A Rambler’s Notes

A Rambler’s Notes

From the archives of Patsy Millin

The native Rhus aromatica bush has lovely fall colour.

There are differing opinions, as always, on the approaching winter, very cold, not so cold, much snow, not snow etc., but one of the joys is watching the way plants knuckle own to the cold.

Looking up at our Nature Reserve mountain recently, my eyes were drawn to brilliant small patches of rusty-red. Closer inspection revealed them as one of the Rhus genus, Rhus divaricata. The Rhus genus is part of the Anacardiaceae family, to which Mangoes belong. It is an easy genus to recognise anywhere, as the leaves are trifoliate, that is, three leaves growing from one spot on a stem. So whenever you see this, whether the leaves are rounded (Rhus divaricata), serrated (Rhus dentata) or long and thin (Rhus lancia, Rhus erosa) as a few examples, you will be able to remember is is a Rhus. 

The Rhus dentata is a very decorative small tree for the garden, with shiny red-brown fruit attractive to birds. Another shrub, Rhus pyroides, is also attractive to our winged and feathered friens. In fact, a visit to an indigenous nursery should yield a number of Rhus species.

Rusty leaved leaved currant (due to the grey-green to red-brown hairs beneath the leaves). It  is a decidious shrub up to three metres tall found in mountainous areas up to 2,750m.

According to Elsa Pooley’s book, Mountain Flowers, it is a good wood to use in making kieries and the dried crushed leaves are smoked to possibly cure coughts and colds. 

Peter Millen Bridge

Peter Millen Bridge

Peter and Patsy settled in Clarens during 1990. Peter is well known for his articles about birds which got published in several magazines over the years whilst Patsy often published her own delightful commentary known as A Rambler’s Note Around Clarens.

When you hike along the Scilla Walk towards Van Reenen St you will come upon a new bridge, named after Peter Millin, an enthusiastic environmentalist who were amongst the villagers who  started to map our, by now well-known, hiking trails.

With the kind permission of the Millin Family we will be posting some of their articles over the following months. The first appearing here.

More of Peter’s and Patsy’s articles appear on Di Jones’s web page, https://clarensbutterflybeds.co.za/

Patsy Millin cutting the ribbon at the opening of the new bridge with her daughters, Di Jones (left) and Penny Millen (right) looking on.

Here’s to all the fine feathers

Here’s to all the fine feathers

Another myth is that birds are the souls of humans who have reached perfection. After seven reincarnations on Earth the gods elevate one to the state of a bird, the freest creature of creation.

The hunting of birds was restricted to no more than what you need to eat. One guinea-fowl a day was the limit and no one was allowed to hunt every day either which explains why the meat was dried. It had to last for days. Also, to break the eggs of a bird classified as a terrible sin which will result in a curse of bad luck for at least seven years on the perpetrator and his family.

Fertilizing our world

Rumours abound where birds are concerned.

For instance, the word for bird in Zulu is ingonyi, while the Sesotho  and Tswana call it ngonyani. Translating directly into the English and you arrive at fattening! How do we bring bird and fat together? Apparently, people believed that migrating birds brought fertility to the land. Therefore, a bird is called a fertilizer/fattener of the earth. Something not to be lost. 

Several tribes, like the Batswana and the Ba-Pedi guarded their birds zealously. For instance, it was forbidden to fell a mosu tree (umbrella thorn/Acacia torti/is) because these are the trees upon whose branches migratory birds rest. Time and again, these tribes would press upon its people that if you kill a tree, you kill a bird. In Setswana they say, setklara seswala kinyona, and in Zulu ummuthi uzalwanyone both of which mean the tree is given birth to by the bird.  Where did this come from? They saw that when birds from far away rest on the branches of the bigger trees, eventually strange trees will be growing at the feet of these trees from seeds excreted by the migratory birds. The Bakgatla tribes have a proverb that says if you shave the great earth mother’s green hair she will loose her feathered lice, meaning, if you destroy the trees, birds will no longer come to bring fertility.

From the archives of Peter Millen



Only when it takes over

Declaring war against the invading Robinias.

The invasive Robinia tree has recently taken over big areas in our Clarens Nature reserve, particularly in the Titanic area, and in the valley below the Scilla and Maluti View trails. The CVC decided to use extra casual labour for two weeks, working with our own Rangers to cut the trees and treat the remaining roots with herbicide.

The Robinia has long thorns which makes cutting and handling a difficult task. Even the firewood collectors shy away from the cut wood.

The CVC will now make it a priority to find and cut more “lonely trees”, and regularly patrol cut areas and stop any further growth. The application of herbicide is unfortunately not 100% effective and follow-up is important.

The 2 weeks clearing project has cost the CVC R13 000.

It remains the goal of the CVC to keep our beautiful natural surrounds in good state, and we appeal to our residents to support them. Donations are not only welcome, they are essential.

The CVC Robinia clearing team. Piet (3rd from left) and his casual workers together with two of our rangers.

Left to its own device it will grow into a tall tree…

…and produce some flowers as well!

The Robinias form an extremely thick bush, obviously unaffected by the current drought.

Very good progress has been made.