Of Newies and Dwarf Chameleons

Striding out at Potberg
Striding out at Potberg

“Het Julle Head Torches?“

“Ja. Maar hoekom Jannie”, I asked?

The reply, “Ons gaan vanaand soek vir Dwarf Chameleons?”

In disbelief I repeated, “Dwarf Chameleons”?

My voice reached a high falsetto squeak on the very edge of hysteria. This was the third evening of a field trip, which included about 50 rares, most of them entirely new to us. We were exhausted both mentally and physically. Not even a world first would have tempted me to leave my glass of red wine and go stumbling around in the dark looking for any sort of chameleons, dwarf or otherwise. “Getting soft”, I can hear in the background. Maybe, but  by this time I felt every day of my 77 years (and counting) and proved it by sleeping for 11 hours that night.

Aspalathus quartzicola
Aspalathus quartzicola at Haarwegskloof

We have a long-standing saying in the Outramps CREW Group “If we run out of new specials, we’ll go to Potberg”. Well, we haven’t run out of newies, but we decided to go anyway. It was an excellent opportunity to tie up with the Agulhas and Swellendam CREWites and to visit Jannie Groenewald at Haarwegskloof. Ismail and Gigi joined us from Kirstenbosch and we were delighted to have Rupert Koopman, (the Cape Nature botanist) with us as well. This (mainly) Lowland Reserve is home to the famous Whale Trail and is renowned for its limestone vegetation, which hosts a huge number of rare endemics. We received a very warm welcome and were invited to walk across a recently burnt piece of veld called Dronkvlei. Remembering that we are not familiar with the plants at De Hoop, id’ing the seedlings and resprouters presented some problems. Fortunately, there were patches that had escaped the burn, so that we had some older plants to help us along. That evening was spent with the books and “stukkies” trying to make some sense of what we had seen.

Protea obtusifolia
Protea obtusifolia

Early next morning we packed up and headed for Haarwegskloof, which is the property belonging to the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust. It was purchased by the WWF to conserve the 5% that remains of the Overberg Ruens Renosterveld. The vegetation type at Haarwegskloof (Eastern Rûens Shale Renosterveld) is classified as Critically Endangered.  Our guide was the enthusiastic Jannie Groenewald, who manages this reserve and is busy doing his PHD. Jannie is an old friend and we had a simply marvellous day with him, leaping from one little kopje to another and scouring the valleys. There were rare Gibbaeums, Haworthias, Rutaceae, Proteaceae, Asteraceae, Iridaceae and enough Fabaceae to sink a battleship. Our heads were whirling with the sheer weight of all the new information.

Jannie Groenewald at Haarwegskloof
Jannie Groenewald at Haarwegskloof

Finally exhausted and as the light was failing, we got back to the very comfortable Centre. Jannie gave us an enthralling  presentation about the Reserve. It was roundabout then, that the matter of the Dwarf Chameleons raised its head. I’m afraid there was limited enthusiasm. We will do that next time Jannie and there is going to be a next time. We are certainly going to plan a trip in the Spring, which will also include Dwarf Chameleons, if Jannie is happy to have us again.

Di Turner

Outramps CREW Group

Southern Cape

Gibbaeum haagei
Gibbaeum haagei
Xiphotheca guthriei
Xiphotheca guthriei
Acmadenia macropetala
Acmadenia macropetala