I hit the highway again yesterday. I am writing stories about the absolutely astonishing people who take care of the road and the communities alongside it, up and down the N3. I should have been thinking about “blocked culverts”, “extreme weather warnings”, “repositioned guard rails” and the like, but I was looking at the flowers.
The Lion’s River flood plain is filled with Crinum bulbispermum in full flower at the moment. Found naturally on river banks, in wetlands and seasonal pans, this large bulb produces wonderful big pink and white striped flowers in springtime. Up to 16 trumpet-shaped flowers form one inflorescence on the tall stalk, opening in succession to reveal a dark red throat and long white stamens. The wavy strap-shaped leaves are a wonderful bluish grey green which compliment the pink perfectly. In traditional Zulu medicine, roasted bulbs are applied to aching joints, used for rheumatism, varicose veins and backache. Poultices are applied to sores. The leaves are used to keep dressings in place and the flowers are placed on sprains to reduce swelling. Sotho folk also use this plant to stimulate breast milk and plant it as a protective charm outside homesteads. Afrikaans name: Vleilielie, Sotho Name: lelutla, Zulu name: umnduze
Near Estcourt I started to notice all the Hypoxis hemerocallidea flowering in the grassland. In the industrial area of town the roadsides were a sea of yellow. The star-like flowers of Hypoxis herald the arrival of spring and summer rains. During the fire season, it is dormant and the underground corms are protected by tough fibres. The arching sickle-shaped leaves appear before the flowers and are hairy underneath. Each inflorescence carries between 5 and 13 short-lived flowers which close by midday. Often two or three open at the same time to encourage cross pollination by bees. While it is not a threatened plant, with natural grasslands under pressure from development and the popularity of Hypoxis in traditional medicine, wild populations are on the decline. It is probably the best known medicinal plant in the country and the tuber is used in infusions and decoctions to treat a variety of ailments from headaches, mental disorders, arthritis, cancer and to build the immune system. The leaves are used to make rope and the tuber is used as a dye to blacken floors. Sotho name: molo kharatsa, Zulu name: iNkomfe
As always, I needed a cup of tea after my adventures, and Cafe Bloom in Nottingham Road was just the place to relax in an armchair with my dear friend Ann, and some seriously yummy cakes. Cafe Bloom is everyone’s favorite cafe in the Midlands. Wendy is always so welcoming and kind. The couches are deep and well worn. The verandah wide and and the garden enchanting. Tea cups are pretty and the furniture a fascinating mix and match affair. It is also a wonderfully creative space filled with all things floral, heaps of inspiration and Mick Haigh’s gorgeous pottery. And very good food. We shared a sice of lemon polenta cake, some carrot cake and an almond friand. Cape Robins and Pigeons joined us for the scraps as we lingered long after the cafe had closed.
On my drive home at dusk, a mass of Scilla natalensis (Merwilla) was flowering between the road and the railway line in Lidgetton. Pale mauve in the mist – very beautiful. I may just go back to enjoy them in better light tomorrow. Most days, I can’t believe how lucky I am, but some days are extra specially extremely blooming marvellous! Like today.