Monday, August 11, 2008

Playing Elephant

Playing Elephant

Today was a fun day working in the Conservatory in the Eastern Cape section. I really enjoyed just that fact of being exposed to this plant group, as I will not have a chance to go to the actual region.  I don’t think I have mentioned that the Conservatory is divided into regional and geographic sections, recreating vastly different environments found in the cape. This part of the conservatory is actually without a solid roof as it is a less arid biome and does not have to be protected from the local rains, much in contrast to the Karoo regions, which could not be recreated without shelter from rain for most of the year.


Ernst explained the eastern cape to me in terms of climate, but also as a (former) natural habitat for large animals, specifically elephants. These would break through thick vegetation, trampling and eating, and such do a natural, rather radical pruning. The plants of this environment are superbly adapted to these occurrences, easily resprouting from chopped off branches (e.g. Aloes), regrowing from fallen off plant sections (e.g. Euphorbias), or being able and even depending on distribution of singular leaves from which a whole plant readily reemerges (e.g. Crassulas, Senecios). In fact without these events the whole balance of this biome flips over, and a vastly different flora starts taking over.

So today Georgina and I started a radical pruning of this section, playing Elephants.

Left is the pruned part, the heap in the middle is part of the removed material, and Georgina examining the work from above

I just wish I would have the proverbial thick skin of these animals because most of the plants are either thorny, spiny or sharp edged, and many also contain various milky and clear saps that can be super irritating if in contact with your skin, or even worse eyes or mouth…gloves are a must and one has to really think before scratching your nose and washing hands BEFORE eating or using the bathroom. We worked our way through about half of the section, tomorrow we will enter a part deep between the tall Tree Euphorbias where nobody went for a year or so – FUN!


tmd75 said...

This blog is amazing! I haven't checked in on you for since you started this and I am in awe of your summer. What an incredible moment!

And euphorbia is no joke -so wash up!!


They say it's a cold world said...

Do they have any lithops? I've always been desperate to get to Namibia and see some lithops. Do any species make it as far as the cape? I guess your time there is winding down. Too bad, but we will be glad to see you back in Red Hook!