clear that we should have taken one of the alternatives.

We stopped along our second choice track at a large flat area with numerous clump forming succulents. I’ve provisionally IDed them as members of the genus Cheiridopsis but there are several problems with that. First of all, just in this one location there were enough plants that looked different enough to convince a dedicated splitter that we were seeing at least half a dozen different species. However, things have become more complicated once I got back home to find that there are some 100 species of Cheiridopsis and that there are at least half a dozen more genera that look more like my Cheiridopsis than some of the members of that genus. So for now I’ll refer to all such plants as Cheiridopsis species until I’ve learned to tell what is what. Here are a few nice ones ….. or are they not Cheiridopsis?

S2653 - Cheiridopsis #2

S2653 – Cheiridopsis sp #1

S2653 - Cheiridopsis

S2653 – Cheiridopsis sp. #2

S2653 - Dracophilus dealbatus

S2653 – Dracophilus dealbatus

S2653 - Hartmanthus pergamentaceus

S2653 – Hartmanthus pergamentaceus

To complicate matters further, the foliage of these plants – and therefore the appearance of the whole plant as hardly any stem, if any, is visible – can dry up into a papery sheet in the dry season and then look quite different to specimens in groth that we were seeing.

We were near a location suggested to Eunice for Crassula alstonii, one of the more interesting members of that genus (S2654). We searched spread out over a wide area on foot for over an hour but found none, but I still managed to take 61 images, including this one of a non-succulent but spiny shrub, in flower.

S2654 - Codon royenii

S2654 – Codon royenii

At S2655 we saw a lot more Crassula, all very nice plants, but again at time tricky to ID. I’m sure that I’ll be told which ones I got wrong in the following set;

S2655 - Crassula columnaris

S2655 – Crassula columnaris

S2655 - Crassula deceptor

S2655 – Crassula deceptor

S2655 Crassula macowaniana

S2655 Crassula macowaniana

and finally a couple of nice Aloes …..

S2656 - Aloe pillansii

S2656 – Aloe pillansii

S2656 - Aloe pillansii

S2656 – Aloe pillansii

S2656 - Aloe striata ssp karasbergensis

S2656 – Aloe striata ssp karasbergensis

S2656 - Aloe striata ssp karasbergensis

S2656 – Aloe striata ssp karasbergensis

and a peculiar plant that after searches on the internet has been provisionally identified as a Mesemb! all at S2656, still in the Richtersveld, before heading down for the 100 km plus drive to Port Nolloth.

S2656 - Prenia sladeniana

S2656 – Prenia sladeniana

S2656 - Prenia sladeniana

S2656 – Prenia sladeniana

Wednesday, 10 October 2012 – around Rosh Pinah

As you’ll have noticed, we often use one day to travel from A to B, with stops along the way and then one or two more days to take a look in the area. And so a day around Rosh Pinah had been planned. But, as we woke up we realised that there’s not much scope for plant stops around Rosh Pinah. It is a mining town that had grown at quite a pace in recent years. In the main, the people staying in the accommodation where we were staying was more aimed at long-term stays for individuals or families, self catering with a bar and restaurant for those who preferred to eat out, aimed at contractors working in the middle of nowhere in the mining industry and related businesses.

We had come in from the north  and would leave tomorrow to the south, so the natural thing to do would be to explore to the east and / or the west – except that to the west is the Sperrgebiet, translated into English – the barred / blocked area. And the inadequate maps that we had with us did not suggest anything specifically to aim  for.

First of all we wanted to see Pachypodium namaquanum that is known to grow in the area and again on the other side of the Oranje Rivier in South Africa. It is said to grow on the highest mountains, facing to the north. Around Rosh Pinah, the mountains were mainly to the west and it was impossible to get clear views to their northern sides with binoculars to try to spot a few of them. Any tracks in that direction seemed to lead to gates to mines. No go.

Lithops karasmontana subs. eberlanzii, C149 to be precise, used to be known under the name Lithops erniana var. witputzensis and has its Type Locality in the area ‘110 km SSE of Aus’. Yesterday we had passed by a track off to the east with signage for the Witputs Farm aka Witputz – we found a whole range of alternative spellings of names of Dutch and in Namibia, German origin. Obviously the language is still evolving and is evidence of as much diversity as is found for different reasons in the flora. And so a plan evolved to see where that track would take us in that direction. The time/date stamps of the images taken tell part of the story. We hit the turning at 9:18 and headed east until some 20 minutes later we spotted some nice stands of Hoodia along the side of the road – time for a leg stretch and exercising the shutter fingers.

S2650 was a good stop – I took 150 images during the three hours that we hiked in the hills to the south of the track. We did find a small population of Lithops and due to the assumed proximity to C149, Lithops karasmontana subs. eberlanzii is the name I’ll be using until somebody who knows better tells me otherwise and helps me to understand why.

S2650 - Lithops karasmontana subsp eberlanzii

S2650 – Lithops karasmontana subsp eberlanzii

Many of the succulent plants we were seeing here were plants that we had seen before so I’ll avoid duplicates here, or list the 15 taxa I recorded here, many of them just ‘sp.’

Another plant that we saw here and on many other locations is one given the quaint common name of ‘dog’s balls’, which we quickly translated to ‘dog’s bollocks’, thus neatly side-stepping the issue of which of the five species in the genus Larryleachia (formerly Trichocaulon and before that in Hoodia and originally the genus Stapelia) might be appropriate for the plant in front of our camera lenses. We tended to use the Latin name Larryleachia cactiformis that is so appropriate to any of these plants that superficially resemble globular or semi-columnar cacti. From a bit of reading on the internet and in Doreen Court’s The Succulent Flora of Southern Africa it seems that the five species differ mainly in flower detail, and as we saw none in flower ….. Some were larger than others, but that could just be a matter of age or environmental factors and some formed clumps while others were solitary, but it may well be that these are not reliable diagnostic features. Here is one photographed at S2650, showing the seedhorns that confirm that we missed its flowering.

S2650 - Larryleachia cactiformis

S2650 – Larryleachia cactiformis

As mentioned earlier, this stop was prompted by Hoodia’s seen at the side of the track. I’d better explain that again, we use this name out of ignorance for any smallish ceroid-like Stapeliad – again no flowers seen here. Here is what prompted the stop:

S2650 - Hoodia sp.

S2650 – Hoodia sp.

There are no images worth publishing from S2651, just blurred images of a family of deer (klip bokken?) crossing the road at speed) so I’ll finish today with another plant from S2650, again seen before and again in the future over quite a range:

S2650 - Cassula sericea

S2650 – Crassula sericea

The lovely velvety texture of the leaves ensured that it would get photographed again on many occasions.

Tomorrow we cross back into South Africa – lots more paper filling to look forward to?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012 – Luderitz to Rosh Pinah

Enthused by yesterday’s plants, particularly those seen at S2641, we set of to a spot suggested by friends in the UK, S2644, 2 km from Haalenberg, north of the B4 Luderitz to Aus road. Again, I’ll limit myself to showing you my favourite pics.

My scribbles from the day say that Juttadinteria simpsonii is reported from here, but did we see it? Would I recognise it? The first run through of the images had a unidentified plant here, small mesemb with knobbly leaves. Back in the UK I entered the Juttadinteria name into Google and the images that appeared suggest that we did indeed see it:

S2644 - Juttadinteria simpsonii

S2644 – Juttadinteria simpsonii

I’m now quite good at recognising Sarcocaulon patersonii, but what was the creamy white-flowered plant here? Back to the Bushman Candles and there it was: Monsonia crassicaulis from the Haalenberg area!

S2644 - Sarcocaulon crassicaulis

S2644 – Sarcocaulon crassicaulis

It’s always nice to see plants that you have grown in your green house in the UK growing here in nature. That was the case here with Lithops karasmontana ssp. eberlanzii at S2644, near the location where Desmond Cole found C398, C399 and C400. It looked very dehydrated and my instincts were to water it, but that is probably how I used to kill the Lithops at home: watering to encourage the new leaf pair to grow, before the old leaf pair had withered away.

S2644 - Lithops karasmontana ssp. eberlanzii

S2644 – Lithops karasmontana ssp. eberlanzii

We moved on to S2645, still along the C13 and quite near, south of Aus and after some searching found the plant that David had seen here on a previous visit: Crassula mesembryanthemopsis. The plants were almost completely covered in sand so after the initial ‘as we found them’ pictures, it was down on hands and knees to blow away some of the sand to expose the plants:

S2645 Crassula mesembryanthemopsis

S2645 – Crassula mesembryanthemopsis

Also at this location I photographed this plant:

S2645 - unidentified sp

S2645 – unidentified sp. [now identified as Ruschia divaricata]

The leaves of this small shrub suggest a Mesemb, but without flowering parts it’s difficult to confirm. The spines looked unusual until I learned in Mesembs of the World that there is a group, Group 13, of Ruschia-like Shrubby Mesembs, so that narrows it down a bit … to about 241 taxa!! Eberlanzia sedoides might be a candidate? This is a monotypic genus but 26 names have been used and are now called Ruschia and placed in  the subgenus Spinosae. I’ll have to load this image up to iSpot to see if anyone there can give a more positive ID. [PS: Most impressive! In less then an hour of posting this observation on iSpot, there was a confirmed ID! Ruschia divaricata]

And while I’m at it I could post this image of another Mesemb photographed at S2648 that initially I had down as a Monilaria sp., until I learned that there is a whole group (group 8) of bead-leaved Mesembs, totalling 21 species in 5 genera! So which one is this?

S2648 - unidentified Mesemb

S2648 – unidentified Mesemb

PS – I know that some of you have subscribed to follow this blog and receive an email each time that a new posting is published BUT there are no notifications if I edit an existing page! So, do check back occasionally!

Monday, 8 October 2012 – Around Luderitz

The plants today suggest that we are heading in the right direction. Reading various books, leaflets and information on websites I have learned that we have entered the West Coast Karoo, that stretches from Luderitz, south throgh Namibia and Southern Africa. This ecoregion has been subdivided into two zones, the Namaqualand-Namib domain that we had now entered and the Southern Karoo  domain that we would visit later before returning to Cape Town.

Not only did I have to become familiar with a huge number of taxa that were new to me, but also with eco-geographical names that are usually not mapped on the road maps that we carry. These domains are subdivided again into Regions and we found ourselves in the most northern one – the Sperrgebiet, most of which is taken over by diamond mining and is not accessible to the public. The number of succulent plant taxa that occur is mind boggling and seems to vary as a precise number depending on who you follow. One source states that ‘the region is host to, about half of the world’s 10’000 succulent species. About 67 genera and 1,940 species are endemic to this ecoregion’.  Despite the many images we took, we hardly scratched the surface, sticking perhaps to those plants that we are familiar with in Europe and in California. In Europe this tends to mean smaller plant that have to be grown indoors or in a greenhouse, where space is at a premium.

I have selected a few images of plants that I am familiar with or that intrigue me, even though I can’t name them, in some cases, not even the plant Family that they belong to. Enjoy, and do suggest names where you have a fairly firm idea of what they might be.

For the first stop of the day we became ‘normal’ tourists and visited Kolmanskop, a ghost town, frozen in time. In 1908 the first diamond in this area was found here and attracted many people to create the small town in typical style – this was a German colony at the time. After World War 1, the diamond supply became exhausted and in 1958 operations closed down, allowing the wind and sands to reclaim the village. The following two images show succulent plants that have benefitted from this desertification. I can’t even pin them down to a Plant Family. The website iSpot came to my help and suggested Brownanthus marlothii for one of them. A quick look in Mesembs of the World confirms that this is an excellent match. Thank you.

S2639 Genus sp

S2639 – Brownanthus marlothii

S2639 - Kolmanskop Ghost town

S2639 – Kolmanskop Ghost town

At the next stop, S2640, near by, things became a bit more fair in that the Sarcocaulons were in leaf and flower.

S2640 Sarcocaulon sp

S2640 – Sarcocaulon patersonii

I had a copy of the excellent Bushman Candles book by the late Charles Craib and John Lavranos and as a result I hazard a guess for the name: Sarcocaulon or Monsonia patersonii. These really are tough customers, as they were flowering in a very strong wind (we were wearing coats & jumpers again and running after hats that had been blown off) while being blasted by quite large sand particles. How do such delicate paper thin flower petals survive that?

S2641 was a revelation – we were back in plant land. Here are just a few.:

S2641 - Litops optica

S2641 – Lithops optica

S2641 Argyroderma sp

S2641 – Crassula elegans subsp. namibensis

[I had provisionally identified the plant above as an Argyroderma sp, but Derek Tribble has since suggested Crassula elegans subsp. namibensis which I’m happy to accept. If ever I need to give a talk about parralel evolution, this and an Argyroderma sp. will be a good example. Thanks Derek!]

S2641 - Conophytum sp

S2641 – Conophytum sp

I was really taken with the next plant, without any idea of an ID. Then while browsing through the Bushman Candles book, there it was, in the Photography in habitat chapter!

S2641 - Tylecodon shaefferianus

S2641 – Tylecodon shaeferianus

So that should be another tick on the list of identified plants – if I got it right!

No plants were photographed at S2642, at the Dias Point National Monument – a) there were none to be seen and b) I was afraid that my camera would be blown clean out of my hands!

So we had time for another stop on the way back to the hotel, and saw these nice plants in flower:

S2643 Geraniaceae sp

S2643 Geraniaceae sp

S2643 Mesemb shrub

S2643 Mesemb shrub

Sunday, 7 October 2012 – Keetmanshoop to Luderitz

S2636 - Sarcocaulon sp

S2636 – Sarcocaulon sp

Today was yet another driving day, with four stops (S2635 to S2638). By now we had become used to seeing few plants, but we were heading back towards South Africa where on one day we had seen more different taxa than in all our time in Namibia. And when you do find a plant, like this Sarcocaulon, it has no leaves, flowers or fruits to try to decide what name to give it.  But, to put things into perspective, we would not have seen the plants that we have seen here if we had stayed south of the border.

S2637 - Aloe striata karasbergensis

S2637 – Aloe striata karasbergensis

S2637 - Hoodia sp

S2637 – Hoodia sp

S2638 wind

S2638 wind

Yes, we were back nearing the coast!

A bit farther along it seemed that the fog that we had experienced in Swakopmund was also back. As we heard the noise similar to hail stones hitting the car, another traffic sign explained the noise.

S2638 sand

S2638 sand

The sign was ambiguous; was this a maximum speed recommendation or the speed of the sand particles peppering the car? Probably both, as well as the distance over which we would experience this!

Saturday, 6 October 2012 – Windhoek to Keetmanshoop

[written ‘live’, on the road]

Just a brief sign of life after today’s 500 km drive in the heat, 33C, back south. Nothing much to see plant wise – I took just 3 pictures, all three of the pickup truck in front of us, full of people in the back – must have been a taxi!

This is a rather barren area in terms of succulent plants, as we had already taken pictures of the Aloe dichatoma and other unknown Aloe sp (growing to over 2 m (6ft) tall, a few days ago as we headed north.

Even some of the hotels that claim to have internet facilities, don’t or charge too much. It’s still very much the same as Alain & Greet found it in 2010. Looking back through Alain’s Diary (in Dutch) we have seen much the same places, but also travelled some alternative routes and may be saw something different as a result.

Tomorrow we head west to Luderitz and after a few days, go south to Rosh Pinah and then cross at Sendelingdrif back into RSA.

We’re on our second car – nothing wrong with the first one, except that as we approached Windhoek, the service light came on. We were told that in Windhoek, it takes up to a week to get the service done. Instead they gave us a replacement – another Nissan XTrail. We checked back with them today as we noticed that this car has a service due in 2000 km time – before today’s 500 km stretch. The next Budget place is in Luderitz – could they ring ahead and book us in for a service there or get another replacement with enough km to the next service to get us to the end of the trip? This seemed to be an impossibility. They said that we would be OK for another 2,000 km before the next service is absolutely essential, so we’ll make it the problem for the Budget Dealer when we need to – in South Africa.

Today we are staying in the Canyon Hotel in Keetmanshoop, rather than the Quiver Tree. As you can see – it has wifi, which today is more important to me than stroking the Cheetahs again.

I promise to do catch ups of proper Diary reports when I get back to the UK.

[PS: from the UK, playing catch up; I’m getting there!]

Friday, 5 October 2012 – Kamanjab to Windhoek

This was another ‘driving day’ as, from the farthest point north of our trip, we headed back south.

All images, mainly taken from the car, all along the track are filed under S2634 and include this picture to show that I haven’t lost my sense of humour yet.

S2634

I did not know he had been to Africa!?

In Chile, it is not unusual to find some really old cars permanently parked along the road. We joke that this must have been Ritter’s car, as his reports from the field include a number of reports of his breakdowns. Here in South Africa broken down cars seem to be cleaned up / recycled quickly. Anyway, Toyotas don’t break down!