The Bushveld Mosaic weekend from 26 – 28 March 2021 was dedicated to grasses. Some of us arrived in bright and hot sunshine to set up camp in an area that had to be cleared from shoulder-high grasses. Some of use arrived a little bit later and had to set up in the pouring rain of a typical summer rainstorm. Soon we trekked through the rain to the main park centre to write our Ecology and Taxonomy test in darkness and by the light of our headlamps. This group seems to have a tendency to leave things behind; if it is not a classmate accidentally left behind in camp, it is a moonbag left behind in the test venue!
On Saturday morning we woke up to beautiful sunshine which thankfully lasted the whole rest of the weekend. We met our lecturer for the weekend, Prof Mary Scholes in our classroom under the tree. What a privilege to be taught by this international expert, who volunteers her time to teach us and to even remember our names even for a couple of days. The vast knowledge, the passion and the joy of learning and sharing, from the big picture to the smallest detail, was inspirational.
We learnt about the main drivers of the ecological development of grasses, the differences between grasses and trees, the structure of the grass plant and finally how to identify different grasses.
The identification of grasses was practical and hands-on. We started to venture out together for the first time this year in our allocated groups and started to pick and dig up different grasses. On our return to the classroom tree, we then had to start identifying our picks. Prof Scholes and the Mosaic coordinators were at hand to help us, but it was also encouraging to see that even these experienced folks sometimes had to double-check, consult each other and rethink their initial id’s! But by Sunday lunchtime we had identified no less than 29 species and proud of it!
Then it was time to learn about soil types, catena’s, seeplines and their typical vegetation, finishing off the amazing learning experience with an understanding of sweet and sourveld. The holistic approach which included both conservation and agriculture was very insightful and left us looking forward to more of this truly wonderful learning experience. Next stop Kgaswane and wetlands!
ED’s NOTE: Many thanks to to the Grasslands team for kick starting the class of 2021’s feedback activities with this excellent report and pictures.