Saturday, October 27, 2012

Satyrium coriifolium: Houwhoek mountains

Close-up shot of an individual flower of Satyrium coriifolium
Finally we had some out-doorsy weather here in the overberg so I went for a walk into the Houwhoek mountains to see what orchids were flowering. at approximately 357m above sea-level I came accross a huge colony of Satyrium coriifolium standing like flames amongst the other vynbos. Most of them seemed to be growing along the path of a wide seep which went on and on forever. Although many of the plants were in flower there were countless numbers of younger plants that were not yet mature enough to flower. I will return to this spot in years to come to see how they flower! Anyway, here are some pics.
S. coriifolium
The same plant
Large colony
Lots of immature plants around

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Letter to the Overberg Municipality - Gansbaai

Follow-up so far (18 December 2012)

Although absolutely no response from the Overberg Municipality was received to date (since 25 October 2012), the letter was handed to the mayoress of our region yesterday at a meeting of the Rate-Payers Association. I am sure that we can expect a formal response in due course from the Overberg Municipality...
The following letter with the subject line "Complaint: Satyrium carneum and municipal mowing" was emailed to the Gansbaai office of the Overberg Municipality this afternoon (25 October 2012). I await their response, which I will also publish here.
"Dear Sir/Madam
I am writing to you to find resolution for the serious concern that I have regarding the destruction of the flowering Satyrium carneum (Orchidaceae), an IUCN endangered species listed South African rare, endemic geophyte in the servitude of public open space entering the town of Gansbaai on either side of the roadway (with specific reference to the recently mowed seaward-facing side).
The Overstrand Plot Clearing Policy is clear in its purpose and its responsibilities, indicating amongst others that the authorised officials of the local municipality have the final decision in when and how a plot of land is cleared. However, The National Heritage Resources Act (Act no. 25 of 1999) requires local authorities to compile inventories of heritage resources within their area of jurisdiction. The Overstrand Municipality has appointed the Overstrand Heritage Landscape Group to compile such an inventory and to grade heritage resources in terms of the criteria identified in the Act. The Act identifies that the heritage resources of South Africa which are of cultural significance or other special value for the present community and for future generations must be considered part of the national estate and fall within the sphere of operations of heritage resources authorities. The Act specifies a place or object is to be considered part of the national estate if it has cultural significance or other special value because of (not limited to) its possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of South Africa’s natural or cultural heritage. Our endemic and endangered species therefore must form part of our natural heritage.
The area of land mentioned above contains an incredible concentration of the endangered species S. carneum. This species is in full flower at this time in the area and is pollinated by sunbirds. The plant dries out shortly after flowering, allowing the dispersal of seeds by wind. The plant then remains dormant underground in the form of a tuber which gives rise to subsequent growth in the following season. The mowing of the servitude before the plants have had opportunity to set viable seeds to further future generations is ignorant and irresponsible and jeopardises the viable continuity of this local colony. Additionally, the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, Act 10, 2004 defines a “threatening process” as “a process which threatens, or may threaten- (a) the survival, abundance or evolutionary development of an indigenous species; (b) the ecological integrity of an ecosystem” and states that “a municipality must adopt an integrated development plan in terms of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 2000 (Act No. 32 of 2000), and take into account the need for the protection of listed ecosystems.” Further to this, no person may carry out a restricted activity involving a specimen of a listed threatened or protected species without a permit issued in terms of Chapter 7 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act. Restricted activity includes (but is not limited to) “picking parts of, or cutting, chopping off, uprooting, damaging or destroying, any specimen of a listed threatened or protected species.”
It is obvious that there is conflict here. However, it should be remembered that in the event of any conflict between a section of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and a municipal by-law, the section of the Act prevails.
Therefore, I would like to exercise my right to freedom of information and request firstly to view your (and/or contractor’s) permit issued under Chapter 7 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act to undertake the restricted process of mowing on this land, and I would like to request a copy of your integrated development plan highlighting the listed protected ecosystems in the area. In addition, I would like to discuss a remedial plan to conserve these (and other) endangered plant species by the simple integration of protocols to avoid future problems as indicated above.
I look forward to hearing from you."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spring has sprung, and I am back!

Hello again. Many things have changed since my last post at the onset of Winter!
Firstly, with great thanks to Bradley, my greenhouses and the majority of my collection were moved to Bradley's residence in Worcester after I accepted a new job in the Hermanus area. We relocated to Hermanus and it has taken some time to adjust and to settle into all the new things. I miss being able to walk through my plants and view how things are flowering and how they are growing but Bradley has been kind enough to keep me updated with cell phone images of flowering plants from time to time. Unfortunately I have had to stop working on the in vitro side of things for now but I have retained all of my hardware for the time when I can hopefuly get stuck into it again. With the new job I doubt whether this will be any time soon.
Secondly, All of my Phalaenopsis seedlings of my various hybrids were loaned to the Cape University of Technology in Cape Town for an MSc project looking at the cryopreservation of orchids and other bits 'n pieces including cloning techniques. An inventory of flasks was given to them and all of the seedlings produced will be returned to me in a year or two after the completion of the study. So far they are growing well according to the head of department of botany. My more demanding species from various parts of the world that required further in vitro work went to Richard at King Plants for grow-on and I got to see how they were getting on a few weekends ago when I popped in for a visit. It is always a pleasure to visit Richard. I am always amazed with the awesome quality of all of his plants!
Satyrium carneum in the garden
I have been keeping my eye out for any local terrestrial species in the area and recently I was fortunate to spot some Satyrium carneum growing in Gaansbaai. Unfortunately just the other day the local municipality went through the area with mowers and flattened the entire lot! I thought that they could at least have waited until the flowers had set some seeds. In fact, I will draft a letter to them to voice my opinion and let's see what their response will be. On S. carneum, my specimens have flowered too and I put some in the garden amongst some other indigenous plants. I have a pair of lesser-collared sunbirds nesting in the garden with a single chick and they have been very busy (messy) pollinating the flowers. I do wonder though how on earth these birds actually get it right since I am constantly finding pollinia all over the place, except inside the flowers!
S. carneum close-up
In addition, some of the plants which I did take along with me to the new house in Hermanus seem to be doing well. My Eulophias seem to enjoy the climate and E. streptopetala and E. parviflora are both sending out spikes now. My seedling E. speciosa which I grew from seeds are also doing very well and very large, as are my seedling Bonatea speciosa. The largest B. speciosa was sending out its first blooms but the wind snapped it off so I will have to wait until next year. My adult B. speciosa has been flowering recently and I have pollinated some flowers successfully. The plant sits next to my front door and gives off the most wonderful scent in the evening.
Bonatea speciosa in flower