The Iris Family

The Iris Family

Image: Joan Keyter

Rodney Moffett (Research associate, Dept. of Plant Sciences, UFS) contributing with a series of articles regarding the more interesting plants in the Clarens Village Conservancy.

SOME OF THE MORE INTERESTING PLANTS IN THE CLARENS VILLAGE CONSERVANCY. No. 4

Members of the Iridaceae are a group characterized by long strap-like leaves and flower parts in 3’s or 6’s, and having only 3 stamens. The most well-known are the bearded irises found in many gardens. These are, however, not indigenous, having originally come from the northern hemisphere. 

Indigenous members of this family occurring in and around the Conservancy are genera such as Moraea, Gladiolus, Watsonia, Hesperantha, Schizostylis, Dierama, Crocosmia, Tritonia and Aristea. 

Moraea

(named after the wife of the Swedish botanist, Linnaeus).
Closest to the garden Iris, two Moraea’s occur here, viz: Moraea tripetala, dwarf and mauve and M. alticola, found in higher parts.

Moraea alticola

Image by Wim Wybenga

Gladiolus

(Latin name for a sword, referring to the leaf blades).
Four species locally, viz: Gladiolus dalenii, G.crassifolium, G. papilio and G. saundersii  (the latter rare, one plant seen so far).

Gladiolus dalenii.

Image: Anneke Kritzinger

Gladiolus crassifolius  

Image: Wim Wybenga

Gladiolus papilio

Image: Anneke Kritzinger

Gladiolus saundersii 

Image: Rod Moffett

Watsonia lepida 

(after William Watson, 18th century English scientist).
Only one species here, Watsonia lepida. Often in large populations.

Watsonia lepida  

Image: Anneke Kritzinger

Schizostylis coccinea

(Schizo, Gk for split; stylis, Latin, referring to style). 
One species here. Schizostylis coccinea. River lily. Found in wet places.

Schizostylis coccinea 

Image: Wim Wybenga

Hesperantha

(Hesperos, Gk for evening; anthos Latin for flower).
Two species in the CVC., viz: Hesperantha coccinea (formerly included in Schizostylis) found In wet places and H. schelpeana. Latter rare.

Hesperantha coccinea 

Image: Anneke Kritzinger

 Hesperantha schelpeana 

Image: Rod Moffett

Dierama

(Diorama, Gk for funnel, referring to shape of flower).
One species locally. Dierama robustum. Common name, Hairbells.

Dierama robustum  

Image: Anneke Kritzinger

Crocosmia

(Krokos, Gk for saffron; osme, Gk for smell).
One species in the CVC, Crocosmia paniculata. Gardeners also know it as Montbretia.

Crocosmia paniculata  

Image: SANBI

Tritonia

(Triton, Latin for weathercock, referring to the stamens).
One species in the CVC. Tritonia lineata.

Tritonia lineata 

Image: Wim Wybenga

Aristea

(Arista, Latin for point, referring to the sharp pointed leaves).
One species in the CVC, Aristea woodii. Blue flowers rare in this family.

Aristea woodii  

Image: Wim Wybenga

Why are our snakes a little more active, nowadays?

Why are our snakes a little more active, nowadays?

They are feasting before the big fast!

During winter they do not eat at all or if they do, very little. This explains why they are stuffing themselves now and why we are seeing them more often prior to winter. They are hunting to build up fat reserves and then they will be off to seek a suitable shelter for the cold months ahead. But some snakes, like pythons and Puff Adders, are actively busy with mating on the Highveld right into the middle of winter..

Our winters are not cold enough for snakes to hibernate and although they are far less active in winter, they may emerge from their winter hide-outs on a warm winter day to bask in the sun.  Even when we have frost on the Highveld and temperatures drop well below zero, these snakes are relatively warm a meter or two underground where the temperature will not drop below 20 degrees C.

Hibernation has been described as an inherent, regular and prolonged period of inactivity during winter and the term ‘brumation’ is popularly used for reptiles. Snakes in cold regions of the world do hibernate and often in dens where hundreds or even thousands of snakes may share the same winter shelter.

With a dramatic drop in snake activity in winter, very few bites are reported and the majority of bites on humans are recorded in the warm summer months of January – April.

According to Professor Harry Greene, snakes consume between 6 – 30 meals per year and this is in summer. During winter they do not eat at all or if they do, very little. Because snakes are ectotherms and require no food for their heat requirements, they can survive with very little food and a large Puff Adder probably consumes less than 1 kg of food per year.

 

You will often see a rinkhals basking just outside its hole when a winters day warms up to around 23 degree Celsius.

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.