Maytenus acuminate occurs from the Zambezi River to the Western Cape. It is wide spread in the our conservancy with many young trees in our nursery. The name acuminate refers to the tapering point of the leaves. You can plant this tree in full sunlight or light shade. If you want to plant this tree from seed, collect the seeds when the capsules when they are splitting and revealing the orange fruit. You can remove the soft aril by washing the fruit in clean water. The remaining seed is small and should, preferably, be sown when fresh and during the warm summer months when the plant is in active growth. You can use well rotten compost to ensure good growth. The species can also be propagated from cuttings but take the cutting in the spring.
"This is my favourite tree as it’s a beautiful garden plant and has lovely, reddish brown bark." says Zaniel. "When I came for my interview at the gvb office, this was the first tree that Oom Twakkie (Goliath Highburg) showed me. It caught my attention. I was fascinated by the elastic threads on the broken leaf and I now instantly know what tree it is. Crazy interesting."
Van Wyk, B., 2013. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Penguin Random House South Africa.
Last week, some team members went to the mountains above Suurbraak to apply a biocontrol agent to invasive hakea trees. Silky hakea (Hakea sericea) is an evergreen tree with very prickly leaves. It invades mountain fynbos as well as coastal grassland. A native of Australian, it was once cultivated for dune cultivation and hedging. Hakea trees usually grow fast and produce a lot of seeds. They form large stands and seeds can be transported by the wind for long distances, and new infestation develop quickly in neighbouring valleys.
There are large infestations in the coastal mountains of the Cape floral region in the Western Cape. Many infestations occur in remote or inaccessible areas and so invasions can become extensive before they are noticed. A further challenge is that fire increases the prevelance of the population. For remote mountainous areas, bio control is most effective. Regular follow up is also always essential to keep the aliens in check.
Biocontrol makes use of a plant's naturally occurring enemies to reduce the invasive impact of a species. There are many different bio control agents that can control hakea but we used an indigenous fungus that has successfully been used to control hakea. The biocontrol was applied to the adult trees by spraying it on to an exposed wound which was made with a simple, custom-made tool (a plank with exposed nails).
We came across quite a few hakea trees in the Suurbraak mountains and we needed a few days work to apply the agent effectively. The fungus will spread naturally, especially if there is a lot of rain following its application. Over a few years, fungus will slowly kill the trees."You will see how beautiful the fynbos will come out, once all the aliens have been cleared" says oom Twakkie (Goliath Highburg, Guality Controller for the Conservancy). We cant wait to start seeing the results!
See the following link for more information on biocontrol options.
Gordon, A.J. and Fourie, A., 2011. Biological control of Hakea sericea Schrad. & JC Wendl. and Hakea gibbosa (Sm.) Cav.(Proteaceae) in South Africa. African Entomology, 19(2), pp.303-314.
This week, in our nursery we reported Kiggelaria Africana (wild peach). Kiggelaria Africana is a medium sized tree and occurs in the forest wooded riverine or on rocky outcrops and grassland. The wild peach is a well-known tree on the conservancy and Goliaith Highburg (Oom Twakkie) usually plants it successfully from seed. It grows very well in the bags he has in the nursery.
On the conservancy, Oom Twakkie obtains seeds and plants them in pots or bags with compost with the sprayers to water them in the nursery. The fruit is round, yellowish green and covered with hairs. The seeds are black, with a bright red orange covering and yellowish green flowers. An interesting fact is that bats are the main pollinators of this tree. It thrives on the edges of forests and is often encountered in kloofs and rocky outcrops of grass-covered mountain slopes. It is found between moist slopes above the Riversdale coastal plain and areas like Zuurberg that experience mostly summer rainfall.
''It's one of my favorite trees" says Aileen Anderson, the manager of our conservancy. And indeed the wildpeach tree that stands on her deck is magnificent, with round balls and bright orange seeds inside. The tree sits above the best celphone reception for Aileen's office so this wise tree has overheard many interesting conservancy-related conversations. The birds also love it and so Aileen's deck is always filled with busy birds.
This beautiful tree is named after Franz Kiggelaer and the Latin word africana means "comes from Africa".The hardish pink-brown wood can be used for timber (furniture). It was also once used for the wagon spokes of ox wagon wheels. Some people believe that touching this tree will attract lightning. In South Sotho culture, medicince is made from it to protect kraals. The fruit is also toxic and used for traditional medicine such as skin problems. An extract of the bark can be used for treating sores and wounds and the seeds were eaten during famine. What a useful tree!
Oom Twakkie says that you just plant the seeds into your compost soil and they grow. Young trees grow fast as observed in the nursery and they flower from about two years old. It forms a good windbreak for your property. When you plant the trees, Omm Twakkie recommends using moderate amount of water and a place in the sun. Another tip is to add your compost to the soil when planting and the tree grows in both winter as well as summer rainfall. This tree attracts birds and butterflies .This lovely pioneer plant will also feed your honeybees. Wow...What an amazing tree!
We are lucky to have this species here on our conservancy.
Van Wyk, B., 2013. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Penguin Random House South Africa.
In early February, 14 beneficiaries, climbed the Langeberg mountain on the west side of the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy to do alien clearing. They were divided into two separate teams, called the Pine and Hakea Teams. The initiative is funded by landowners and the Department of Environmental Affairs Forestry and Fisheries, under the Natural Resource Management (NRM) programme.
The teams were assigned equipment, which included sleeping bags and tents. The aim of their assignment was to remove the alien invasive trees (mainly hakea, pine and some black wattle) in a specific block, reflected in their contracts. The teams walked approximately 17km up the mountain, with an elevation gain of 480m to an altitude of 1145m. The first two blocks, covered 1157 hectares. The work was made more strenuous because they had to manoeuvre around with their overnight camping equipment. The participants have all received training to prepare them for the work.
The teams were camping for 4 nights in the mountains. They go up on a Mondays and descend on Fridays. The first two contracts stretch over 3 weeks in which they have to go up and camp in the mountains each week. Overall, the participants were eager to sleep out and tackle this important work.
Vernon Wessels and Wayne Fielies are the two contractors, each with the responsibility to guide their teams. Each team has the contractor to give overall instructions for the contract, as well as a supervisor in the field to look after the team. One of challenges that the team faced was that it was hot, other challenges included the danger of the terrain and the equipment that they must carry. For safety, they had to be able to communicate daily with the office to ensure that they remained safe in the field. Covid 19 regulations and protocols is also a challenge because of social distancing, as the teams needed to sleep in tents in the mountains. Regardless of the challenges, the two teams was very brave and committed to reach the top of the mountain and neither the weather nor anything else could stop them. The teams will complete the 2 contracts within 3 weeks and will be working on other contracts until the end of March.
''This is a great experience for me" said one of the team members when they needed to go back into the mountains. Overall, it seems that the teams are well organized and are motivated to complete this important work to protect our precious mountain environments.
Our conservation student, Emma Prain, has compiled an impressive species list that is invaluable to understanding and documenting the range of species in our area. This list is a work in progress and we welcome feedback and comment on it. Thank you, Emma, for all the hard work.
We are aware that species lists can be misused so we would like this to be mainly available to our landowners who have access to the password. However, if you are a local expert or interested visitor and would like access to the list to give feedback or use while you are in the area, please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details and reason why you would like access and someone will get back to you.
Hidden in our indigenous forest is a recently discovered species of dwarf chameleon. At this very moment Prof. Krystal Tolley, a Research Leader at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), is working hard to name this very elusive reptile.
In the 1980s an employee from CapeNature’s scientific services found two chameleons in the Grootvadersbosch forest, they were collected and preserved at the South African Museum. After this initial sighting, no chameleons were spotted again. Previously scientists thought that the population in the Grootvadersbosch forest may be an isolated population of Knysna dwarf chameleons (Bradypodion damaranum), as they suspect that millions of years ago the Grootvadersbosch forest was connected to the Knysna forest.
In around 2003, Krystal received a phone call from the manager of the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve informing her that they had found a dead chameleon. Krystal traveled straight here to collect it. DNA sequencing on this specimen established that the species in our forest is a separate species to the Knysna Dwarf chameleon.
Krystal has worked hard trying to describe and name the Grootvadersbosch chameleon. A big issue she has encountered is not finding enough specimens. The dead specimen collected in 2003 was partly decomposed making it difficult to use. They also had no morphological data on the species. She explained that you need to have several specimens to describe a species, so you can deduct a baseline of the range of features that represent the species. You also need a range of data such as measurements, photos and back in the day, drawings.
She continued visiting the forest every year 3 years to try and locate the chameleons, with no luck. Finally, two years ago Alouise and Keir Lynch from Bionerds collected samples for her. The extra samples showed for sure that our species is a separate species to the Knysna dwarf chameleon.
In October, we spent the week helping her find chameleons. We collected data from their habitat and ran non invasive experiments. Currently she has a big team working to understand the adaptations of different species of dwarf chameleons in fynbos and forest biomes. The team has deduced that the fynbos biome has very thin vertical perches, with an average perch size of around 1mm in circumference. In forests, the perches are either horizontal or vertical and are much wider, ranging between 3mm and 4mm. The chameleons have adapted to walk on these perches, with forest chameleons potentially having bigger hands, their appendages might be different lengths or their gaits differ. To understand this, we carefully made the chameleons run across vertical and horizontal dowel rods of differing thickness. Her team of scientists are interested in their adaptions and have many unanswered questions that they are still investigating. Our chameleons were not initially going to be included in the study because she feared she would not find enough of them. However, since we did find some during her last visit, she decided to incorporate them into the study.
Her team has found that the closest relative to the Knysna dwarf chameleon is a species of undescribed dwarf chameleon that they have nicknamed the Beardless dwarf chameleon, found in the fynbos biome adjacent to the Knysna forest. According to Krystal, the Grootvadersbosch chameleon belongs to the same group as the Knysna dwarf chameleon, though through a distant relation.
Hopefully our chameleon will soon have its own official name!
Jonathan Barry, son of the late Henri Barry, was born in Swellendam and grew up on Lismore farm in the Grootvadersbosch Valley. He went to school in Swellendam and then completed 5 years of degrees and diplomas in the Information Technology field. He moved to England for work and then returned to Cape Town. In 2017, he got married and moved back to Lismore farm. Jonathan and Henri had been growing the business ever since.
Jonathan Barry was recently selected to be on the board of directors for the Sentraal-Suid Co-operative (SSK). Jonathan was honoured to have been nominated and then chosen for a position. He was one of four nominees that were competing for three available seats on the board of directors. Members of the SSK were given the chance to vote on a poll that was open for 48hrs. Jonathan feels very honoured to have been selected for this position, he explained that the other nominees were amazing people, leaders and very capable in their work. He feels that he is a part of the farming community. He says he now must ensure that he does not let SSK down. He hopes to continue the great work that the board has done. The Grootvadersbosch Conservancy congratulates him and is very proud to have a member in such a prestigious position!
Jonathan and Henri worked together to create a conservation conscious farm. Clearing aliens is a task that is especially important, and they have worked hard to eliminate them. The farm is 2600 hectares and 1100 hectares of that is mountainous area. Their large area of natural territory has encouraged their alien clearing efforts. As with many members, the biggest frustration is the speed at which clearing takes place, due to government red tape, but this has not hindered his attempts at clearing. Jonathan especially wants people to understand that alien plants affect the entire community. More aliens mean less water for our homes. He wants everyone to understand this and try their best to eliminate them.
In the last 10 years, the farm has tried to reduce fertilizers and chemicals. They have done this successfully and have reduced their Glyphosate load by 50%, which is quite incredible. They also purchase soil microorganisms for their fields to increase the soil’s health. He explained that to be truly organic or completely bio-friendly would be impossible, there are too many people that need to be fed and farms would not be able to keep up with the demand. They have a no-till approach to minimise disturbance on the soil. He explained that if you keep the soil healthy, it will do what you need it to do. He described the issue in communication between the outside world and farmers. Jonathan has the feeling that the outside world does not understand what is going on in agriculture and are often too quick to judge.
Jonathan stated that a lot of what they do on the farm is because of his father, Henri Barry. He explained that Henri had a massive passion for the environment and the people in the valley. Henri made sure that his business was transparent so that his children could learn and understand how the farm operated, they were given great responsibly. When Henri passed away, the farm continued the same, nothing really changed because he had involved them so much in its day-to-day running.
Finally, he explained that the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy is a role model conservancy, and the work it does is amazing. John, Henri, and everyone else who pioneered it, worked hard to make it what it is today.
We are combining our approach to alien clearing in the high mountain areas with the release of biocontrol agents. Biocontrol makes use of an invasive plant's naturally occurring enemies to reduce the invasive impact of the species. The approach reunites weeds with their naturally occuring enemies, thereby achieving more sustainable weed control. Biological control is best combined with other mechanisms (mechanical and chemical) to achieve a multi-pronged approach.
We are specifically concerned with the prevalence of silky hakea in the upper mountain areas. In October 2020, we received training on the applicability of different biological control on silky hakea. The training was completed by Dr Wood from the Agricultural Research Institute. We have now ordered the appropriate hakea fungus which will assist with control across the conservancy.
Information on some of the different control agents is available here.
For the 2020 AGM, we are pleased to have guests who will discuss the Biodiversity Stewardship programme and associated tax incentives for landowners that formally commit to these agreements. The speakers will explain these different levels and incentives but the associated documents are available in advance or can be download after the AGM.
In 2003, CapeNature created the Biodiversity Stewardship programme. This incentive was established to help landowners preserve and protect biodiversity on private land. CapeNature recognized that most of the province’s biodiversity is confined to private lands. The programme was designed to assist landowners who are committed to conservation on Private land. A summary of these different levels can be found here.
Fiscal TAx benefits
Birdlife launched the Fiscal Benefits Project to lobby SARS to revise aspects of tax legislation to assist landowners who commit to stewardship agreements and to engage with SARS on how this tax measures would be realized. The legislation has been in place since 2003 but there had been limited focus on how to claim these benefits. The incentive rewards landowners for their conservation commitment on private land. The incentives are only applicable for formally declared areas. Landowners can deduct the value of their protected land from their taxable income, thus reducing the tax owed. This tax incentive is globally unique and its successful inclusion in a tax return creates the first ever tangible, fiscal benefit as a reward for landscape level conservation.
These benefits will be discussed and explained at the 2020 AGM but include:
Below is a link to the available files that further details these benefits.
Mirtelize Kreuiter is a passionate entrepreneur on a mission to make her mark in the agricultural world. She is currently making significant changes at the Fleckvieh Guestfarm in our conservancy, while expanding her new self-founded business, Live.Stock.
Mirtelize grew up in Malmesbury, where she gained exposure to agriculture through her father, who was already in the industry. From a young age, she knew that she had to follow her passion. She recalls writing a letter to her mom at the age of six, where she apologetically explained that when she was older, she was going to work with animals. From there on her path was set. While at school, she worked at various farms and subsequently studied animal sciences at Stellenbosch University. She then travelled to America to complete her honours at an Angus beef ranch. Fast forward a few years and she now manages the Fleckvieh Guestfarm, while running her business -Live.Stock.
Live.stock assists dairy, beef, and sheep farmers with routine checks, classifications, the building of herds through livestock trading and the insemination of cattle. Live.Stock has presented her with an opportunity to grow in a male-dominated profession. She feels the agricultural industry is restricting for women and often presents an environment where big decisions are left to men. Armed with her fiery passion and determination, she has created her own business, providing her with a space to practice her own knowledge and take charge.
At Fleckvieh Guestfarm, she is making several changes and has some exciting plans. Firstly, she plans to promote the brand Fleckvieh as she believes the breed is incredibly special. She is attempting to start fresh milk and meat sales from the farm and is also working to build up their Simmental herd with a stud that has been deregistered for sometime. She explained that the stud, Kykso, a Simmental owned by Thys Swart, used to be internationally known. In previous years they exported embryos to Australia, Canada, Europe, and America. She plans to go to shows with him and build up his reputation.
Secondly, in the dairy sector, she has adapted the milking practices on the farm in several ways, including balancing more milking with resting. This has allowed for more calving, which has built up the size of the herd. Her changes began at the start of the year and great progress has already been made. In the future, she plans to build new calf houses and improve grazing camps and irrigation.
Mirtelize Kreuiter is a hard-working farmer, making great strides in a male-dominated profession. She is passionate about always ensuring her livestock are happy, healthy, and cared for. We wish her all the best in her business endeavours and the running of Fleckvieh.
All the images below were taken by Jacques Marais as part of the Silver Mountain Music Festival.
GVB Conservancy Staff