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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

White Mexican Poppy (Argemone ochroleuce)

White Mexican Poppy (Argemone ochroleuce) family Papaveraceae

A cosmopolitan weed native to Mexico, it is a blue-green spiny plant growing up to 1m (3’) in height.

It is found in all soil types and helps to keep erosion at bay.

Plants contain a milky latex and toxic alkaloids which make them unpalatable to animals.

When the plant or leaves are crushed, it exudes a bad odour but certain butterflies find it useful for nectar gathering.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorite pictures - Part 1

As it is the end of another year, I have decided to do some post on my favorite pictures which I have taken over the years and have also inserted links to the original posts in case you want to see more of a particular insect and read the information suplied....... hope you like them. All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hairy Star-flower (Hypoxis hemerocallidea) Hypoxidaceae

Hairy Star-flower (Hypoxis hemerocallidea)  family Hypoxidaceae

This is also known as the “African potato” but is not edible as such and is actually poisonous.

It contains anti-cancer properties and used in traditional medicine for treatment of prostate cancer, tuberculosis, bladder disorders and arthritis. While it contains sterols that are good for the immune system, they are also found in many fruits and vegetables.

Small amounts of the juice can be applied to burns and a black dye extracted from the leaves is used to darken floors.

It is a smallish plant growing maybe 40mm (13”) in height and found in grasslands.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Special days

There are some days and events which take place in our lives which are very special and we hold close to our hearts. For me, one of these days was 28th December 2009. (227)
Somehow, no matter how long afterwards, the events stay bold, clear and vivid. They can be replayed in our minds forever.
It may be a special flower, picking up a stone, meeting someone or a day at the beach but whatever it is, thoughts and even smells are recalled and will never be forgotten.
Sometimes they days bring back joy and a reason to celebrate and at othertimes, they are recalled with sadness and a wish to go back to then.
They say things happen for the best but I guess it depends on the event. Sometimes hind-sight makes us see the event differently. Whatever these special days are, we can only move on from them one day at a time. Hopefully these days are ones which bring joy to us and not sorrow. We have enough to deal with in our daily lives without added burdens.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Female Southern Tree Agama

The female Southern Agama (Acanthocercus atricollis) is quite indistinctive and blends in so well with the bark of a tree that unless she moves, she is not easily noticed.
 For more information and pictures of the male, please click on the link.
 Like so many of our species, the patterns, colors and even protrusions on the skin add to their camoflage.
 This lizard must be about 10-12 inches in length and are very shy so not easy to photograph up close.
 With nails like that, they easily climb almost smooth surfaces. A feat which would be impossible for us.
 During the breeding season, the males head is a much brighter blue than this as can be seen in the linked post.
Once again I apologise for some of the pictures being the wrong way around but it seems that Blogger has no intention of fixing the problem or allowing some method of correcting it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Skunk Longhorn Beetle (Anubis scalaris)

Skunk Longhorn Beetle (Anubis scalaris)

Longhorn beetles belong to the Cerambycidae family and are found in all sizes.
 The antennae are anywhere between 3-4 times the length of their body and can be swept back over the body when at rest.

Adults are found on flowers where they feed on the leaves, pollen, nectar wood and roots.

Eggs are laid in cracks along the stems of plants.

When grasped, they release a musky smell from which they get their name.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wild white Carnation

I never knew that there was such a thing as a wild carnation and being in a new area, I was excited to find some.

These are growing in a bush area which is mostly grassland and the soil is very poor. The area was a river bed a few millennium ago and does not contain soil. The same as you would find in a child’s sandpit.

These are thriving and as you can see by the pictures, the stems and leaves are very much the same as those we have cultivated and in our gardens, however the flower is very different and the calyx very elongated.

I have only seen them in white and as they seem to grow in patches, they make a lovely show against the wild grass.

If anyone knows the proper name for them or has more information, I would be pleased if you let me know.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Topaz Blue (Azanus jesous)

Topaz Blue (Azanus jesous) family Lycaenidae

These are very small hairtails and very difficult to get pictures of as they do not land for any amount of time on one spot so by the time you get your camera focused, they are gone again. J The trials and tribulations of being an insect photographer. LOL!!

However, patience plays a big part in all of this and sooner or later, the chance to take the shot comes along. I noticed that it seemed to like one particular piece of brick – I think it was getting moisture out of the crack – and after laying in wait for a long time, got these few shots of it.

They are common throughout most of SA.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mistletoe (Tapinanthus oleifolius)

Although we do not have snow in many part of South Africa, we do still have our own misletoe......
Mistletoe (Tapinanthus oleifolius)

Tapinanthus oleifolius is one of the best known of the evergreen half-parasitic shrubs growing on other trees and shrubs. The sticky seeds are deposited by birds on the bark of branches and stems where they germinate rapidly. The developing plant attaches itself to the host by means of a specialized root-like structure known as a haustorium.

This secretive, plant has an epiphytic habit. It only discloses its presence by the fallen flowers and fruits found on the ground. It is often overlooked in trees as it blends in well with the leaves of the tree itself. It is best observed in winter when trees have few or no leaves. It is a tall shrub up to 1 m high with a smooth, grey to brownish and densely, but inconspicuously lenticellate stem. Leaves are mostly opposite and with a wide variation in size (Polhill & Wiens 1988). The petiole (leaf stalk) is 2-13 mm long to almost absent. The inflorescence consists of one to several flowered umbels ; the peduncle (inflorescence stalk) is 1-4 mm long and the pedicel (flower stalk) is 0.5-2.0 mm long.

The corolla-tube is 35-45 mm long, red with whitish spots, head of buds yellowish or greenish white, darkening, constricted 3-5 mm above and the lobes are 9-10 mm long. The stamens are red, anthers 2.5-3.0 mm long. The fruit is a berry, ellipsoid, 8-9 x 5-7 mm, smooth and red with a short, persistent red, hairless calyx.
Distribution and Habitat

The mistletoe is widespread in the drier parts of southern Africa throughout Namibia, Free State, Botswana, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North-West provinces. It is found growing on numerous and diverse hosts such as species of Acacia, Aloe, Combretum, Diospyros, Maytenus, Melianthus, Rhus and Ziziphus. It is mostly adapted to a drier habitat.
Derivation of name and historical aspects

Tapinanthus oleifolius has elliptic leaves resembling those of the olive; this gave rise to the name of the species: olei -meaning of the olive, and - folius meaning leaved. The closed red flowers look like a bundle of vertical matches: red with a whitish tip. The common name of the plant is therefore vuurhoutjie or lighting match. The Afrikaans name voƫlent refers to its method of seed dispersal by birds. Another species is Tapinanthus rubromarginatus.

The plant is a host to birds since it is one of the few plants that flower in winter. The flower is very sensitive to touching. It opens quickly and releases pollen, which lands on the head of the pollinators. It is very interesting how self-pollination is prevented: the style of the ovary moves to one side and ensures maximum exposure to the next pollinator to facilitate cross-pollination. The seeds stick to the bills and legs of birds and are then wiped onto the bark of other trees where seed germination takes place. The fact that it is one of the few plants to flower in winter makes it extremely valuable in the ecosystem as a provider of nectar.

Uses and cultural aspects

The plant is eaten by browsers, especially giraffes because it usually grows high up in trees. There is a superstition that the mixture of the plant with Capparis tomentosa and ground monkey nuts and fat can stop the rain if smeared onto a forked stick and pointed upwards. The sticky gum from the berries is used to catch birds; the gum is rolled on a grass culm at a water hole or near a nest.
Growing Tapinanthus oleifolius

It is known to grow well on branches of various tree species. The seed is smeared onto the branch and the lobes of the cotyledon joined by the radicle emerge rapidly in the presence of sunlight, and the parasite attaches itself to its host plant.
Information supplied by:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Moth and cocoon - Bristly Eggar (Gastroplakaeis meridionalis)

This has an interesting story……

While on one of my walks I noticed a cocoon on one of the branches of a bush. It was quite large, about 2.5cm (1 inch) if not more.

This must have been made by a very hairy caterpillar as you can see the hairs are stick into it.

I very carefully cut the branch and took it home with me hoping it would breed out and just as carefully placed it in the same position in one of my tanks as what I had found it.

After about 10 days had passed, I was beginning to think that whatever was in it had long since died but decided to leave it where it was.

After a another week, I came out one morning to find this huge moth at the bottom of the tank and many of the surfaces covered with eggs but unfortunately, the moth had died.

As she had not been out of the tank, I knew the eggs were not fertile and after another month, saw that they were shriveling up and going black. What a lovely moth it was though.
Once again John has come to my rescue and identified this moth for me as a Bristly eggar (Gastroplakaeis meridionalis) but the mystery is that they are only supposed to occur much further south from here. How I wish I could find someone to sponsor me in order to do this research full time!!

Thank you John!! It is greatly appreciated.