The Cactus Patch
Volume 6       June 2003      Number 6

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

One of the poisons of urbanization, crime, hit just before Easter Holidays. Polly was getting into the VW Golf at Game City when a man called her attention to a flat tire (slashed, as it turned out). While she was dealing with that, another man took her purse from the front of the car. Then the man in back also disappeared. Gone were cash, driver's license and passport (plus the cost of a new tire!).

My birthday was on Good Friday and I'm still working my way through the hefty tomes that came my way. The heftiest was Trees of Southern Africa, 2002, Struik, Cape Town. It says third edition, but I count the massive Trees of Central Africa which Keith Coates Palgrave published earlier (and which I have in Bakersfield) so that makes this a fourth edition. (Actually it should be a first edition as the updating this time was done by Meg Coates Palgrave.) It is altogether too massive to be practical (1212 pages of text plus 112 pages of color illustrations). It should be divided into two or three volumes. The price is right: P197.30 or about US $ 40.

Itís a great book, even if it continues to have the same old fault - the distribution maps are lacking on Botswana information, often stopping at the border. Under aloes, for instance, it has all three tree species found in Botswana, but it shows Aloe excelsa stopping before the Botswana border (when it extends a little way into the country), Aloe littoralis extending part way across Botswana instead of all the way and Aloe marlothii just about right. I will be publishing my own distribution maps in the new journal Alsterworthia (an amalgamation of Aloe, Gasteria and Haworthia) beginning in the November issue with A. littoralis.

The distributions of euphorbias are just as bad. E. cooperi extends much further West and E. ingens does not stop at the border but extends right across to Chief's Island in the Okavango. (My distributions of these were published in the now defunct Euphorbiaceae Study Group Bulletin.) There are also a few name changes. Figs have been renamed and things like Clerodendron and Vitex which I have always known as Verbenaceae (Verbena family) are placed under Lamiaceae (Mint family). I hate relearning.

Also on my birthday the semi-succulent Plectranthus hereoensis from the proposed National Monument near Mogonye Village bloomed. Next day we had Lilian Turton over for lunch and on Easter Sunday she went with us to see "Chicago".

On the 25th we had a farewell party for Jimmy Mashonja who is retiring after many years as the museum entomologist. We met at his house, drank St Louis lager and listened to Country Westerns with a huge 2 meter (6 foot) monstrose Cereus in the garden behind us. Botswana can be a strange mix.

The strange mix continued from the 5th to 8th of May with Botswana's first ever French Film Festival. It was a series of whodunits and we managed to see half of them. On the 10th we went to an Iranian Trade Fair, where Polly got an enamelled jewel box for Mother's Day. Then went next door at the fairground for a food and beverage exhibit where we bought dried peaches from Lesotho (dried hygienically, not on car hoods as in the past, but still small) as well as a non-alcoholic malt drink from Cuba.

More on the succulent line, Daniel Mofokate and Diphoteng Menyatso (herbarium and garden respectively) returned from a trip to the far North of Botswana on the 8th. I didn't go because I had just been up there last December, but they had better luck. They found both species I was looking for at Mpandamatenga (Huernia levyi which features on the new T-shirt of the International Asclepiad Society, and Aloe christianii in bloom). They also found a Protea. At the Chobe River they found a spiky-thorned shrub they couldn't identify. After searching the depths of my crowded mind I finally remembered "pupwe", a shrub from the far north of Malawi which has edible leaves with a beautiful lemon smell but an awful sliminess when cooked. Further searching I came up with the name Zanthoxylum leprieurii , a member of the Rutaceae or Citrus family. This is a new genus record for Botswana.

Winter has arrived. Two nights have been down to 6 C (41.5 F). Also, there has been so little rain that President Mogae has declared a drought year to release emergency supplies.

I was going to comment on whodunits and poison, but I'll save that for next month. I haven't finished "Murder in Morija" anyway. (It's another monumental tome recording actual history in Lesotho).

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