Team “BM 2019” started arriving at Borakalalo from lunchtime onwards on Friday. By 6.30pm most of us had arrived and we made our way up to the main gate to write our “grasses” test. After writing out test and identifying the infamous “Buffalo Grass” (Panicum maximum), Maria gave us valuable feedback about our ecology tests. It was awesome to see everyone again and the rest of Friday evening was spent catching up.
We met Prof. Leslie Brown on Saturday morning at 8am. Prof. Leslie Brown is a Professor in Plant Ecology at the University of South Africa. He is passionate about veld restoration and took us on a journey with ‘Trees in the Spotlight’. He started by reminding us that trees, together with the oceans are the lungs of the earth. That 280 000 km2 of tropical forests are being destroyed every year, 200 000 km2 of grasslands are destroyed annually and that one mature tree produces enough oxygen in one growing season for 10 people to use for a year. He had us hooked.
We learnt the basics of tree anatomy and physiology.
Fig. 1 – Prof. Leslie Brown “What we have here is a …”
We were introduced to the key concepts of tree identification and how to use a Plant Key to identify a tree species.
The morning flew by in a flash and before we knew it, it was time for lunch
Fig. 2 – What are you having for lunch?
After lunch we went for a drive around the Western Section of Borakalalo and stopped numerous times along the way.
Fig. 3 Some interesting stops
Prof Leslie Brown introduced us to the dominant tree and grass species found in each particular area of the park. He shared a wealth of information with us and his wicked sense of humour kept us on our toes. He is an incredible teacher and we were so lucky to have been able to spend the day with him.
After saying our goodbyes to Prof, we headed back to camp with our heads bursting with new knowledge.
Fig. 4 No it’s Trees weekend, that is a grass.
Dinner was enjoyed by all around a lovely campfire.
On Sunday morning, Maria told us that by the end of the morning, we would be able to identify at least 10 trees. We broke up into small groups with the Honorary Officers Sam, Ian, Peter and Maria guiding us through the process of tree identification and by the end of the morning we could all identify quite a few trees.
Fig. 5 Sam in a pensive mood, and Peter making a point
It was an awesome weekend learning new things and spending time with a group of like-minded people.
Ed’s Note: Many thanks to student Martina for the weekend report on behalf of Team Grasslands.