A walk in orchid country

Gerrit van Ede led a small group on an orchid exploration between Christmas and New Year—the first day of the new lockdown.

By James van den Heever

Gerrit van Ede in discussion with field trip participants in the vicinity of the sugar bushes, with Tom Prinsloo’s farm in the background (Photograph: Cora Hoexter)

For a moment, it seemed as though the immediate amended Level 3 lockdown announced on 28 December 2020 by President Cyril Ramaphosa would scupper the planned orchid-hunting excursion on the 29th. The detailed press briefing was only due to take place at 10h00, by which time we would hope to be on the reserve and besides, several of the participants, including the leader, were only leaving Gauteng early in the morning.

Luckily, the Reserve Manager, Shirley Sibiya, got the nod from the high-ups in the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency to go ahead, and a group of 11 set off from Milly’s on a perfect morning.

We hiked from the office to the waterfall and then beyond, cutting round eventually to join the “tourist road” near the married quarters—a not inconsiderable three-and-a-half-hour jaunt in the burning high-altitude sun of Verloren Valei. The veld was looking very good with wildflowers everywhere although it did seem as though there were perhaps fewer orchids than in previous years—perhaps because of lower rainfall last year.

After a much-needed lunch break back under the ouhout trees at the office, we set off for the orchid hotspot on the wetlands adjacent to the provincial road, where we were able to locate many fine specimens.

A near-perfect Disa Cooperi taken close to the provincial road (Photograph: Phillip Niewoudt)

As always, it was a privilege to be out on foot in this beautiful reserve in the company of an enthusiastic expert who was willing to impart so much information—along with other knowledgeable people. In addition, it was a great pleasure to welcome three new members to the Friends organisation—Dawn Needham, Tony Dustan and Phillip Niewoudt.

Thanks to everyone who came along and made it such an enjoyable day—and to Gerrit especially, of course.

Phillip Niewoudt kindly shared his hit list for the day:

  • Corycium dracomontanum
  • Corycium nigrescens (Note: still checking out if it was C. nigrescens)
  • Disa chrysostachya
  • Disa cooperi
  • Disa saxicola
  • Disa stachyoides
  • Disa versicolor
  • Disperis renibractea
  • Eulophia hians form aestivalis
  • Eulophia ovalis var ovalis
  • Habenaria thysonii
  • Holothrix scopularia
  • Neobolusia tysonii
  • Satyrium longicauda var longicauda
  • Schizochilus zeyheri

If anybody has any additions, please let me know.

Corycium nigrescens (Photograph: Phillip Niewoudt)
Eulophia ovalis var ovalis (Photograph: Phillip Niewoudt)

Satyrium longicauda var longicauda (Photograph: Phillip Niewoudt)

2 Responses

  • Hello! My wife and I are retired and live in Ireland. Last week we watched a TV programme that included a section on wild crocosmia in your area, we think!
    Please could you confirm this? If so, could you let us know about the guided tours of your reserve? We do visit South Africa about once every 2 years, although our next visit has been postponed until the present pandemic has been brought to an end.
    Many Thanks.

    • Hi there, thanks for getting in touch. Yes, the crocosmia is very typical of Verloren Valei and one of my favourites. I was there last weekend (just before this tropical storm hit!) and it was all out, but not as spectacular as I’ve seen it.
      The reserve is “closed” because it’s so fragile and ecologically sensitive, so no mass tourism as such. The best way to see it is to join one of our field trips, otherwise you can book with the reserve manager and do a drive on one circular route. But the opportunity to walk is much better!
      If you send me your e-mail address, I’ll put you on the mailing list for our quarterly newsletter– that will give you warning of when the trips are scheduled. E-mail me on info@verlorenvalei.org.za with any other questions anytime.

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