It was spring equinox this week, inspiring this collection of spring sightings in the garden to bring a cheering lightness to lift our spirits.
I am sure we can all do with a little lightness, so without further ado, here are some recent photos reflecting something of the revitalising energy of springtime.
Glowing in afternoon sunshine a posy-like cluster of flowers of the wild pomegranate (Burchellia bubaline), which are popular with nectar-seeking insects and birds.
The brilliant colours of a double-collared sunbird in bright morning sun, as he shows off his long bill before drinking at a bird bath in the garden. The relatively broad ‘red collar’ and the long bill make me think this is the greater double-collard sunbird, but as there can be quite some variation it might be that it is the southern double-collared sunbird.
The odd couple
A female double-collared sunbird drinks companionably alongside a Cape white-eye. I think this is the female greater double-collard sunbird, but as for the male in the photo above, it may be that it is a southern double-collared sunbird.
Monochrome in green
In the springtime the masses of pale green tiny flowers of this plant are abuzz with flies attracted to the nectar and pollen. This was not an easy plant to identify, but we think that it is most likely Gymnosporia senegalensis (formerly Meytenus senegalensis), the confetti spike-thorn.
The bush violet (Barleria obtuse) has a rather charming scrambling habit, and although its small flowers may look delicate Barleria are hardy plants.
The winter-flowering krantz aloe (Aloe arborescens) goes to seed in the springtime. Not every flower is successful in ultimately forming a seed capsule, but this flower spike still bears several capsules that are separating from their papery covers.
Many of our indigenous deciduous trees only drop their leaves at the end of winter, and so dense carpets of fallen leaves can be a feature of springtime. The red leaves have fallen from one of the Combretum trees.
One of the first trees to bloom at the end of winter into spring is the Natal bottlebrush (Greyia sutherlandii). The nectar is popular with honeybees and other insects and many birds, particularly sunbirds, are attracted to the nectar. Vervet monkeys also enjoy nibbling on the flowers.
A striped skink extending a foreleg while basking in the spring sunshine.
Two striped skinks enjoying the sunshine together.
The flowers of the wild sagewood (Buddleja salviifolia) vary in colour – they may be a pale mauve as in the photo, or a deeper almost purple or a pale creamy white. They are another early spring bloomer and the flowers have a sweet almost sticky scent and they attract many pollinators. Although I have not tried it, the leaves can be brewed to make a herbal tea.
The African dusky flycatcher (Muscicapa adusta) is a relatively modest presence in the garden. They are tiny and usually solitary birds. In our garden we often see an individual perching on a branch from which to hawk insects.
A hybrid of the Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) looking more dishevelled than usual
A glimpse of another colour variation of the Barberton daisy in the garden. Enjoying sunshine and responding well to being watered, these gerberas start flowering in the early spring.
Bird’s eye view
This red-eyed dove (Streptopelia semitorquata) spent time every day during early spring perching to rest or preen in a Buddleja near one of the bird baths.
A member of the milkwort family, the lovely flowers of the purple broom (Polygala virgata) attract many enthusiastic pollinators, including wasps and carpenter bees. The plant is a generous self-seeder and each season I pot up seedlings to relocate to other spots in the garden.
Freshly unfurled leaves, such as these of the copper-stem corkwood (Commiphora harveyi) evoke spring as much as any flower.
Another early-spring flowerer, the wild pear (Dombeya rotundifolia), despite the resemblance of the flowers to those of the pear family, is in fact a member of the Malvaceae (mallow) family. As the flowers mature they brown to attractive beige, and the dried petals act like wings when the ripe seeds eventually fall and float off from the stems.
The weeping anthericum (Chlorophytum saundersiae) is supposed to be a summer flowerer, but several plants growing in a sheltered spot in our garden manage to flower during the winter into the spring.
Most people, or so it seems, have a favourite season (some people even like winter!), but it is the cycle of the seasons that lends each season its piquancy. As is often observed, were it not for winter we would not appreciate summer.
In these pandemic times even the seasons are freighted with concerns about associated behaviours that may result in increasing infections. We can only hope that as more is learnt about the virus more people heed the need to be considerate of the welfare of others.
The passing of the equinox has tipped us inexorably into the next season whether we like it or not. I am writing this hoping you keep safe. This season shall pass.
Posted by Carol