The Cactus Patch
Volume 5       July 2002      Number 7

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On 25th May we opened the Natural History exhibit on "What's New". Among the exhibits are: the mouse which comes from deep in Gcwihaba Cave, new pathways and a bridge across our Okavango section, three potentially new species of spurge, plants being eradicated as foreign invaders, seven elephant jaws, potentially endangered species, and plants listed for Botswana but not known to us. This latter category includes Pachypodium lealii of Namibia which I have from Patterson's succulent nursery. Unfortunately it bloomed the week after the opening. The Moringa ovalifolia of Namibia which is in the garden came into bloom before the opening. (It is in the same category.) That same morning we had two school groups working in the garden. One worked on paths and the other planted trees. Afterward they watched an animal video.

This is winter, but the garden has been filmed twice. First by Botswana TV on 4th June and then by BBC on 14th June. Fortunately most of the aloes and some of the spurges are winter blooming, so there was something to see. Due to cold weather, we are not doing too much field work, though I did check on the aloes at Molepolole (60 km W of Gaborone) when Polly had to go out there to deliver quilts from her quilting club to AIDS orphans.

The Voice, a new newspaper here came out with the headline "Killer Plant" on 31st May and had a picture of a spotted aloe. A "botanist" at Blooms (a plant nursery) identified the plant as Aloe davyana (which is more correctly Aloe greatheadii subsp. davyana) but it is probably A. zebrina since the incident was near Francistown. To make matters worse, though, the plant shown to me by forensics was spotless! (probably the Zimbabwe species A. cameronii). Also, the aloe was administered as part of a mixture and was probably not the cause of death. Fortunately, the paper did not quote me.

On 15th June we celebrated our 38th Wedding anniversary (actually on the 19th) by dinner and a show at Capitol Players called "In the Mood". This might put some blood into a moribund outfit - the singers were professionals and the show was expensive (tho we didn't pay). One of the singers (Kay Wier) sang in productions with us before she went professional. We even had a bottle of champagne for our table to celebrate with.

An interesting book showed up at the Lion's Club used book table on the central mall. It is "Jewels of the Plains" by Claude A. Barr (1983, Univ Minn. Press, Minneapolis) which describes the wild flowers of the Great Plains of the U.S. I had seen it years ago at the Botswana Book Centre and wondered who would buy it here in Botswana. Obviously whoever did decided not to keep it so I got it cheap. It was well worth the price. It has a section on cacti which includes two of the unwanted invaders we have in the garden here: the imbricate cactus (Opuntia imbricata) and the common prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa). It also includes succulents such as Talinum (which has relatives here) and the bitter-root, Lewisia (which does not). It is more of a gardening book than a scientific flora (for that I have "Spring Wildflowers of Missouri" which my late father-in-law H.T. Hale helped illustrate.) The colour pictures are mostly small, but it is still a worthwhile book.

Next: a musical and a plant use forum.

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