2015 - Zimbabwe
Rikus van Veldhuisen
On the 12th of November 2015 I arrived at the airport OR Tambo, Johannesburg, south Africa, where I met up with Leo van der Hoeven and Bob Potter, my travel companions. The plan was to visit some localities in Limpopo Province, south Africa, find the barely known Euphorbia venteri in Botswana and then travel around in Zimbabwe for at least two weeks.
First thing was to catch up with Alma Möller and Rolf Becker and find two euphorbias I had never seen before in nature; Euphorbia pseudotuberosa and davyi. To find Euphorbia pseudotuberosa at the designated spot proved to be impossible, as the area was built over by new houses. Euphorbia davyi however was growing happily on its isolated spot (Figure 1).
There was one small Euphorbia I was determined to find in the Limpopo Province of which only one reference ever has been made in literature as; Euphorbia species Mogol. We found it without much problems, which must have been a complete stroke of luck, as I expect it to be very rare. Clearly it is a relative of Euphorbia schinzii, which grows at many localities in that area, but it is a much smaller plant (Figure 2). It is my best guess this is a true species of its own.
Crossing the border from South Africa to Botswana is not a problem and we travelled only the most eastern part. We found several localities of again Euphorbia schinzii, could not locate Euphorbia duseimata, but we were very happy to find Euphorbia venteri (Figure 3). Euphorbia venteri is also a close relative of Euphorbia schinzii but differs in having brown flower instead of yellow ones.
Passing the border into Zimbabwe was a time consuming process with numerous bureaucratic formalities of which most I had no clue what they were about. In the end we succeeded, but not before we went in and out again, because something was not right the first time. I also noticed we were the lucky ones, as a lot of people were waiting still at exact the same position as when we arrived.
Zimbabwe is not an easy country to travel around, as normal things are sometimes not easy to obtain. Accommodation is one thing of course, but also fuel, a meal or exchange money can be a problem. Due to good contacts with the succulent society of Zimbabwe we had a whole network of support points throughout the country.
The first one was Stokestown Farm, Marula, where we met Marilyn Rosenfels, who welcomed us very hospitable at their lodge (Figure 4). Stokestown Farm is part of the Matopos National Park, where visited the burial site of John Cecil Rhodes, situated on the top of a granite dome overlooking the park, aptly called ‘View of the world’. On top of the dome some seven boulders are lying in a circle around the grave, a truly magical place (Figure 5).
We headed north to Harare to meet our travel companions for the rest of the trip in Zimbabwe; Hans Wolbert and Manfred Spindler. The itinerary of the remaining trip was prepared into perfection with the Great Dyke, with the elusive Euphorbia wildii (Figure 6) and decidua (Figure 7) and the Chimanimani Mountains National Park, with Euphorbia rugosiflore Figure 8), were the absolute highlights.
But not before we took a short trip to the Shamva Region, where we saw the small tuberous Euphorbia trichadenia var. gibbsiae in full flower (Figure 9).
Zimbabwe means ‘stone houses’ and its name originates from the Great Zimbabwe Ruins near Masvingo. It is around a thousand years old and was at its time the only known stone building south of the Sahara. Again a magical place, but for succulent lovers also because of the excellent Aloe excels Figure 10).
This time we crossed the border without any problem and headed for the airport again, but not before we visited some nice spots with succulents. One the most interesting plants is a supposed Euphorbia guerichiana (Figure 11), growing on the flats near the saltpans at Vivo, being very different from the small trees with the peeling bark as this species in Namibia.
During this lifetime experience we made friends for life, what can you wish for more?