The National Botanical Gardens of Kirstenbosch are the crown jewel of the Cape Floristic region. But this Saturday when Julie and I went there to take photographs of the flowers, we saw more animals than we ever had in a single day before...
For a change we started in the Compton Herbarium. This is a fairly recent building at the Botanical Gardens, designed to show off the succulents and cactii from the arid regions of South Africa. The centrepiece of the building is a baobab tree, but I was most intrigued by plants from the knersvlakte (grinding plains).
The variety of plants' shapes, colours and textures soon had Julie and I cooing and aahing while stroking the leaves of various succulents. Some looked like little furry paws, others like weird jelly fingers. We were so inspired we decided to try our hand at making succulent arrangements in pots.
Chamaecereus silvestrii: A cactus - not indigenous to South Africa
The pictures above are from the nursery at the botanical gardens, where they sell lovely little cactii and mesembs that we bought for our succulent garden.
Into the Garden
Walking up from the Compton Herbarium into the Garden, the first thing we see are the red hot pokers (Kniphofia spp.) and Watsonia Pillansii. Although we have plenty of pictures of these, they are so beautiful we cannot believe that we have a picture that does them justice, so try again...
Up the shady path towards the protea and erica section of Kirstenbosch Gardens, we notice that the guineafowl and francolin seem abundant and not shy of humans. Also, the plants right next to us on the path seemed to harbour sunbirds too busy feeding to worry about us.
We found a bench to sit on in front of the erica garden and admired the birds while photographing them.
While we were engrossed in the birdlife flitting about just metres from our bench, a tortoise came 'storming' along over the grass and into the flowerbed.
Then, we spotted a well-camouflaged creature scootling along the mulched flowerbed, pausing occasionally to feed. A striped mouse - our old friend from farm camping days.
Just as we were leaving the juvenile sunbird insisted on feeding right next to us.
Eventually we had had enough of the sunbirds and set off towards the proteas. A family of guineafowl followed us.
We actually had to stop to let the guineafowl cross the path in front of us. They just tootled along totally oblivious of us.
At the top of the gardens we came across a big group of schoolchildren playing on the grass. Watching them from an alcove in the bushes was a francolin who seemed unimpressed with the intrusion onto his lawn.
Right nearby we found some beautiful specimens of Protea mundii in flower. Julie was beside herself with excitement and took a lot of pictures.
And yet another tortoise ...
By now we were famished, so we headed to the restaurant in Kirstenbosch Gardens for lunch.
On our way back to the car we came across a big group of francolin engrossed in feeding on the lawns...
What an inspiring way to end the visit to the gardens. We were so energized by the visit that we stopped by the nursery and bought succulent and cactus seedlings to plant in an arrangement. This is the result: