BM2022 Grasses Weekend – Borakalalo: 18-20 February 2022.

Report and photographs by Ronnie Henderson.

We arrived on Friday afternoon to an overflowing Klipvoor Dam, after negotiating the pothole-filled roads on our way to Borakalalo. We gained hope for our return trip home when we saw the local community repairing the potholes themselves with limited resources and any forms of donation.

Klipvoor Dam

After setting up camp in the scorching heat and catching up with each other, it soon became apparent that the dreaded Friday night Ecology and Taxonomy test was seriously hampering our excitement at the joyous weekend ahead.

Fish Eagle Camp Site

Peter threw us a lifeline on Friday night when he informed us that he had misplaced the test papers and that we were off the hook for that evening. That meant that we would have to write an online test the following week. Our immediate thoughts were “Peter 4 President!”. We then wound down to enjoy a relaxed Friday night together.

Unfortunately, Peter found the test papers again, and we wrote the test on Saturday morning before our lecture on grasses commenced. How blessed were we to write a test in such a setting! No clinical classroom or lecture hall – just a peaceful and tranquil environment, close to nature, with Fish Eagles and Kingfishers reminding us how lucky we are. I am sure we can argue to write future tests in the same way.

Tebogo demonstrates just how relaxing it can be to write a test in such an environment.

After the test, Prof. Mary Scholes, an internationally acclaimed academic and lecturer, fascinated all of us with her passion and knowledge about grasses. Her passion was quite contagious, and we all were very eager to put our newfound knowledge of grasses to the test when we were allowed to go into the veld and collect samples of different grasses for identification.

Prof. Mary: “Do you still want to convince me that you can’t find that species in the book and that you have discovered a new species?”

We spent the rest of Saturday exploring the veld and collecting grasses to identify. By Saturday evening, each of us was able to identify ten different species. We were fortunate to have grasses expert Sam Seleke to help us, together with André and Peter. They sacrificed their weekend to assist and guide us and to ensure that we were not overwhelmed by grasses. 

Sam Seleke helping students to identify grasses.

On Sunday morning, Prof. Mary continued lecturing with her holistic approach on this subject. It was fascinating to see how she works and switches to different scales without interruptions. It was awesome to see her find time in all of this to remember each student’s name and achievements reached during the weekend. 

Prof. Mary seemed very happy with some the grasses that we collected 😉

After the Sunday morning lecture, we collected another five species of grasses to identify from a different area with different grass species. In the week of Valentine’s Day, it was only fitting to find lovegrass named after the Greek God of Love, namely Eragrostis superba.

 Eragrostis superba / Flat-seed love grass / Hartjiesgras

I am fortunate that my wife is attending this course with me. She has developed a new love for grasses, so now I never have to buy her a bunch of flowers again on Valentine’s Day. I merely need to pick her a handful of Eragrostis superba in the veld! Ka-ching! More money in my back pocket. 

Thank you, Bushveld Mosaic!

Editor’s Note: Thank you the report and all the lovely photographs, Ronnie.