One of the things I love about Bushveld Mosaic is that the Lecturers can take a seemingly boring topic and make it interesting. To be honest I wasn’t thrilled when I saw the schedule – grasses and then trees. But wow am I glad I attended those weekends!
I now find myself driving down the road, slowing down, and then trying to find out if this grass is nutritious (for the animals, not for me!). It has become the same thing with trees. I’ve learned that the thorns of Acacia trees are an adaptation to limit how many animals call that tree dinner. We also learned that some animals – like the giraffe – are unfazed by these thorns – but then the tannin gets them!
For those of you who were unable to join us but are living vicariously through this blog, here are a few specifics from the weekend – as told from a young American’s perspective:
On Friday night, everyone wrote their “grasses” test. Unfortunately, I got stuck at work late on Friday and missed this first evening, driving up early the next morning instead.
Lecturer Malcolm Hepplewhite at work
The next morning, the lecture on trees began. We learned what the different parts of a tree are, and how to identify the leaves as pinnate or palmate.
We learned the difference between leaves and leaflets, and then between opposite pairs and alternate pairs.
This is a ….I think!
After getting through the technical bit, we got our hands dirty (literally) and began identifying local trees – Gardenia volkensi, Ximenia caffra, Pterocarpus rotundifolia, and so many more!
Saturday evening, we went for a drive looking at trees in various habitats (wetlands, rocky slopes, eroded areas, etc.). This was very interesting. The HO’s and the lecturer shared lots of great information, not just about the trees, but about the bush and overall environment.
Another great African sunset
As the sun set, we got the fire going and had our braai (that’s the South African word for a barbecue — aren’t you proud of this American?). After a couple of hours of great food and even better conversation, it was time to curl up in our sleeping bags and call it a night.
It was a beautiful night and I was quite tired. Despite warnings from my peers of ticks, scorpions, snakes, imaginary monsters, and even hungry leopards I made the unwise decision to sleep out under the stars. As luck would have it, none of those big bad scary things were an issue. Instead, right as I was falling asleep, the stars faded from view and the downpour began. Dear fellow campers: please learn from my mistake and always set up camp before cooking dinner.
Anyways, Sunday rolled around and we worked in teams to identify trees within our designated areas. My group was focused on the trees found in wetlands. This was a great way to wrap up a wonderful weekend.
Until next time,
This is certainly palatable… for some of us anyhow
P.S. Remember to set up your tent!
Editors Note: Many thanks to our young American student Chris Meehan, for this personal account of the trees weekend