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