The Cactus Patch
Volume 5       October 2002      Number 10

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

Spring came early with a few showers and succulents are starting to bloom.

On 27 Aug. I went with the head of the botanic garden, Nonofo Mosesane, to Pitsane. We achieved our goal of relocating Orbea tapscotti (a small carion flower which Desmond Cole stated in Asclepios was no longer and I was somehow responsible. Both it and Orbea lutea had seed pods. On the way back we stopped at Hildavale to recollect the mesemb Mestoklema as well as the tuberous Senecio oxyriifolius, both of which are known from only one locality in Botswana. Finally, we stopped at the South edge of Lobatse where Erythrina lysistemon and Tetradenia brevispicata were in bloom.

That was great, but on 30 Aug. I went with Queen Turner, head of the herbarium, to Boatlename which is 102 km north of Molepolole. I had never been there, but Derril Plowes had said Orbea maculata had been found there. The road is now paved and, although goats have eaten most of the vegetation, Queen managed to find a stapeliad with fruit under a thorn bush. She also found a rootless, shriveled plant which may be the sought-for Orbea. At any rate it is swollen and green in Cultivation now. Queen also interviewed a local healer and learned about a lot of local plants including an orchid with seed pods and buds. It is now blooming and turns out to be Eulophia hereoensis which I had not seen in the wild. To top it off, I collected a few chunks of agate.

On the way back we stopped 24 km north of Molepolole to look at plants of Aloe littoralis which were unexpected that far south. (Aloe marlothii was in full bloom both north and south of this.) While checking out the aloe, we found the ground covered with a euphorbia in full bloom. I first thought it might be the new Euphorbia venteri which was named last year from further north by Francistown. It had the same narrow stems with yellow striping, but then I realised that the flowers were bright yellow (not brownish) and when I turned over the cobblestones covering the roots I found masses of rhizomes as in Euphorbia schinzii (a species found south of Gaborone which, however, has thicker stems without striping. It seems to be a new species!!

On the 1 Sept. we went to the Gaborone Game Reserve and actually had a snipe hunt with a real snipe visible to all. Afterwards some of us went south to Crocodile Pools to celebrate a friend's birthday. We watched giraffes in Mokolodi Game Reserve below us while consuming an enormous BBQ. We also had a friendly mocking chat drop in.

Lots of things are blooming, but the strangest was at Northside primary school. An Australian reported it as a green flowered "yucca" with semi-succulent leaves. This turned out to be in the ball park - it is Beschornaria yuccoides, sold at Sanitas nursey here as "Mexican lily". The six foot bright pink flower stalk is spectacular.

Speaking of aliens, Polly found a copy of "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Cacti" by Clive Innes & Charles Glass, (1997 edition, Grange Books, London) for P 93.55 (about $15). It's a bit old (Charlie's been gone quite a while now), but its useful for someone like me who grew up on the antiquated Britton & Rose in the Bakersfield College library. Being picky, I would like to have seen a mention of the name Opuntiaceae as an alternative for Cactaceae. I would also like a few less horticultural and hybrid forms and more wild forms. (For example no mention is made of the Bakersfield cactus!) Cacti (or cactuses if you prefer) are not a priority here. Even the rhipsalis found naturally in some parts of Africa does not reach Botswana. We only have invasive weeds and some pot plants as sold by nurseries here.

Perhaps someday Polly can find a sale copy of the more recent "The Cactus Family" by Edward F. Anderson (2001, Timber Press, Portland Or.) which I understand is more of a botanist/lumper presentation. (Ted is also deceased - am I getting old or are my friends dying young?)

PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER