The Cactus Patch
Volume 5       November 2002      Number 11

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 28th of September we drove down just south of Lobatse to join an advertised bird club campout at a place called Lobatse Bush Getaway. When we got to the farm-house where we were instructed to report in, we were told that the club president had already come and gone since no one had shown up. Since the 29th was Polly's birthday, we decided to make the best of it and rented a chalet instead of camping alone. A fellow who called himself Bob the "mad" Greek (even though he's actually George and half Irish) occupied the chalet next to us. He had his wife and granddaughter and we had a great visit. He's been around since he was a kid in the 50's and we found we had a number of friends in common.

We went down to the small pond in the morning and saw a number of water birds, but the best bird viewing was right outside our front door - a scimitarbilled woodhoopoe nesting in a tree hole. There were few succulents -Aloe marlothii, Aloe leutescens*, Kalanchoe rotundifolia, a Plectranthus, Bulbine narcissifolia, Bulbine abyssinica (in bloom), Sansevieria aethiopica - but nothing new.

On the 6th of October the Bird Club went to the Phakalane Sewage Ponds north of Gaborone and a good number turned up. I was impressed by Grebes, but Polly thought all the herons were best. She also noted the Golf Club building which now towers over the ponds. There were no flamingoes this time.

On the 9th (Wednesday) I observed a crested barbet in the botanic garden which decided to attack a car windshield. (I've seen sparrows attack car mirrors, but this was a new one.)

On Friday the 11th the Assistant Minister of Labour & Home Affairs, Lesego Motsumi, visited the museum, including a short visit to Natural History. I hope we will get more attention from the Ministry now, but it's the largest in government and has to balance everything from Prisons to Sports.

On Sunday the 13th Polly & I collected aloes from the "empty lot" two blocks south of our house. The area looks terrible as it has been burnt over. There were Talinums in bloom and Albucas in seed.

On Tuesday the 15th I arrived at the Garden to find the SW corner had been burnt, probably by beer drinkers who hang out in the unfenced portion there. Fortunately none of the plantings were involved and the fire didn't reach the prison housing on the other side. Everything is hot and dry right now. It's only spring, but it feels like a Bakersfield summer. I hope we get some rain soon.

A fancy hardcover book on "Southern African Plant Red Data Lists" (J. Golding ed., 2002, Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report #14). The Chapter on Botswana is by Moffat Setshogo (Univ. Botswana) and myself. It's a bit embarrassing. All I did was make comments on the list proposed by Janet Golding. Of the 43 species listed, 22 are labeled "data deficient" meaning I haven't a clue. Botswana is not rich in species. There are only 15 species listed as endemic (found nowhere else) and of these 9 are only "suspected" endemics. The book was hurriedly put together and has many errors and inconsistencies. The population of Botswana is given as 15,881,220 - about 10 times too many. A picture of a sausage tree (Kigellia pinnata) in Botswana is labeled Acacia hebeclada. There is a lack of consistency between Country reports. In Zambia, Euphorbia decidua and varieties of Euphorbia cooperi are listed as endemic, yet in Zimbabwe the same species appear! In Zimbabwe, the Aloes are in the family Asphodelaceae yet other countries list them in Aloeaceae. In Swaziland, Gasteria and Haworthia are listed as Asphodelaceae and Aloes as Aloeaceae. (If Aloeaceae is separated from Asphodelaceae it should include all three genera.) At any rate, the book is a good beginning, but certainly not the last word.

*In Flora Zambesiaca Susan Carter says the plants in Botswana are this rather than Aloe cryptopoda. I'm not convinced they are divisible.

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