The Cactus Patch
Volume 7       April 2004      Number 4

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

I was surprised when I went to a Heads of Division meeting on 23 Feb. and was told that I was on leave. I knew that my contract ended on 5 Feb., but I assumed I would keep working until I had my benefits as in the past. Although I argued that I couldn’t leave without money or an air ticket, I was told I was on unpaid leave until I started a new contract. So I am in limbo.

On Jamie's birthday (9th March) I finally got the money owed to me, so we can afford a visit to Calif., but I'm still trying to get the plane ticket which is part of the contract.

I applied for both the money and plane ticket on 24 Dec., the day I was promised a new contract!

I now have a new contract, but I need the home leave before starting it. If you enjoy bureaucracy, Botswana is the place for you.

Meanwhile, I am writing papers and continuing research as well as enjoying other activities. One joyful bit of research news is that an Orbea which I collected in January near the Tswapong Hills bloomed and turned out to be a hybrid with Orbea rogesrsii as one parent. I had no idea what the other parent could be until Queen Turner, head of the herbarium came back from the same area on the 13th of March with a blooming Orbea that is almost certainly the other parent. Unfortunately it does not match anything known in Botswana. I have sent a picture to Pretoria for help. It has been identified as Orbea maculata and there is already a specimen in Pretoria from Botswana.

On Sunday 7th March we went on a walk south of town with the bird club. It was led by Jo Tayler who teaches mycology (fungi) at the university. It was a great day for fungus as we have had more than the average rain in the last month. Among those seen were little birds nest fungi which look like tiny eggs in a cup. We also saw lots of birds and Polly even found Stapelia gigantea in bud. Unfortunately, a lot of tiny "seed" ticks found us in the high grass.

Polly managed to get dozens, while I only had a few. We picked them off, but they left inflamed spots. Polly treated some with hydrocortisone and some (at my suggestion) with juice from Bulbine frutescens (a South African species common in gardens here). Unfortunately the hydrocortisone worked better. The Bird Club also had a BBQ on the 19th with hilarious accounts from people who actually admitted getting lost. (Most of us pretend that never happens.)

We also went to see Spy Kids III (a lousy movie) because it was the first 3-D movie in Botswana. Both of us had trouble with the 3-D (the old red and green glasses kind). Polly was born cross-eyed and is virtually one-eyed. I have two good eyes now, but the images are not vertically aligned, a problem I've always had. With effort I can get the images to converge, but during the 3-D movie they kept splitting. I'm told I can get prismatic lenses to correct this..

I have been acknowledged as a contributor on a new book on the Commiphoras (all I did was send distribution maps for Botswana). It is Southern Africa Commiphora by Marthinus Steyn (2003, by the author, Arcadia, South Africa). I don't know the price as my copy was free. Each species is well illustrated with pictures of the tree, the flower, the fruit and the leaf. There is also a distribution map for each. For those not familiar with this genus, it is the genus which includes Myrrh of Biblical fame. It is in the Burseraceae which includes the elephant trees (Bursera species) of North America.

Orbea rogersii hybrid

Orbea maculata

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