The Cactus Patch
Volume 4       May 2001      Number 5

The Morale Hills - A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On Monday the 12 of March Queen Turner (head of the herbarium) and I set off in the rain for Mahalapye, a town 198 km North of Gaborone. We had been asked by the Land Board there to advise them on an area to the West to be developed for tourism. No one was available at the Land Board (though their letter said they would be there) so we just drove out to the Morale Hills and looked at plants. (Later we sent them a report telling them to build anywhere on the flat area, but preserve the hills. The first hill had the largest carrot trees I have ever seen. Then we climbed a hill with peculiar trees of Commiphora marlothii which had large lumps on the peeling yellow branches. next to them were the biggest trees of the Star chestnut (Sterculia rogersii) which I have ever seen. under one were some young plants of Corallocarpus bainesi (just barely starting their caudexes). Finally, we explored a fairly flat rock out crop which was covered in crawling vines of Talinum (these usually hang down from tall trees!). This fantastic area is important as the southern limit for a good many species (Not coincidentally, Mahalape is the first town in Botswana north of the Tropic of Capricorn - apparently the word tropical means something).

The last week of March was spent in Gaborone attending some (all is not possible) of the song, dance, art and drama of the annual Maitisong Festival. The highlight came midweek with a show by Miriam Makeba. The festival concert with our Gaborone Singers (yes, they roped me in - short on tenors as usual), other choirs, soloists and an orchestra ended the Fest. I was exhausted and got home at midnight, but managed to stagger up for the monthly bird club walk which starts at 6:30 a.m. We went to the Phakalane Sewage Ponds which sometimes have flamingos (not this time). The highlight was an orange breasted finch. But that gets us into April and the trips to Francistown and Khutse Game Reserve which I'll cover later.

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