uMngeni Vlei

Today is World Wetlands Day. Wetlands are areas where water plays the dominant role in determining plant, bird and animal life within that environment. There are many wetlands in the KZN Midlands and Drakensberg – the water factories of the province. Southern Africa’s wetlands are amongst the most diverse both physically and biologically of any…

Spring Grassland Flowers

While Namaqualand gets all the publicity, the spring flowers of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands grasslands are an absolute delight for those who don’t follow the crowds. Only one in six plant species in grassland is actually a grass, with most of the perennial plants living for many years – re-sprouting annually, rather than seeding.  This means…

Sacred Stones

The Midlands is full of surprises, secrets lurk in unexpected places and hidden treasures are uncovered by those with a keen eye for the unusual. The Standing Stones of Karkloof are a perfect example. Karkloof residents have begun mapping areas of important natural and cultural heritage. One of these is the intriguing Standing Stones site,…

Rietspruit Without Reeds

The Rietspruit rises in the hills that fringe Cedara, Sweetwaters and Hilton, where there are many seeps and springs. There is no definitive source, a bit of a dilemma for the intrepid DUCT River Walk Team!  “We realised we would need to walk all three main tributaries to get a clear idea about this river,”…

Ouhout

Leucosidea serica Common Name: Ouhout; Zulu: umtshitshi; Sotho: cheche Before the grasslands midlands were settled by Europeans, there were few trees besides those clustered in damp or rocky places.  One of the original Midlands trees was Leucosidea serica. A real pioneer and found is a variety of places – grassand, forest edges, stream banks and…

Buddleja

Honey fragrance fills the mid-winter air as all the Buddlejas come into flower, lifting your spirits on the chilliest of days. Buddleja salviifolia is a semi-evergreen shrub with dark green wrinkled leaves which are whitish underneath. This versatile and frost hardy shrub is common all over South Africa, reaching 4 m high in good conditions. Buddleja occurs…

Dargle

Dargle valley lies at the foot of Inhlosane mountain, visible from just about anywhere in the Midlands. Rolling hills, healthy rivers, hidden valleys and interesting people make this a very special place. The first settlers in the valley were the Fannin’s who were transported to the area by Dick King in 1847, apparently passing a…

Formosa Lily

Formosa Lily (Lilium formosanum) is flowering at the moment  (March) and there seem to be masses more than last year. These invasive plants from Taiwan have spread alarmingly over the past few years, seeding prolifically along roads. It also invades grasslands and wetlands transforming these habitats and replacing indigenous plants.  With less than 3% of…

Perfect Pumpkins

One of my favorite things about pumpkins is that they lurk quietly, waiting to surprise you one Autumn day while you are pottering in the garden. Such excitement as more and more treasures are discovered under the comfrey, mielies and amaranthus! Autumn is pumpkin time in the Midlands and every year the Dargle Local Market celebrates…

Wild Dagga

Leonotis Leonaurus Common names: Wild Dagga (E), Wildedagga, Duiwelstabak (Afr), mvovo (X), utshwala-bezinyoni (Z) Derivation of Name : Leonotis = from the Greek leon meaning lion and otis meaning ear, alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion’s ear. leonurus = lion-coloured. Surely every midlands garden has a spot for this rewarding shrub? …

Orange Poppy

Papaver aculeatum Common name: Orange poppy, Afrikaans name: Doring papawer, Sotho name: sehhlohlo Disturbed areas of veld, alongside roads or edges of ploughed fields are home to the delightful orange South African poppy. This summer there is a profusion of them as you drive around the Midlands – obviously they like the wet weather. The…

A Good Place

Over the last 30 years, Midlands Meander has settled peacefully into the hills. Original members were creative folk with a yen to live life simply, who practiced their crafts in frugal luxury, watching the sunrise and eating home grown spinach for supper. They worked together to draw tourists from the towns to admire their exceptional hand-made…