Photo credit: Lee Slabber

Did You Know

The ostrich lays the largest egg of any bird, yet it is the smallest egg compared to the bird’s body weight. A male ostrich will mate with several females in the group, but only the dominant female will incubate the eggs, including those of the other females.  However, she keeps track of which eggs are not hers and may sacrifice them to predators to keep her own eggs safe. Unattended eggs are vulnerable to predators like jackals and vultures, both of which have evolved strategies to break the sturdy eggs. Jackals will roll them against each other until they break, while some vultures may drops stones on the eggs to crack them. When the chicks hatch the male takes care of them and may even fight off other males to “adopt” their chicks to give his own a better chance of survival.

Photo credit: Lee Slabber

Berzelia lanuginosa

Did You Know

The ‘Vleikolkol’ (Berzelia lanuginosa) is a beautiful fynbos plant belonging to the family Bruniaceae. This family is endemic to the fynbos of the Western Cape – which means it occurs nowhere else in the world. As the common name implies, it is an evergreen shrub that grows in wet areas. The flowers are creamy white to yellow, and are pollinated by insects. After flowering, the white seeds stay on the shrub for a few years. Hence the species name lanuginosa, which is derived from the Latin, meaning wool. The Vleikolkol makes an excellent garden plant.

Photo credit: Photofanatics

Did You Know

Our beautiful fynbos icons, the proteas, belong to the family Proteaceae. It is an ancient family that existed in the time of the dinosaurs. Our best known species is the national flower, Protea cynaroides, or king protea. It has the largest flower head of all the proteas. What appears to be one large flower is actually a collection of hundreds of small individual flowers at the centre of the flower head. The beautiful red ‘petals’ surrounding the flower are actually modified leaves called bracts. Protea leaves are hard and leathery, perfectly adapted to withstand drought. This ensures that the flowers last very well as cut flowers contributing hugely to our cut flower industry.

Did You Know

Photo of Erica hispidula showing disc-shaped stigmas (female part of the flower): www.ispotnature.org

Photo of Erica hispidula showing disc-shaped stigmas (female part of the flower): www.ispotnature.org

Erica species (the so-called heaths) have, over millions of years, adapted the shape of their flowers to take advantage of different pollinators. For example, some have long tube-like flowers that offer a nectar reward to sunbirds. Their beaks are adapted to reach the nectar at the bottom of the tube where it is safe from nectar robbers. Other Ericas have short, urn-like flowers that are suited to bee pollinators. The bottle-shaped Erica flowers with star-shaped mouths attract flies and butterflies with long proboscises (mouthparts),and some Erica flowers have sticky, disc-shaped stigmas to receive wind-borne pollen.

Water Expo at the GreenHouse

February starts off with World Wetland Week and ends with Leap Day for frogs. March is the time for Water Awareness. Whale Coast Conservation got into the swing by hosting a water expo at the GreenHouse which combines all these themes.

1

These little Hermanus Private School froggies are practising their jumps!

2

The big Catchment-to-Coast banner shows the movement of water from the river catchment basin, along the river valleys through various wetlands to the coast where it opens to an estuary. It also gives clues of how humans interact with rivers.
SA is a water scarce country which is made worse when we waste water and pollute it.

3

How can we save water? At the GreenHouse we harvest water in tanks, we use composting toilets, use greywater to irrigate our plants and water by hand. We also remove thirsty alien plants. Wetlands are very important for cleaning water.

4

Frogs also like to live in wetlands. Frogs are sensitive creatures that by their presence indicate that an environment is healthy. The learners met a raucous toad and made jumping paper toads.

Walking for Water is an important initiative which draws attention to the reality that many people have to walk far to fetch often dirty, contaminated water every day.

Learners watched a video depicting a day in the life of a rural African woman.

Did You Know

Photo of cliff lily Anina Lee

Photo of cliff lily Anina Lee

It’s autumn in Hermanus, the best time to see the lovely carmine cliff lily – Gladiolus carmineus. It only grows on the Hermanus cliffs – from Eastcliff to Westcliff – and is classified as vulnerable because of its restricted distribution. Protecting this endemic lily is one of the many good reasons why the Cliff Path has been incorporated into the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. The cliff lily is pollinated by a beautiful brown butterfly, the Table Mountain Pride butterfly (Aeropetes tulbaghia) that’s attracted to the many red or pink flowers that bloom in late summer.

Photo credit Mountain Pride butterfly Colin Paterson-Jones ©]

Photo credit Mountain Pride butterfly Colin Paterson-Jones ©]

Did You Know

Photo credit: Fernkloof.com

Photo credit: Fernkloof.com

A delicate little pink flower blooms only in Hermanus. It is the highly endangered heath Erica hermani – named after the town that is its home. It was only discovered in the area as recently as the 1980s. Sadly, the number of plants are declining due to urban expansion on the flats to the west of Fernkloof Nature Reserve.

Some plants remaining inside the reserve boundary occur within a firebreak, where regular brush cutting chops down this small, single-stemmed species. Alien plants further threaten the population on the lower slopes of Fernkloof. What are its chances of surviving an ill-conceived road through its only habitat?