Another taste of the Drakensberg
On more familiar ground, we spotted a shrub which was identified, after much debate as to whether it was a buddleja or a salvia, as Buddleja salviifolia (thus satisfying both camps), with long, velvety leaves, white below, flowering in August to October. I was disappointed not to find the slightly smaller Buddleja loricata, which I grow, and which is supposed to occur in the same region. A more familiar friend was Phygelius capensis, spotted on our first day growing alongside a mountain stream, rather different from the sunny well-drained site often recommended by gardening books. A very pretty indigofera, I. hedyantha, was a regular sighting; it grows 60-90cm tall, with soft red flowers held above the dainty foliage. There was even a bramble, Rubus ludwigii, alongside the mountain paths, somewhat superior to our native version, with thornless stems and attractive pinnate leaves with deeply serrated edges to the leaflets, which are white beneath. However the fruits did not look at all appetising, being small with a whitish bloom.
A more unexpected find was a group of tree ferns, Cyathea dregei, usually associated with New Zealand, but also indigenous to the Drakensberg. They made an exotic sight growing in rolling grassland below Cathedral Peak. Also surprising were some grey-leaved shrublets, of the type normally associated with hot, dry spots, here revelling in moisture. These included Sopubia cana, with narrow silver leaves and bright pink flowers, parasitic on grasses, and Lotononis galpinii, with small rounded silver foliage and violet-blue flowers.
There were inevitably other attractive shrubs which I have been unable to identify from my photographs, such as an evergreen with long clusters of small green and red berries, and a deciduous shrub with lobed, heavily veined leaves, the young ones being a rich dark red edged with green.
I had expected to see kniphofias, eucomis, agapanthus and other herbaceous plants, but to find so many different shrubs came as a complete surprise, as did the wonderful grasses, a whole new subject in themselves.
Click here to enjoy a gallery of these plants and the beautiful South African landscape.