The Cactus Patch
Volume 8       December 2005      Number 12

Visitors & A New Spurge
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

Ron & Charlene Stebles arrived from California on 13 October. They are the first non-relatives to take us up on our offer to host anyone who can get here. (We had met them at the Fresno Cactus & Succ. Society.) After recovering on Friday with a brief visit to the Thrift Shop, the botanic garden, lunch at the nearby Belgrade take-away, and an oriental dinner at 25 Degrees East, we hit hard on Saturday the 15th with the annual visual & performing arts at the museum. One interesting interlude was when the usual parade came in the front of the museum. The horses went in with no problem, but the donkeys (pulling a cart) refused to go through the rather enclosed entryway!

We left early and after lunch hit the road to the northwest. Near Shoshong I started screeching and we came to a sudden stop at a hillside full of candelabra shrubs. Although I had been by the spot a number of times, I had not noted these rather obvious succulent spurges. They are related to Euphorbia cooperi, but are shorter with skinnier stems. I suspect they may be a new species! At any rate, I pressed a branch and will return next year to see the flowers and fruit. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we stopped at the Lentswe Lodge in Serowe.

In the morning I looked out the window to identify a noisy bird (Burchel's coucal) and was immediately struck by the six-foot green caudex growing on the hillside. It turns out there are a number of plants of Adenia fruticosa growing there! This plus the carrot trees (Steganotaenia araliaced) and Commiphoras (relatives of the elephant trees or Bursuras) makes this an ideal nature reserve. I shall try to encourage the hotel to make a path with labels for the plants. They are obviously interested in plants, as there are three newly transplanted Sesame bushes (Sesamothamnus lugardii) at the entrance.

We arrived in Maun in good time and settled in at the Island Safari Lodge where we had stayed before. I then spent the next four days teaching tree identification to foresters. Polly took the Stebles shopping in Maun on Monday and the three of them flew over the Okavango on Tuesday. They saw plenty of game, but the Stebels wanted more so they moved to a related hotel on the Boteti River on Wednesday, returning on Thursday. Among numerous animals they saw a number of lions.

I repeated my bird club talk to the Maun branch (a very small group showed up) on Wednesday and on Thursday we had a wildlife officer speak to the foresters. They were quite outspoken when he defined wildlife as "vertebrates" and said elephants were good because they cleared the forest. Both are dangerous things to say to plant people.

On the 21st we drove down to Ghanzi. Just before D'Kar the radiator hose burst. A local farmer went to D'Kar and got us a new hose. While we were waiting, a government car from the Tree Course came by, so we would have been rescued at any rate. We stopped at D'Kar and I bought another painting by Dada. She happened to be there and posed for another picture. We had a restful night at the Kalahari Arms in Ghanzi and reached Kang for brunch the next day. Just past Kang the car died and we had to get jump-started to limp back to Kang and buy a new battery. We still reached Gaborone by suppertime. We went to the Mugg & Bean, a restaurant allegedly of American origin.

On Sunday, the 23rd we went out to Rob Patterson's nursery which is the best succulent one in Botswana. Then we had a poolside lunch at the Grand Palm and walked around the pond there to look at birds. In the evening we drove around the Gaborone Game Reserve and found the pond there full of flamingos.

On Monday Polly took the Stebles to Odi weavers. Then on Tuesday Polly and the Stebles set off in the Land Rover for Khutse Lodge. I thought with the new lodge and ongoing roadwork they might have gone in the car, but Polly says there is still too much sand. They were very lucky and saw a leopard and a couple of honey badgers. The lodge is quite luxurious compared to the camping I had to put up with in the past.

On Thursday we had lunch at Sanitas, the most expensive nursery in town and went to a high school production called "House of Kalumba" at Maitisong. The play was about a woman who rebelled against her husband-chief. Unfortunately for women's lib, she loses.

From the 28th to 1 Nov. the Stebles were up north touring Chobe National Park and Mose oa Tunya (a.k.a. Victoria Falls). They reported plenty of game despite the outbreak of anthrax which has led to the burning of animal carcasses

On the 2nd I was part of the museum team to greet the House of Chiefs who decided to visit the Three Chiefs Monument. All three women, including the newest who was just appointed, were there. I was honored to greet Chief Seepapitso. (In 1969 I taught at Seepapitso Secondary School when Batoen II was chief. The present Seepapitso posed for pictures in front of the statue of his great-grandfather Batoen I.)

On the 3rd we went to Ramotswa to see 2.5 billion year-old fossil stromatolites and plants of Euphorbia schinzii. Then we went to Boatle to see a hybrid aloe with its two parents, Aloe marlothii and Aloe leutescens. Finally, we visited rock paintings and Livingstone's fig (Ficus ingens) at Manyana. We had dinner that evening at Primi Piatta, a very noisy restaurant.

The Stebles tried to leave on the 4th, but the plane was delayed by a storm (unfortunately not here) and they spent an extra night in Johannesburg. They did, however, eventually make it back to Clovis.

On the 29th, while the Stebles were up at Chobe, there was a book sale in Gaborone. Among others, I bought The Story of Earth and Life by Terence McCarthy and Bruce Rubidge (Struik, 2005). It is lavishly illustrated and a bargain at R194 ($28). It is a rather inclusive geology text written from a Southern African perspective. Gabadirwe, the head geologist at the museum is thrilled. Bruce Rubidge is a specialist on Karoo fossils. When I was head of the Protection and Preservation Commission in Lesotho, I gave him a permit to export fossils for study. After I left an officious bigwig in Government demanded their return as he interpreted this as theft! Bruce hadnít even cleaned them! The other author is a specialist on the geology of the Okavango, but I havenít met him. The first half of the book is a bit boring as it only talks about rocks, but the second part is a fascinating account of fossils.

Grey-billed hornbills at the Island Safari.
The next picture that Polly took shows them mating,
but I thought that might be too much for the general public

A giraffe in the Maun Game reserve.
Polly walked there while the Stebles were off to the Boteti.

Adenia fruticosa at the Lentswe Lodge in Serowe.

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