For many people travelling up the South East coast of South Africa the name Garden Route” is a misnomer as there is no garden and the floral diversity does not compete with other parts of the country. In part this is correct as large areas of floral extravagance have been swallowed up in a wave of out competing alien vegetation, Hakea, Pine and Wattle.
Our property has been clear of Pine now for almost 2 years and the natural rehabilitation is ongoing and marvelous. Each season new highlights emerge and slowly we are seeing a recovering ecosystem.
There are at the moment 2 flowers that I find remarkable . One in particular has always been a favourite of mine as they seem to typify Spring and this is the Freesias. The one that occurs here is Freesia leichtlinii and is a white form. It is a beautiful, delicate low growing plant with a very strong sweet scent and is one of the Freesias used to create the popular hybrid that is now found world wide.
- Water Holly
- Ixia orientalis
The other plant that is flowering is a shrub or bushy tree called the Blue kuni-bush or Rhus glauca. It has flowers that are completely different but no less noticeable, also because of their scent. The flower is a tiny yellow-green flower that is bunched en-masse on the end of the branchlets.
What strikes me with both these flowers is not what they look like, but what they smell like. All plants, being inanimate, must find ways to pollinate each other and have developed a number of fascinating strategies to do this. The most common technique though, is to recruit insects or birds to do the work for you. Birds, like mammals, have a poorly developed sense of smell but well developed eyesight, so that bird pollinated plants tend to be large, bright,often red and they don’t waste energy producing a scent. On the other extreme, insects have a phenomenal sense of smell and are less interested in colour or in the colour spectrum that is visible to us.
The two different plants mentioned, the Rhus and the Freesia are both pollinated by insects and so both have a strong scent, but the similarity stops here.The Freesia has a sweetly scented flower that attracts insects lured by the promise of sweet nectar and in the process pick up pollen and the Rhus has a very strong smell of yeast and fermentation and it uses this to attract flies for its pollination