The Cactus Patch
Volume 5       January 2002      Number 1

Two Camps
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

First, 2 comments...

Thanks to Stephen for the Science News article on Welwitschia (Oct. 27, 2001). I was interested to learn of third leaves on some. I learned the hard way about fungus infection on seeds. The best solution is to treat all seeds with a fungicide. I also noted that young plants only appear in the savanna (e.g. at the petrified forest near Khorixas) rather than in the Namib Desert. Finally, although Welwitschias are not the direct ancestors of flowering plants, they are among the few survivors of the southern hemisphere gymnosperms which probably included such ancestors.

The bird club has been feasting lately. First, there was a brunch on 4 Nov., with about fifty people at the Lion Park south of town (the lions are enclosed) following "Little Birding Day" where teams set out to see who could spot the most birds. Second, there was the annual dinner on 24 Nov., with a hundred of us. The slides of a recent trip to Tanzania were disappointing. We had a better presentation on 20 Nov. at the monthly meeting when Peter Hancock, a conservationist up at Maun described the wattled crane study. He also had the cover story on lily-trotters in the Oct/Nov "Africa Birds and Birding", a slick magazine full of great photos. On 2 Dec., Polly went to another brunch following birding at the "Crocodile Pools" south of town.
Which leads to the first "Camp". On 2 Dec., a bunch of us botanists went up to Maun. We were accommodated at Okavango Research Centre Housing on the Thamelekane River just across from Riley's Hotel (but at $2/night a better bargain). On the 3rd, we drove out to the Khwebe Hills, 67 km (42 mi.) SW to Toteng, then 14 km, (8.7 mi.) S on the old Ghanzi road - now gravel & much improved from the sand track we drove in 1969 and lost but found again using compass and map -- and finally 26 km (16 mi.) E on dirt (= mud due to recent rains). The Hills were used as head-quarters by Cptn (later Mjr) E.J. Lugard with his wife, Charlotte Eleanor, and his brother in 1897 -- 1898 when they looked for minerals in the Ngamiland area. A number of plants were first collected there including Monadenium lugardae, Stapelia kwebensis, Ceropegia floribunda, Coccinia rehmanii, and C. kwebensis (now included in C. purpurascens),. We didn't find these but did collect 2 talinums, Corallocarpus bainesii and a tuberous-rooted Cyphostemma, saw Adenia digitata and a baobab.
Next morning we drove over to the Peter Smith Herbarium and Library at the back of the research centre. It is just being warehoused at present, but at least, it isn't being eaten by termites. Peter Smith worked for Water Affairs and in his spare time made the best botanic collection in the country. The collection of the late Dr. Heinz, who filmed San in the 50's, is also housed there. In the afternoon the second vehicle finally arrived from Gaborone and we drove across Lake Ngami (the water was mostly in the roadbed). We searched the calcrete embankment unsuccessfully for Stapelia schinzii, a species of Namibia which Prof. Hans Schinz collected near Lake Ngami in 1886 and which has never subsequently been seen in Botswana.

On the 5th, I climbed the Mabeleapodi (goat dropping) Hills at the Kuke Veterinary Control Fence Gate some 105 km (65 mi.) SW of Toteng on the new tar road. We were waiting for the 2nd vehicle which decided to go to the Khwebe Hills but didn't make it. The rock slabs were loose and covered with nettle spurge (Tragia sp. -- a non-succulent in the Euphorbia family) so the climb was miserable. The others (who searched the base) came up with Stapelia kwebensis in bud and Portulaca kermesina in full bloom. We had cokes at the Kuke Settlement but then had to drive back to the gate to get my leather hat which I left under a shady tree. We met three boys walking toward us -- the middle one was wearing my hat! We spent the night 6 km (3.7 mi.) S of the gate at a Rural Area Dweller (e.g. San or Bushmen) boarding school.

Next day both vehicles drove out to the Tsau (Lion) Hills on the edge of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, 16 km (10 mi.) S on paved road and 60 km (37 mi.) E on dirt through 6 farm gates. We failed to find the Adenium bohmeanum which Peter Smith saw there but did not collect (and which is otherwise not known for Botswana.) Back at Kuke we found Jatropha seyneri (a tuberous species) in fruit. Next day we drove S to Ghanzi, 111 km (69 mi.), south on paved road, and observed that introduced mesquite has taken over the town. Another 215 km (133.5 mi.) SE brought us to Kang where we found Orbea knobelii, a rare Kgalagadi endemic in full bloom on the edge of a quarry at the pan. There were a couple of other stapeliads as well as 2 talinums. That night we stayed at Wildlife housing and next day arrived back in Gaborone.

Then on the 9th, Polly and I joined the second camp: Music Camp, which this year was held in Gaborone. I did a week of Jazz with my clarinet and Polly did solo singing. She was enrolled for Setinkane (finger piano), but the instructor failed to show up. We had a break on Thurs., the 11th, and went out to the site of Roger Price's mission south of Molepolole. I found two succulent nettles, a bush of Iboza, and 2 portulacas. When we stopped at Kobo (or Livingstone's Cave -- where David Livingstone spent the night to show Christianity's power over taboos) Polly and I decided not to climb up. It was just as well -- there were bees inside and Polly used a lot of hydrocortisone cream treating victims! On Saturday, we performed all we had learned for the public and then celebrated with a barbecue (AKA braai).

Next month's report will be in person -- see you at the board meeting!

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