The Cactus Patch
Volume 8       July 2005      Number 7

A Busy Interlude
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

The instant we returned from the 9th Millennium Seed Bank Trip on 2nd May I was plunged right back into Gaborone life. Polly was just typing out a note to leave to tell me there was an art opening at the museum at 6:30. I just had time for a bath and supper and then it was off to the museum for an exhibit on Russia's role in WWII. All "Grand & Glorious" stuff. They also had some veterans who had served from Botswana. I was glad when the Minister of Labour & Home Affairs (himself a Major-General) put in a word for the value of peace.

Top that one? Next evening the film club showed "Triumph of Will", a documentary on Adolph Hitler's moment of "fame". What was frightening was how reasonable the guy sounded! Although this came a week after the last film of the German Film Festival, it was not sponsored by Germany (for obvious reasons). It was actually a rather boring propaganda film, but worth seeing for its historicity.

On Sunday 8th May we returned to Good Hope where Polly ran another quilting session and I returned to Kgoro Pan to collect plants. I located some plants of Hypoxis which is endangered because it is used to boost the immune system and is widely available in South African muti (medicine) markets as the "African potato". I have argued that it probably won't help fight AIDs since HIV has already compromised the immune system, but this is not easily accepted. I also found a plant of Kedrostis crassirostrata in fruit. This is a wild cucumber with a spherical caudex. Locally it is eaten as "spinach". I also found that Piaranthus (= Huerniopsis) is a carrion flower with an edible stem. Polly was happy to find that some of her group had shown initiative in making quilts on their own.

On Sat. 14th May the Bird Club had its annual general meeting outdoors at the new office. The speaker from South Africa, W. Tarboton, presented his work on Dragonflies and Damselflies. He said its like bird watching on a small scale. His pictures are excellent and are all available in two volumes. Fortunately the business and speech came first. While we were eating an excellent dinner we had a most unseasonal rain.

On Tues. 17th May we had speeches at the museum on bridging cultural gaps to start off the celebration of International Museums Day. I spoke on the gap between traditional and hospital-based medicines. Next day we had a costume parade (I wore my Western suit, boots and bolo tie), listened to speeches, songs, bands, etc. and opened an exhibit on the work of the museum. I was asked to present a traditional tale from California, so I sang "Clementine".

On the 24th Polly and I had lunch south of town at a new "Indigenous Plant Nursery". Although the idea is good (and it does keep people employed) the plants are mainly South African and not from Botswana. That evening I joined a brave few to start a "Really Terrible Orchestra". It is sponsored by the author Alexander McCall Smith who is a member of a similar group in Scotland. There is debate as to whether we can live down to the name. Next Day Polly's Book Club met at our house for supper and the monthly book exchange.

On the 5th of June we went south to the vulture colony with the bird club and had breakfast at the nearby "Orchard Tea Garden". At the same time, World Environment Day was celebrated at Letlekeng which is NW of Gaborone. The museum exhibit won first prize. As an insult to the environment, there was an offroad race that tore up the place. Guess which event got the greatest attention?

My sister Anne arrived from Bakersfield on the 13th of June and we will begin a real marathon next week. It might be interesting to get her input on goings on here.

I have just received two books which might be of interest. The first is Plants of the Nyika Plateau, John Burrows and Christopher Willis eds., 2005 (SABONET Report 31, Pretoria). The Nyika is a high plateau in the north of Malawi. It is a mix of grassland and montane forest which is not rich in succulents. It does have the southernmost stand of Euphorbia ampliphylla, a succulent tree which grows up to 30 m (100 ft). There are also seven species of Crassula, two of Kalanchoe, four Aloes, one Bulbine, five Peperomias, a couple of giant Lobelias, 26 species of Plectranthus, one Tetradenia, and a lot of interesting non-succulents. There are good line drawings and some color photos (a few mine). As well as describing the plants, the book has short bibliographies on collectors (including me) and descriptions of the plateau in general. The book ends with good satellite photos. It is a real bargain at R150 (about $25).

The other book is the long awaited Preliminary Checklist of the Plants of Botswana by Moffat Setshogo 2005 (SABONET Report 37, Pretoria). I edited it over a year ago and don't know why it took so long to get printed. Moffat did take the suggestion to put all plants without known Botswana specimens in an appendix. (But he did include them in the main list as well by adding a ? to each.) The only illustrations are a few cover photos and it is mainly a dull list with a few symbols to indicate introduced plants, succulents etc. The herbaria where specimens may be found are also listed for each species. It is an improvement on previous listings in that collections outside Botswana were consulted. Also, it lists non-flowering plants.

Polly's quilters show off their work

Kedrostis crassirostrata

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