The transition from spring to high summer has been dramatic in the Cape. Within days, the temperature went from mild and balmy to scorching and the lush grass of winter turned to cappuccino brown. What is fascinating however, is how well Rhebokskloof has stood up to this heat wave, and this can be attributed to its unique microclimate. Of all the estates on Paarl Mountain, Rhebokskloof is the most protected from desiccating winds and heat since it lies in a natural amphitheater. No wonder Rhebokskloof’s wines are so acclaimed because the amphitheater separates the farm from the surrounding production by virtue of its temperate climate, combined with the deep granitic soils.
Not only does this hold true for wines, but patently for its biodiversity as well. Recently, I visited the farm on a cool and slightly misty morning and was immediately struck by a veritable cloud of butterflies. One look told me these were Painted Ladies Vanessa cardui, truly beautiful butterflies that are well-known for swarming and migration. I must have caught them at their very peak, because it is well known that these are seen in August to September and again in March to July. My guess is that they are feeding on Malva parvifolia, a common plant on Rhebokskloof.
But even greater surprises were awaiting me in the lush fynbos of the farm upland. All my life I have been a lover of our lovely indigenous Gladiolus species, and to my utter amazement, I found two species in full bloom! The first one, a large flower, with typical red makings of the Painted Lady group, is possibly Gladiolus undulatus, but the small one is completely unknown to me! In my next report I should have an accurate identification.
Close to the gladioli was an even more arresting sight – a veritable field of Wachendorfia (bloedwortel in Afrikaans). Between the rocky outcrops there are literally thousands of these chrome yellow flowers, in full bloom. It goes to show that the particular and unique microclimate of Rhebokskloof will produce even more surprises as summer progresses.
Just before leaving I heard the familiar chip-chip-chip of that garden bully, the Pin Tailed Whydah. He was busy showing off to three rather bored-looking females, perhaps because the breeding season is practically at its end. Being parasites, they lay their eggs in the nests of unsuspecting waxbills. Nevertheless, this little criminal is a beautiful bird.
Next month I will report again from Rhebokskloof, and I can assure you that there will be more surprises!