In these dark days I found sombre solace in the quiet strength of woodland trees and the plants and fallen leaves of the understorey. It seemed fittingly subdued to shoot these photos in monochrome.

Our garden backs onto to a commercial eucalyptus plantation, but we benefit from the previous owners of our house planting indigenous trees and other plants on the margin between the garden and the plantation, which is where these photos were taken. Some of the faster growing trees have already attained an impressive size.

Texture trunk of a tree

Like many other countries in the world, South Africa is currently undergoing a dramatic surge in the Covid-19 infection rate, and sadly also an increase in the number of deaths recorded daily.

The increase is due to a more transmissible variant of the virus that has become dominant in South Africa, in addition to the increasing non-adherence to non-pharmaceutical preventive measures, particularly over the holiday season.  The new variant in South Africa is not the same as the variant that has become dominant in the United Kingdom.

According to the Technical Chief on Covid-19 at the World Health Organization (WHO), Maria Van Kerkhove, there is no evidence that the South African variant is any more or less transmissible than the variant that was identified in the United Kingdom (see  here).

Studies are ongoing to determine if the new South African variant is likely to be at all vaccine-resistant. Professor Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology who is leading one of the vaccine trials in South Africa, notes that it is unlikely that the new variant will render current vaccines ineffective, although it might weaken their impact, and Professor Helen Rees, also a specialist in vaccinology, adds that vaccine technologies under development could be modified relatively rapidly to address new variants if necessary (see here).

Rough bark at the base of a tree in woodland

While our hospital system becomes increasingly overwhelmed, with many hospitals having to turn patients away and medical staff being stretched beyond the point of exhaustion, with numbers of staff themselves being infected by the virus, the best we can do is shelter in place as much as is possible depending on our circumstances.

I value the access to trees and plants that our suburb and garden provides and I am fortunate to have the means to find solace in nature.

Rock with moss and wild grasses in wildlife-friendly garden, South Africa

In our garden we try to provide a gentle and sympathetic environment that allows space for moss and wild grasses to establish themselves.

Oxalis flowers among grasses in a suburban garden, South Africa

Delicate Oxalis flowers –  this one is likely from one of the indigenous species – are undervalued and often regarded as weeds.

Foamy nest of a frog, South Africa

Leaving spaces for undisturbed understorey plants to flourish allows places for creatures to breed. I am wondering if this strange accumulation of foam on the fronds of a wild asparagus plant is from spittlebug nymphs?

Trunk and leaves of a pompon tree (Dais cotinifolia)

These quiet scenes are a long way from the mayhem that we witnessed on our screens yesterday when a destructive mob of Trump supporters stormed into the United States Capitol.  The mob overwhelmed the startlingly unprepared and ineffective Capitol Police who were unable to impose law and order on this mob, in stark contrast to heavy-handed responses from law enforcement officers to other and more peaceful protests.  

Who across the world was not shocked and appalled to watch the invading mob entering and vandalising the Capitol building resulting in the hasty evacuation of members of the US Congress?

Mini woodland in a suburban garden, South Africa

Trees can be seen to stand like reassuring sentinels in these turbulent times – although of course we know that woodlands are vulnerable, and in fact need our respect and ongoing protection to survive.

Diverse woodland plant community, South Africa

However, the fertile complexity of diverse plant communities provides reassurance that life goes on.

Tree trunk with small sprout of new leaves

A small sprig of new leaves sprouting from the trunk of a tree is emblematic of hope for new growth, and hope is what we are clinging to in these times.

Wishing you all a safe place where you can find at least some tranquillity as we summon up resilience going forward.


GroundUp. 2021. COvid-19: Our grimmest day yet. 7 January.; MedicalBrief. 2021. Concern as SA’UK variants of Covid-19 spread rapidly worldwide. 6 January. Medical Brief: Africa’s Medical Media Digest.; SABC. 2021. No evidence that SA Covid-19 variant is more contagious than the UK’s: WHO. 6 January.; Tanfani, Joseph and John Shiffman, Brad Heath, Mark Hosenball. 2021. How security failures enabled Trump mob to storm US Capitol. 7 January. Reuters.

Posted by Carol