Africa, Aitch, Birds & Birding, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Acacias – Let's Just Call Them Thorn Trees

There are rules to how you name things. Plants and animals and things. The rules are something like this: The first one keeps its name, all others after have to fit in. So if a tree is named ‘acacia’ and another thousand acacias are found after it, it remains the type specimen for acacias and will always be an acacia. If changes happen, tough luck to the others, THEY have to change.

Unless you bend the rules.

And the Aussies bent the rules! Gasp! Who’d have thought that!? Aussies! But – they’re so law-abiding . .

So back in 1753 a tree was discovered in Africa and named Acacia scorpoides, the well-known and beautiful tree we got to know as Acacia nilotica. When Trish and I first started identifying trees using Eugene Moll’s unpretentious-looking but wonderful book and his leaf-identification system, under the guidance of good friend Barry Porter, the Scented-pod Thorn Tree was one of the easier acacias to ‘ID’, with its distinctive-looking and sweet-smelling pod.

So it would forever be an acacia. Unless a dastardly plot was hatched by people (whose continent shall remain temporarily nameless; anyway, they had co-conspirators from other continents) determined to steal yet another of Africa’s assets. Why? ‘Cos Money, Prestige, Laziness, Not liking the name Racosperma; and because they could. So what did they do? They got some sandpaper and started roughing up the ball. They got 250 people to email the oke who was in charge of the committee, ‘supporting’ this unusual name change which went against the established rules. How Australian. Yes, 244 of those emailers were Australians, just saying. Sandpaper.

So in Vienna in 2005 the committee said ‘Let’s bend the rules’ and put it to the vote. So 54.9% voted to retain the current African type for the name Acacia. 54.9% said let’s NOT bend the rules. So they bent the rules cos another rule said you need 60% to overrule the committee. They sandpaper’d the rules cos Money Prestige Laziness and Not liking the name Racosperma.

How do you explain that? Well, its like if one’s ancestors were convicts and you didn’t want them to be convicts, you wanted people to nod when you said “I come from Royal blood,’ but the ancestral name (say Dinkum) was listed in the jail rolls; and you wanted to be a surname not on the jail rolls so you said ‘I know: Windsor!’ so you call yourself Windsor from that day on. Something like that.

And, like politicians, here’s how this was sold to the public: ‘The International Botanical Congress at Vienna in 2005 ratified this decision,’ sandpaper-talk, instead of a truthful ‘The International Botanical Congress at Vienna in 2005 failed to overturn this decision as, although 54.9% voted against it, a 60% vote is needed to overturn it.’

So then African acacias got one more African name, Senegalia (from Senegal and meaning, maybe, water or boat), which was nice; and one more Pommy name Vachellia, after Rev. John Harvey Vachell (1798-1839), chaplain to the British East India Company in Macao from 1825-1836 and a plant collector in China, which wasn’t so lekker; But the Acacia name was undoubtedly more prestigious, long-established and well-known. More desirable, y’know (imagine that said in an Aussie accent). It was derived from Ancient Greek with THORN in the meaning – ἀκακία (‘shittah tree’). Also ‘thorny Egyptian tree.’ Greek ‘kaktos’ also has been compared. A word of uncertain – but ancient – origin.

So I thought Oh Well, We’ll Get Used To It. You get used to anything except a big thorn sticking into your shoe – which reminded me that Aussie acacias are wimpily thornless – but some Africa tree people were less accommodating and determined to fight this rule-bending. Maybe they might have accepted Senegalia, but that other Pommy dominee name? Aikona!

– real thorns with bishop – thanks safariostrich.co.za –

The next gathering of the International Botanical Congress was in Melbourne in 2011! And there the decision to ratify the decision to bend the rules ‘was ratified by a large majority’ (I haven’t been able to find the actual vote yet). So strict scientific priority lost out to – I must confess I agree, bloody Aussies – a more pragmatic solution.

So Vachellia xanthophloea it is. Our Fever Tree. umkhanyakude. Seen here at Nyamithi Pan in Ndumo Game Reserve in Zululand. They have thorns. Our thorn trees.

So I’ll mostly be using Senegalia and Vachellia now, just as I use the new bird names as they change. Adapt or dye.

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Scented-pod Thorn Tree Photo By JMK – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25268307

http://biodiversityadvisor.sanbi.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Bothalia37_1_2007.pdf

http://worldwidewattle.com/infogallery/nomenclature/nameissue/melbourne-ibc-2011-congress-news-tuesday-26-july.pdf

http://pza.sanbi.org/sites/default/files/info_library/acacia_africa_pdf.pdf

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2989/20702620.2014.980090

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lekker – nice; not so lekker: yuck;

dominee – vicar; shady man of the cloth

aikona! – No Way!!

umkhanyakude – means ‘shines from afar’ and in the feature pic you can see how the fever trees on the far side of Nyamithi Pan show up against the other, ‘more anonymous’ trees;

Africa, Aitch, Canoe & Kayak, Family & Kids, KwaZuluNatal, Nostalgia, Sport

Walking the Umgeni

It was a sad fact. The Umgeni was going to be dammed. Again. The fourth big dam on its course from the Dargle to the sea. Many people love dams. I hate them. They ruin the valleys and change nature for ever. Dams wipe out species – many before we even discover them; they flood huge areas of wetlands, riverine forest and grasslands; they displace people and affect everything living downstream.  Large dams hold back not just water, but silt and nutrients that replenish farmlands and build protective wetlands and beaches. If you love rivers, dams are the enemy – the disease that kills. Dams don’t just change the river valleys in our waterways, they obliterate them. Yet people love them.

So the Umgeni was going to be dammed and damned; and I wanted a last paddle on that part of the river which was destined to be for ever gone.

So I rounded up some boats and some non-paddling friends in August 1988. Come and paddle a part of the famous Duzi Canoe Marathon course, I said. And the suckers fell for it! Geoff Kay, Mike and Yvonne Lello, Pete Stoute, sister Sheila; and wife Trish joined me in the valley. Some brought some kids, and some valley kids joined us.

We launched the boats with fanfare, breaking a bottle of champagne on each one’s hull (OK, not really) – AND:

They didn’t float! The river was so shallow they hit the bottom, even thought their draft was like two inches!

Oh well, it turned out to be not a paddle but a trudge. And – literally – a drag. But fun nonetheless!

I stared at the banks and the valley walls as I trudged. Soon yahoos would be racing outboard motors here. Soon this life and interesting variety all around us would be drowned forever.

Progress, they say. Not.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Africa, Aitch

September Bells

Lovely message and pictures from Yvonne – ‘Our September Bells (a pressie from you and Trish twenty years ago)’:

Rothmannia globosa – September Bells –

umPhazane (Zulu); A slender tree, usually 4-7 m in height; The shiny simple leaves are oval or lanceolate with a paler underside which displays the yellow or reddish midrib and veins. Usually evergreen but may be briefly deciduous. The scented bell-shaped flowers are creamy white, usually with pink speckles in the throat, and are borne singly or in clusters of 2 to 4 on short side branches. They are about 25 mm long and 35 mm wide. The flowers are almost stalkless and appear in spring and early summer, from August to November. The trees are often in full bloom in September, hence the common name.

At the same time the Mackaya bella Trish planted was blooming in our garden:

Mackaya bella – Forest Bell Bush –

Mackaya bella is a beautiful shrub or small tree with slender branches bearing dark green, simple and oppositely arranged leaves. Small, hairy pockets are often found in the axil of the veins. It has beautiful, large and attractive mauve to white flowers in terminal racemes usually marked with fine purple-pink lines. The beautiful Blue Pansy butterfly caterpillars (Precis oenone oenone) feed on this shrub.

Africa, Aitch, Birds & Birding, Family & Kids, Life, Motorcars_Automobiles, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Mabibi and Sibaya

Camping at Mabibi in Zululand with the kombi – and Taylor with his puny little JEEP.

On the way I pretended (!) to get stuck to give the JEEP owner an ego boost:

– sundowners on the lake – Tom, Dizzi, Gayle, Jessie & Aitch –
– every body had to get lip-stick’d –
– Jon took a shot of me emerging sylph-like out of the champagne-clear waters of the lake –

. . which reminded me of Ursula in Dr. No . . Me and Ursula were like twins, ‘cept I wore less clothing and had something useful in my hand . .

Ursula Andress did it in 1962 in Dr. No; Halle Berry paid homage in 2002 in Die Another Day; and I trumped them both in 2003 in Lake Sibaya.

Africa, Aitch, Family & Kids, Home, Nostalgia

Blue Wall leads to Blue Door

One wall in the new kitchen in River Drive ca.2002 had to be cobalt blue. I dunno why, mine is not to reason why. Aitch said it must be cobalt blue and so of course it was.

– Xmas day 2002 with Tommy, 1 year and 2 weeks old –

So when the post-Aitch renovations happened ca.2012 in Elston Place, there had to be some blue. I made the scullery and laundry doors blue. I looked for cobalt blue, but this was the closest I found.

– smiling Cecilia Shozi at the blue stable doors –

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Africa, Aitch, Family & Kids, Nostalgia

Eight Years Today

Already Tom’s memories are mainly The Legend of Mom, more than real memories. Jess remembers far more. So Tom had lots to say today about Mom. Jess was mainly quiet. As most years, Dizzi and Jon came round to clink a glass in your memory. Jess set a lovely formal table with flowers from the garden – and even a table cloth! I only remembered to take a pic after it was all over.

We had a medicinal G&T as we had all just been to sort-of malaria areas – me n Jess to Hluhluwe, Dizzi n Jon to St Lucia.

Africa, Aitch, Life

Please Call The Police

‘Please call the police; my friends are fighting and I’m very worried.’

The sound of a young woman’s voice early Saturday morning on my gate intercom. Luckily the intercom was in one of its working phases. They’d had a party, she said. Funny, I hadn’t heard anything. Sometimes the parties are really loud. I dialed 10111, explained, gave my name and address and the man said ‘I’ll send the police there’ which I found re-assuring. He said ‘I’ll send them’ not ‘I’ll tell them.’

Later the same lovely voice very politely checking ‘Did you phone the police? I’m so worried!’ I asked Are You Safe? Do you want to come in? To be behind the gate? ‘No, I think I’m safe,’ she replied, which I didn’t find overly re-assuring.

A short while later the gate again, ‘Thank you so much, they’re here,’ followed by three more Thank You So Much-es.

As far as I can recall, that’s the first time I have ever called the cops!

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I spose I must have called them back ca.2004 when we had our only robbery – in 10 Windsor Avenue while we were out. Aitch’s Zeiss 8X32 binoculars and her wedding and engagement rings were gone. Typical Aitch, she replaced the binocs only.

Wait! Once when we were young . .

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