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Goodbye winter, hello early spring flowers!

Despite the fact we're not yet near the start of the rainy season, there's always a slight change as we enter August as the days are noticeably getting longer and the evenings are not quite as cold. However, most indigenous plants are still fast asleep, waiting for the first rains to arrive before before waking from their long slumber. Nonetheless, if one looks closely, there are stirrings of the coming rainy season as a number of indigenous plants start blooming now.

Most people will be familiar with the regular early flowering of some of the more showy trees that start to bloom at this time of year. The Coral tree, Erythrina abyssinica, is by far the showiest with its bright scarlet red spikes of flowers adorning its leafless branches. Similarly, the Wild pear, Dombeya rotundifolia, has already started to produce its small dainty white blooms en masse across the tree's canopy. A closer look at some of the other trees and shrubs will show a number more species that also flower at this time of year. The Carrot tree, Steganotaenia araliacea, have also sent out their umbels of yellow flowers while the Wild Medlar, Vangueriopsis lanciflora, is also in full bloom with its clusters of smallish narrow white flowers that by November will have developed into tasty fruits ready to be eaten.

The stunning scarlet flower spikes of the Coral tree brighten up the drap landscape.

The small flowers of the Wild Medlar which will be followed by the edible fruits come November.

Although, it's not only the woody species that are bursting into bloom. There are now a number of hardy indigenous perennial species that are adding some colour to the landscape. One of the most recognisable of our epiphytic orchids is the Leopard Orchid, Ansellia africana, and it can now be found putting out sprays of its maroon spotted yellow flowers. Yet there are some terrestrial orchids that also bloom at this time of year. Blink and you might miss them but Eulophia katangensis and Eulophia saxicola are small flowered species while Eulophia orthoplectra is a large flowered species all blooming now amongst the dry grass stalks.

The Leopard orchid is our most easily recognizable indigenous epiphytic orchid.

The yellow and maroon flowers of Eulophia orthoplectra amongst the dry grasses.

In addition to the orchid family, the bean family also has a number of early flowering species brightening up miombo woodlands at the moment in shades of pink and purple. In burnt out patches of woodland, one might be lucky enough to come across Vigna antunesii, Vigna frutescens or Vigna pygmaea with their flowers produced just above ground level with their leaves unfurling as flowering comes to an end. However, not all our early perennial flowers are colourful and indeed Drimia basutica is easily overlooked with its tan brown flowers.

The pink flowers of Vigna antunesii are easily spotted in burnt woodland patches and identifiable by the asymmetric twisted keel petals.

The purple flowers of Vigna frutescens sprouting through the dry grasses.

Indigenous Orchid
Indigenous Orchid

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