Me! Obsessed? Never! But yesterday Louis, Flea and I set off for the hills…

1 Climbing the Iron Crown

I wanted to show them the wild flowers I wrote of last week. And I wanted to photograph them. As I opened my camera, the battery died. Backups at home. Oops. Flea to the rescue. And so the first 14 photos are thanks to her: my adopted sister, my father’s caregiver, Felicity Spence! Thanks, Flea!

2 The ridge above us 

We parked the car in the same spot as last week and set off to explore the lower 500 odd meters of the climb, where most of the flowers that had so enthralled me grow. In the first photo Sequoia lies somewhere behind the left tree that breaks the horizon. In the next photo  we look up towards the first ridge. The summit is very much higher.

3 groundcover helichrysum

In particular I was fascinated by a neat, low grey leaf, one of the many helichrysums, that grew like a groundcover amongst the grasses. This photo shows both it and some of the many other plants that make up the meadow on the lower slopes. The close-up below shows at least three kinds of grey-leaved helichrysum. As I have said before – the garden value of the leaves of many plants is outstanding, before we have even considered their flowers!




 4 Helichrysum groundcover among grasses

5 Moraea spathulata

One of the flowers I’ve watched out for on Sequoia over the years and never seen – although the neighbours have it 400m from my boundery – is Moraea spathulata. It is very clearly of the iris family, about the size of a Dutch Iris, and dotted about the grasslands in a most attractive way.

Below is Dicoma zeyheri in all its purplish greyish glory. I’m very pleased to have identified it, after loving it when I first saw it at Annie’s Fortune.



6 Dicoma zeyheri 

It is described by Elsa Pooley in A Field Guide to Wild Flowers Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Region  as follows: “Used in traditional medicine to treat chest ailments, as blood strengtheners to mothers after a long difficult birth. Hardy garden plant, long lasting cut-flower.”

7 Dicoma zeyheri or Doll's Protea

There is something heart-warming about identifying a new discovery in such detail… and I love its (very appropriate) common name: Doll Protea – for the blooms are carried a mere 30cm above the ground on quite a slight plant considering the robustness of its flower.

8 Berkeya, possibly B mackenii

The photo does not do justice to this Berkeya – I suspect it is B. mackenii. The leaves are finely wrought – literally: they appear to be made of aluminium and because of their shine they photograph with great difficulty. Another plant that I am keen to try in garden conditions – what a presence it has! It was to me the great discovery of last week’s climb.

9 Alepidea amatymbica

Here is another of the plants I raved over on the Annie’s Fortune walk: in Alepidea amatymbica the flowers are so silver that the common name is Tinsel Flower. And look how gracefully they are carried!


10 Helichrysum small double compound flowerheads

I’ve mentioned before that there are over 250 species of helichrysum in South Africa. They vary from typical everlasting flowers to some of the most complex compound flowers imaginable. I found these heads, where each ‘circle’ is itself a compound flower, irresistable… but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Keep reading!

In the photo on the left the flowers are about life size; below is a detail from this shot.



10b Helichrysum complexity

11 Orchid, possibly Satyrium longicauda

This is not a great photo of an exciting discovery – a little orchid called, I believe, Satyrium longicauda. Many of our orchids are tiny and shy, and coming across one is always exciting.

12 Striga elegans








Another exciting discovery was coming across Striga elegans, one of our most striking flowers, at a much lower and more accessible altitude than I have seen it before. It is parasitic on grasses. And although the delightful little blue Wahlenbergia cuspidata grows wild in my garden, it was great to find it on the walk.

13 Wahlenbergia cuspidata

And so with the landscape shot below, we end Felicity’s slideshow of our walk up the lower slopes of the Iron Crown. Difficult to believe how many treasures lie waiting for anyone willing to take a closer look!



14 In the wolkberg

There were two plants I took home with me: the one a helichrysum with an even more fascinating flower head than the one pictured above, which I wanted to photograph and identify – so far no luck.

15 Helychrysum inflorescence

16 Like a gothic pillar 17 Helichrysum close-up

Like some strange undersea creature, the flowers are carried on a plate that is structured like a pillar in gothic fan-vaulting, and the minute flowers – each less than 1mm across – are packed in tightly together on the upper surface. A flower that really repays closer scrutiny!

18 Felicia filifolia - a strong colour strain

All along the path this little Felicia grows. It is a pink version of what is usually pale blue and known throughout the world as a Kingfisher Daisy. Most of them are a much paler pink. A pretty, useful garden plant, but not quite a star. But I noticed several last week that were a richer, stronger pink, and I picked enough off this one to strike a few cuttings. It is a ‘good form’ of Felicia filifolia. And so I end this third post on wild flowers from our mountain with the first of my wild ravings that will hopefully make it into the garden…

19 Felicia filifolia - a strong colour strain - detail

PS: I’ve come to the conclusion that I should avoid ‘clever’ layout.  By the time I’ve posted and seen problems, then edited to fix them, I’ve wasted too much time due to my slow internet. So please forgive the rough edges in this post – there will be no more editing 😉



  1. I struggle to find South African grey leaved plants that will thrive in my garden. So I end up with Centaurea and Lamb’s Ears. (BTW I have wimped out, and just park all the photos ‘in the centre Mr. Venter’)Once long ago, I admired the grey foliage in Sissinghurst’s white garden. Should be easy to do with SA plants, but …

    • Hmmm. I wonder if that is why one sees so few of these plants around. I will speak to 3-4 dedicated and knowledgeable indigenous nursery keepers and hear what they say. And still try! Will keep you posted, Diana!

  2. Wow, to heck with the editing ,, what a treasure trove of botanical treasures. I may be hopelessly naive but whenever you talk about taking off on one of these treks I keep picture you coming across a hyena or a leopard. I’m sure Africa isn’t anywhere near as dark as it used to be and I realize not every animal is to be found everywhere. Still you wouldn’t catch me out there.

    That helichrysum is something else again, a world within a world of its own. Dicoma zeyheri reminds me of a popular cut flower from your end of the globe whose name is alluding me at the moment … p _ _ ..? Kingfisher daisy looks a lot like one I grow and is one I’d include in the garden in a quick minute.

    Thanks for bringing us along once again, Jack.

    • I must say, Mark: you were looking over my shoulder on more than one occasion! Is Protea the name you were looking for? This is one IS known as Doll Protea… And wild animals are mostly wild, and get out of the way when they hear humans 😉 I’ve commented more fully at Mooseys.

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