The Cactus Patch
Volume 5       December 2002      Number 12

SPRING(s) in Botswana
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

The September SABONET (Southern African Botanical Diversity Network) News arrived at the end of October. In addition to an article on medicinal plants of Mozambique by Queen Turner (head of our herbarium and now on study leave), it had pictures of three of our staff members at workshops. Best of all, however, was an article on Moretloa Polaki of Lesotho. He is a successful botanist and says it is "largely sparked by the dedication and enthusiasm shown by his botany lecturer, Dr. Bruce Hargreaves." I'm glad to know some students get something out of classes.

A construction company has been awarded the contract for Phase I of our botanic garden. I'm glad to hear it, but I'm not holding my breath waiting. We are going ahead with plans to bypass contractors and put up a shade house on our own. We'll see who finishes first.

On 6 November I finally visited Mogonye Village south of here to see some of the fabulous springs I've heard of there. We spent 6 hours hiking up a very steep gully with dry waterfalls. The Velcro plants (Pouzolzia) were large trees and the nettles even larger ones. There were cabbage trees, coral trees, Stapelia, Kalanchoe, Plectranthus etc. which made it worth the effort. Just below the top was a plant of pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)! All this was interesting, but not of monumental status. The plateau was level on top and there was a cliff on the other side which we descended partway looking for a spring. We had a fantastic view looking down on the hills of Dimawe where Batswana fought Dutch south Africans and prevented a take-over. We could also see Manyana Village which has rock paintings and Livingstone's fig, -- a huge tree where he is said to have preached. These are national monuments. When I got back my leg muscles went into cramps, relieved only by a hot, hot bath.

On the 22nd we returned to Mogonye and drove to a shorter hill north of the previous one. A short hike brought us to a muddy spring where cattle had trampled everything. There were twisting vines of the milkweed Stomatostemma and Big-leaved Rock Figs, but otherwise the area was unremarkable. I began to wonder if there was anything worthy of being declared a National Monument, but we then drove 5 km south of the village on a dirt track and after an easy hike reached a delightful stream with a fern (Pteris sp.) which is unrecorded for Botswana. A little ways upstream we came up under cliffs with a forest of Nettle Trees. Instantly I knew this was of monumental status. There were also bushes of Euphorbia griseola as well as clumps of Aloe leutescens.

That was a high point. There have been some lows as well. It is spring here and we should have rain, but there has been very little and it is getting hotter (95+) daily. We bought a new car (a Hyundai which they assembled here for a short while) but in less than two weeks it was rear-ended and has a bent hood and trunk (we were shoved into the car ahead). It's mendable and we'll be paid by the fellow who did it, but we don't have time for all that right now - but more of that next month after the journey of a lifetime.

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