For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Are you married or single??

The hibiscus flower is traditionally worn by Hawaiian women. A single flower is tucked behind the ear. Which ear is used indicates the wearer's availability for marriage.
Many species are grown for their showy flowers or used as landscape shrubs. Hibiscus is also a primary ingredient in many herbal teas.
In Mexico, the drink is known as Jamaican water or agua de Jamaica and is quite popular for its color, tanginess and mild flavor; once sugar is added, it tastes somewhat like cranberry juice. Dieters or persons with kidney problems often take it without adding sugar for its beneficial properties and as a natural diuretic. It is made by boiling the dehydrated flowers in water; once it is boiled, it is allowed to cool and drunk with ice.
In Egypt and Sudan, roselle petals are used to make a tea named after the plant, karkade.
Hibiscus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Chionodes hibiscella, Hypercompe hambletoni, the Nutmeg moth, and the Turnip Moth.
The Hibiscus is used as an offering to Goddess Kali and Lord Ganesha in Hindu worship. The Gumamela or Hibiscus rosa sinensis linn flower has antifungal, emmenagogue, emollient and refrigerant effect.
The bark of the hibiscus contains strong fibers. They can be obtained by letting the stripped bark sit in the sea in order to let the organic material rot away. In Polynesia these fibers (fau, pūrau) are used for making grass skirts. They have also been known to be used to make wigs.
Hibiscus, especially white hibiscus, is considered to have medicinal properties in the Indian traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda. Roots make various concoctions believed to cure various ailments.
The natives of southern India uses the Red hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) for hair care purposes. The red flower and leaves, extracts of which can be applied on hair to tackle hair-fall and dandruff on the scalp. It is used to make hair protective oils. A simple application involves soaking the leaves and flowers in water and using a wet grinder to make a thick paste, and used as a natural shampoo.
Dried hibiscus is edible, and is often a delicacy in Mexico.
One species of Hibiscus, known as Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), is extensively used in paper making. Another, roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is used as a vegetable and to make herbal teas and jams (especially in the Caribbean).


We have the Kalahari Desert to the east of us and because of the dust in the air, we have the most spectacular sunsets throughout the year.

This was taken in one of my favourite places to visit over weekends, Pilansberg National Park. The park is situated an hour and a half's drive away from me and and in the center, has a large meteor crater which is always full of water. The park hosts a variety of animals which come to drink there.

Decisions and soul mates

I very seldom write and as most people know by now, I am a terrible writer. Sometimes though, my thoughts travel along lines which seem to go round and round in circles and it seems that I eventually end up with more questions than answers…….

I have often heard about people talking about their “soul mate” and never understood the meaning of it. What exactly was it? People met, fell in love, got married, had kids, a house with a white picket fence and lived happily ever after. Was there something more to it than that?

Or was it that instantaneous feeling of being “at home” with someone? Knowing what their answer is going to be, before you even ask the question? The companionable silences with no need for words? The sharing of the same interests. Or was it more? Was it maybe that they were the extension or other half of you? Did these things happen from the moment you met or did it take a while to get there?

So many questions without real answers and which was better? The slow friendship, marriage etc described in the first paragraph or the feelings in the second? Has it happened to me and you? Will it ever happen? Does it actually exist? What if you meet your soul mate and it is a one sided feeling that is not shared by the other? What if your partner refuses to accept and admit that you are soul mates even when they feel the same?

How many times in a lifetime does this happen? If you actually meet this person but for many reasons, the situation can never be taken to the inevitable conclusion of you being together, what then?

Do we put a label on it and call it fate when we meet that someone special, or is it more than that? How come we found ourselves in that particular time and place? What if we were a minute later or a minute earlier? We could just as well have missed each other by a mile or a day then.
A friend of mine was telling me about symbiotic relationships between some plants and insects, where the one would not be able to exist without the other. Is this true for humans too? Does one human need another especially if they are your soul mate?

A few weeks ago, Gerry from Photo Africa and I were discussing decisions and choices we make in our lives and how difficult they can be, sometimes having life altering consequences.

Well today I made a choice which is definitely going to change my life. It was not an easy one. The difference between what your heart tells you and your mind, can be two totally different things. One can be good for you and the other bad. So which do you choose? Sometimes we have to decide to make a change for the worst, but yet, for your own good. It can take many days and weeks to arrive at a definite conclusion about something, sometimes just a small thing will make us decide to take the plunge and go in another direction.

During my life I have taken immediate decisions on many things and have never regretted them as regret is a waste of time. Who knows if we are making the right choices as we go along, only time will tell.

Maybe we meet our soul mates at the wrong stage of life, when we are old and grey and set in our ways. Do we want to change it? Dare we change it? Are we so scared of taking that final step into what may be the happiest times of our lives that we refuse to accept what is under our noses and would rather forgo the uncertainty of “will it work?”. Have we spent years telling ourselves that we are happy the way we are and finally believing it to the extent where anything else is foreign?

Choices, decisions, yes, no, go, stay – all are part of life’s cycle and the only thing I am certain of is that I myself cannot live in grey areas, it must be one or the other. It cannot be half a life so something has to change and it is up to me to decide on it!! I also know that life is too short to bypass a chance on happiness But what if it’s the wrong decision!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Caveman days - The fire plant -Monkey's Tail

This plant dates back to caveman days and was frequently still used up to about 100 years ago. Now, with the advent of electricity, the usefulness has died out but if you every find yourself stranded in Africa, remember it.
We call it "the Baboons/Monkey's Tail" and even after a veld (bush) fire, new leaves still pop out.

It grows to about 3-4 feet in height. The root is used to treat asthma.
There is not a place in South Africa where I have not seen it growing.
If you seperate the very fine parts of the stem.....
you can see how fibrous it is inside.
What cave dwellers did was take one of these "tails" and soak it in animal fat for 3 or 4 days. The fat would draw into the fibre and when set alight, would burn for about 4 hours depending on the lenght of it.So, when we go back to living in caves, remember to have some of these useful plants around.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Rocks and minerals

A rainy day is always a good time to visit the museum. The section displaying rocks and minerals always draws my attention as I used to collect them as a child.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Close-up of a giraffes tongue

A giraffe's tongue is 18 to 20 inches (46 to 50 centimeters) and is purplish-black. This adaptation is thought to keep the tongue from sunburn during their all-day feed.
They eat the thorns and leaves of the Acacia trees.
In my trusted reference book, "Behavior Guide to African Mammals", Richard Estes explains how the giraffe is able to do this: "Horny papillae (small bumps) protect the lips and tongue against thorns. The narrow muzzle, extremely flexible upper lip, and long, prehensile tongue enable the giraffe to strip leaves off branches or select individual leaflets from between sharp thorns; thus it can both feed selectively and consume the quantity of foliage needed to sustain its bulk."

Monday, February 18, 2008

My beautiful elephant has died.....

It is with a great hole in my heart that I read about the death of one of my favorite elephants. This huge gentle beast has been know to me for many, many years and will be sorely missed by a lot of people. They estimate that he was in the region of about 50 years old which is still quite young for an elephant. I think he was a lot older as this picture was taken about 20 years ago and I reckon he was about 40-50 already. They think he died of a heart attack, but I somehow don't think so. It was just old age. What a sad moment in my life!!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Interestng idea

I passed this wall on my way somewhere and thought it was a very pretty idea.
Chicken wire was placed against the wall but not too tightly and the space inbetween was filled with moss covered by a layer of black plastic. Holes were then made in the plastic and the flowers planted through this. With the growth of the flowers you could eventually not see either the plastic nor the wire and made a very ugly wall attractive.