“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” ~Harriet Ann Jacobs
Who doesn’t love spring? In Knysna it is a strange season with variable weather: from being windy and wintery to glorious full blown hot summer days. The sun’s arc is still low, casting long shadows in late afternoons but the promise is there of summer which are just around the corner.
One of the first trees to sprout forth is the White Stinkwood (Celtis africana) – towards the end of winter the leaf buds become fat and promising and then, all of a sudden, when most of the other deciduous trees are still leafless it bursts open revealing a little nest of velvety leaves. Dombeya rotundifolia ( an import from our northern provinces) reward onlookers with a spectacular display of clustered white blossoms. Another beauty to flower early is Coastal Coral Tree (Erythrina caffra) The glorious flowers last for a few weeks providing pollen and nectar for insects.
In August, Veltheimia, buchu species, pincushions and proteas have shown themselves, now at the beginning of September, the first Clivias and Scadoxus started to flower. Watsonias will follow a little later along with other indigenous geophytes. So will the various fynbos and ground orchids gracing our hillsides. Even though nature awakes out of its winter slumber a bit later in our neck of the woods, it’s always great to see all the flowers and trees bloom again after a cold and wet winter.
Piet my Vrou arrives
A very opportunistic migratory bird is the bearer of good news in Knysna. When this bird is first sighted each year, spring has officially started. Cyclists taking part in the Karoo to Coast cycle race are often bombarded with the call of the Red-chested Cuckoo, more commonly known as the “Piet-my-Vrou”.
The Zulus call it Uphezukomkhono which means “on the arm”. They call it this because its first calls in the season means it is time to put your hoe on your arm and start preparing your fields, because the first rains are on its way. It leaves again at the end of summer, in February. They generally live in forest, closed woodland, open savanna thickets, stands of trees in human settlements, mature gardens, and parks.
An interesting fact about the Piet-my-Vrou is that it is a parasitic breeder, laying a single egg in the nests of other birds. It does this in less than five seconds, the egg incubates quicker than those of the host and consequently hatches earlier so the hatchling is able to kick the other eggs out of the nest and become the sole occupant which the host then raises as its own. Preferred hosts include robin-chats, chats, thrushes and flycatchers. Females have been recorded laying up to 20 eggs in one season.
The Whales are active off our Shores
The whale ‘season’ on the Garden Route runs from June/July through to December. The peak months being September and October when the whales come right into the bays of South Africa to breach. It’s an amazing sight that will remain in your memory forever. Whales leap out of the water in an arching back flip and fall back on their sides or back, with huge crash. This is believed to be a way of communication and/or exercise.
Spring with all its glory is short but spectacular, enjoy!
“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”