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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Snuff-box or Fried Egg Tree (Oncoba spinosa)

Family Flacourtiaceae.

These are fairly small trees about 4m (12’) in height and get their name from the flowers.

Snuff boxes are made from their hard-shelled fruit which, when the seeds are dried, make good rattles for children and anklets and armlets to add rhythm to dancers.

The seeds contain a drying oil which makes a suitable varnish but is too difficult to extract commercially.

The root provides a remedy in traditional medicine for treating dysentery and bladder complaints.

The wood is light brown and takes a good polish but the pieces are seldom large enough to be used.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Flower Chafer Beetle (Dicronorrhina derbyana oberthueri)

This is Dicronorrhina and it is a fine male specimen. They belong to the sub-family Cetoniini which in turn belongs to the family Scarabaeidae (the same family as the dung beetles). They are not uncommon in the Pretoria area but are not as full up as, for example, the black and yellow fruit chafers which one finds in almost any garden.
The Dicronorrhina feed on plant sap and are also strongly attracted to overripe or fermenting fruit. The males defend their territory from other males, as well as other fruit chafers, by using their well developed horns. They have a life span of roughly 5 months (as beetles) usually starting in November. The larval and pupal stages together take about 9 months so they breed at the rate of approximately one generation per year. Factors such as temperature and humidity also have a great influence on the life cycles of insects. Female lays up to 200 eggs.
It is about 2 inches in body length. This one obligingly fell over allowing me a picture of its belly.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Common Tropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia)

Common Tropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) - flat lizards family Gekkonidae

They average about 12cm in length and vary in colour from light pink-grey to grey-brown and may have irregular darker crossbands on the body and tail.

 Quoted from: A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa by Johan Marais

“Calcium-storing neck glands are obvious in some gecko species. These are called endolymphatic sacs and are situated on the sides of the neck just behind the jaw, extending backwards from the skull. They are linked to the membranous labyrinth of the inner ear. Geckos are unusual among lizards in laying hard-shelled eggs, calcareous eggs. The stores of calcium are used by the female to produce the eggshell”

Females lay 2 eggs per clutch.

They are very common on the walls of houses and are mainly active at night.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yellow Bauhinia Tree (Bauhinia tomentosa)

Yellow Bauhinia Tree (Bauhinia tomentosa) family Fabaceae

This medium to large shrub with its attractive light green two-lobed leaves produces beautiful bright yellow flowers with black to maroon coloured centres from December to March.

Medium to large shrub to a small tree, up to 4m in height. Leaves are divided into two lobes, light green in colour, with a leathery texture, carried on branches that are often drooping. It produces large bell-shaped, bright yellow flowers with a black to deep maroon coloured centre from December to March. The fruit are pea like, slender and velvety. They are light green, turning a pale brown with age and are produced from January to June or even later. Bark is grey or brown.

These plants can be found along the coastal strip from southern Kwazulu-Natal to Maputoland, Mpumalanga as well as Mozambique, Zimbabwe, tropical Africa and as far as India and Sri Lanka . It is found in woodland, riverine bush and coastal dune bush.

Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name " Bauhinia " honours herbalist brothers from the 16 th century, Johann and Caspar Bauhin. They were identical twin brothers, making it a very apt name as the two lobes of the leaves, when folded together, are identical.

Previously a large genus, it has now been divided into a number of genera according to the flower shapes. Several South African bauhinias are in cultivation including the well-know Pride of De Kaap - Bauhinia galpinii and Bauhinia bowkeri.

The specie name "tomentosa" means hairy and it refers to the velvety/ hairy pods.


The flowers from this tree, rich in pollen and nectar, attract various insects such as butterflies and bees. In turn these insects will attract insect eating birds. Certain birds and the larvae of certain moth species feed on the flowers. This is also a host plant for many butterfly species, with the larvae feeding on the leaves.

 Uses and cultural aspects

Not much is known about the specific medicinal or cultural uses of this specie of Bauhinia, although it is said to be used widely medicinally.

Three other species of Bauhinia are also used medicinally for everything from coughs, convulsions and constipation to pneumonia and venereal diseases. ( Bauhinia galpinii, Bauhinia thonningii, Bauhinia petersiana)

 Growing Bauhinia tomentosa

Bauhinia tomentosa is deciduous, but can be evergreen in a mild climate. The adult plants can tolerate a moderate amount of frost, but the seedlings and younger plants should be shielded from frost. It prefers full sun and needs a moderate amount of water.

It can be propagated from seed and grows relatively fast. Plant it singly or in groups. It is suitable for rockeries, shrub borders, and large containers, on patios or next to swimming pools.

The soil needs to be well drained with compost added to enrich it. A covering of mulch over the soil is a good idea, replenishing the layer as regularly as possible.
Information supplied by:

Monday, February 20, 2012


There are certain insects which I am always on the lookout for as they are such interesting ones and can never seem to find. I saw a picture of this Treehopper in my book and was so pleased to eventually find it.

No wonder I have not been able to find it as they are very small, maybe 4mm in length and at first I thought it was a baby grasshopper.

All Treehoppers are recognised by their horn-like structures extending back over their abdomen.
They are classified as bugs (Hemiptera) and belong to the Membracidae family.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

After the rain.....

everything looks and even smells different.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Black-bellied Korhaan

Black-bellied  Korhaan/bustard (Lissotis melanogaster) Gruiformes - Family: Otitidae

It is a well known bird in Africa occurring from Senegal to Ethiopia and extends down to South Africa where it is found in the north eastern parts.
The males do a wonderful and elaborate courtship display in summer, standing on a raised mound of sand, calling and then flying upwards, spreading its wings and floating down again.
The incubating of the babies is done solely by the female and her eggs are laid on the bare ground under a bush or tree.
It generally prefers tall, dense woodland and grassy savanna as well as cultivated pastures, fields, fallow lands and woodland, such as cluster-leaf (Terminalia), Baikaea plurijaga (Zambezi teak), bushwillows (Combretum), Mopane (Colospermum mopane) and miombo (Brachystegia).
Its diet is little known in southern Africa, but elsewhere it is omnivorous, mainly feeding on small invertebrates, such as locusts, grasshoppers and beetles, as well as vegetable matter, such as fruit, seeds and leaves.

They are fairly large standing about 50cm (18”) in height and the female lacks the black breast and markings so is altogether drab looking.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DevilsThorn (Dicerocaryum senecioides)

DevilsThorn (Dicerocaryum senecioides) family Pedaliaceae

If the leaves are rubbed with water between your hands, they form a soapy lather or fresh plant matter crushed in water was formerly used as a soap substitute.

Traditionally they were used as a lubricant during childbirth.

The pod, about 5cm (1/2”) in length with its two spikes are a great way of identifying this plant although when dry, these can penetrate hooves and feet.

Some plants are useful to know about and this is one of them........

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Golden Lynx Spider (Oxyopes jacksoni)

Lynx spiders do not make webs but use their silk as a safety line when jumping.
Females suspend their egg sacs from a leaf or branch and guards them till they hatch.
The species Oxyopidae are easily recognized by the spines sticking out of their legs.

This is a very small spider, maybe 4mm and it was not till I had the pictures on the computer that I noticed it was clutching a bug in the last picture.

Friday, February 10, 2012


We have a very large variety of dragon flies here:

Common Thorn Tail
Red-veined Dropwing
Epaulet Skimmer

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Broad Bordered Acraea (Acraea anemosa)

The Broad Bordered Acraea (Acraea anemosa) is a delightful and most colorful butterfly of the Nymphalidae family.

It is widespread in the hot northern areas and its habitat is grassland areas.

Both sexes are similar but different morphs are found in these areas.

It is a large butterfly and can be found the year round.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ilala Palm (Hyphaene natalensis)

Ilala Palm (Hyphaene natalensis) family Arecaceae

A palm which can grow up to 15m in height and is found at low altitudes in open sandy country. They have a strange bulge halfway up the trunk.

Flowers: sexes separate on different trees.

(Here we go with the pictures coming out sideways again!! WIll they ever fix this problem??? Come on Blogger - get it sorted out!!!!!!!!!!!!!) PLEASE!!!!!!

 The fruits have a thin layer of sweet tasting, ginger-flavoured, spongy pulp and can take up to two years to mature. Elephants and baboons eat the fruit and act as agents for their seed dispersal. When young, it produces a little milk similar to that of coconuts and is relished by the indigenous people.

These palms are widely exploited as a source of wine and many are killed as a result. Local people tap the tree near the growing tip but afterwards the sap hardens as it dries to form a crust over the wound and this must be cut back afterwards before a further supply can be obtained. After three or four weeks of tapping and cutting back the growing-tip will have been entirely removed and the stem inevitably dies.
The wine itself is sweet and only slightly intoxicating and though about 60-70 litres may be obtained from the average tree, this relative innocuous liquor can be distilled to form a highly potent spirit, about two litres are obtained from every 20 litres of wine.
 The hard white kernels of the seeds, closely resembling the commercial “vegetable ivory” of South America, are too small to be of economic importance though they are often used to make trinkets, ornaments or curios.

This is a difficult palm to cultivate: the seeds do not germinate easily and the palms are very slow growing. The massive tap-roots make it almost impossible to transplant the trees once they are established and for these reasons they are rarely seen in gardens.