Chameleons have super-sticky saliva that enables them to catch prey a third of their own size. Scientists recently found that this liquid is about 400 times more viscous than human saliva, with a consistency similar to honey. The chameleon strikes in the blink of an eye. It first sticks out its tongue slowly. Then the muscles contract, building up energy that packs the punch behind the shot. After the initial acceleration, the back part of the tongue stretches quickly, unfolding like an accordion to reach its target. Then, once the mucous-covered tongue hits the bug, the tongue snaps back like an elastic rubber band. Prey consumed.
The “Waboom” or Protea nitida is the only Protea species to grow into trees yielding usable timber. Generally, it is gnarled and slow growing with white-grey bark and greenish white flowers that appear year-round. The waboom is well protected from fire by an exceptionally thick layer of bark. The name waboom originates from the use of the very hard wood for wheel rims and brake blocks of wagons. The wood was also popular for the manufacture of ornamental furniture. Interestingly, the name waboom was first recorded in 1720 and has thus been used for far longer than its scientific name.
The white milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme) is a protected species in South Africa. Three specimens have been proclaimed National Monuments. One of these is situated in Mossel Bay and is called the ‘Post Office Tree’. In 1500 Portuguese soldiers tied a shoe containing a letter on the tree, describing the drowning at sea of the famous Bartholomew Dias. This tree is said to be 600 years old. Other renowned specimens are the ‘Treaty Tree’ in Woodstock, Cape Town and the ‘Fingo Milkwood Tree’ near Peddie in the Eastern Cape.
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
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.