Cycads in South Africa

(page 2)

This is a truly awe-inspiring place with thousands of cycads growing on the eastern faces of a few hillsides, many of the plants being massive. A few individuals had 13 metre trunks standing proudly on the hillside leaning into the steady breeze that always seemed to be blowing. It was really something to stand amongst such great plants, looking up into their canopy of rustling cycad fronds! Another fact that made this such a spectacle was the lush, green appearance of the cycads given that the area has been suffering from drought for some 5 years. The contrast between the cycads and the surrounding parched grasses was really striking.

The only impact on the cycads of this lack of rain is that they are not coning and a few are falling to attack from animals driven to eating them through drought-induced hunger. The local conservation authority collects a percentage of seeds from the plants (each female cone contains hundreds of seeds), and grows them on for sale at-a small nursery on the approach to the reserve. These are deliberately inexpensive in an attempt to reduce demand for wild collected specimens.

From the pleasant climate of Modjadji, we made our way to our overnight hotel in readiness for a safari in Kruger National Park, the following day.

Not surprisingly, this proved a really exciting event and I can only say it's more difficult than one might imagine to spot many of the animals in the bush! A highlight of Kruger was the occurrence of the branching Hyphanae natalensis the Doum palms, mainly growing by watercourses. Their clumps of silvery foliage stood out against the dry grass and scrub. A stop at a rest camp within the park provided an opportunity to see tall plants of these 'Lala palms' at close quarters, some heavy with the large, almost wooden fruits.

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