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A Guide to different Species of Flowers at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge

Where have all the Flowers Gone?

I started to record a whole range of under-documented flowers at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge, in Oct ’18. One of the areas I wanted to cover was Zimbabwe wildflower species that actually occur here at Pamuzinda/Chengeta. Since then I have been eagerly awaiting the floral bonanza that I was sure would come with the rains. The Bonanza hasn’t happened, yet, but there have been a number of Flowers come and go in the interim period. Some are tiny and easily overlooked and some are large and difficult to ignore.

Figure 1.

Small and spindly up to approximately 12 inches high. Open scrub. Unknown – help, please.

Figure 2.

Flower the size of a dollar coin. Low to the ground. Open vlei. Not 100% certain but possibly: Cranesbill – Monsonia burkeana, Used for herbal teas and traditional medicine.

Figure 3.

Vine or creeper. Growing under trees near the lakeside. Almost certainly one of many Cucurbita or Squash family species found here. This actual species is unknown   –   Please help.

Figure 4.

Very small and wispy. Growing in open scrub grassland. One of the mint family this plant can be found flowering on recently burnt grassland areas. It does have some use in traditional medicine and is supposedly used to treat conditions as diverse as enemas to hair restoration. Cats Whiskers   – Becium obovatum

Here today and gone tomorrow

What has amazed me in some cases is the short duration of flowering of many of Zimbabwe’s Wildflowers. Some have barely lasted more than 24 hours and one, in fact, lasted only for the morning.

I saw a whole woodland area in flower on my way into the Lodge and determined to photograph them after lunch. When I returned, out of several hundred, there were only two or three plants with flowers still on them. I picked the best of these and set up the tripod and macro gear. However, as I zoomed in, I thought the camera was slipping on the tripod head as I kept losing focus. Eventually, I realized the camera was steady but the flower was dipping. As I watched, it slowly slipped further and fell to the floor.

That old adage of “strike while the iron is hot” is never so relevant as it is in Wildlife Photography. There are an incredible number of unexpected things that invariably go wrong each time you promise yourself that “you’ll come back and do it later”.

Figure 5.

Very small and wispy. Growing in open scrub grassland. Comes from a well-known family that includes potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines and various nightshades. Grows in open scrub and wasteland. Many members of the genus, the whole plants or their various parts, are poisonous to humans though still used in some traditional medicines. Bitter/ Poison/Snake or Sodom Apple   –   Solanum panduriforme

Figure 6.

A small flower head on a long stem. Up to 2ft in open grassland. Field scabious   –   Scabiosa “unknown species possibly drakensbergensis” – please help.

Figure 7.

Zimbabwe’s national flower. This plant is Zimbabwe’s National Flower and is protected throughout the country. Despite all parts of the plants being poisonous, it is used in many treatments of Traditional medicine. Flame/Glory Lily – Gloriosa superba

Wasp sucking necter on an unknown flower at Pamuzinda
Figure 8.

This one likes its feet wet – all the time. Despite the fact that this seems to be a very common water plant I still cannot find out what it is. Unknown species – Help please.

Wild Flower Field guides

Unfortunately “Zimbabwe Wild Flowers” Field Guides did not feature in my reference library. The only one I have I was able to obtain in South Africa whilst there on a visit two or three weeks ago. It has helped somewhat since there is obviously a certain overlap of species between SA Wildflowers and Zimbabwe Wildflowers. It by no means, however, fills the bill. I am left with a whole raft of images that I have been unable to identify so far. Should anyone possess a decent Guide for which they have no further use I would be happy to buy it from them.

You Can Help Identify the Flowers at Pamuzinda

I have collated many of my Zimbabwe Wildflowers flowering plant images to date and attached some of them to this blog post. What would be of great help to me is that if any reader of this post can identify any of the “unknown ones”. Of the images I have obtained (many more than depicted here) I have already managed to identify about two-thirds of them. Some of them I have probably misidentified so please don’t take my word for it. Please feel free to correct me if you can. I have shown them with English, Local or Latin names where I have them. Additionally, where possible, I have included a full plant habitat shot as well as a flower close-up, together with some general info.

We have added Flower/Insect Photography Walks here at Pamuzinda and Chengeta as an activity and hope you can join us.

Figure 9.

This is a classic case of an escaped alien. Probably imported originally from Mexico as a garden plant but has since escaped and become naturalized throughout. Seems to love the waste ground and grows to be about 10ft tall. It looks to be about to take over the suburbs of Harare. Mexican Sunflower – Tithonia rotundifolia

Figure 10.

 Not a plant you want in the garden. Acutely toxic. Flowers open late afternoon/evening. The plants here have either pure white flowers or the colour displayed. Open scrub or waste ground. The plant and its parts are acutely toxic but it still plays an important part in Traditional Medicine. It has been used as an analgesic during basic surgery and smoking its leaves is said to help relieve asthma. It is also extremely hallucinogenic though the risks of overdose are uncommonly high. Jimson Weed/Thorn Apple – Datura stramonium

More blooms at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge

Figure 11.

A very showy plant but the flowers open in the early morning and are gone by lunchtime. Open scrub. This is one of several wild Hibiscus spp which flower around here. This particular one flowered about 4 weeks before the rains. The plants grew to about 1 metre max. The flower is very similar to the common Wild Hibiscus – Hibiscus engleri which is flowering at the moment(March/April) and seems to grow to about 3 metres high, despite what the books say.

Both have the habit of being in flower only up to about midday after which the flower closes. Wild hibiscus – I originally thought Hibiscus trionum possibly. The leaves, however, seem wrong and at the moment I’m opting for Hibiscus pusillus. Confirmation please.

Figure 12.

 A rapid invader of disturbed or burnt grassland. 2 to 3ft tall. This plant grows throughout the reserve scattered through the grasses. I had it down as African Foxglove – Ceratotheca triloba. All the references I have for that plant, however, show a much paler flower with heavier streaking on the lips. Maybe this is a local variation as there doesn’t seem to be any other plant that it can be. Unlike European Foxgloves it is sparsely flowered and doesn’t seem to grow in clumps. At the same time, enjoying the same local name, is a plant from the Sesame family named Sesamum angolense that seems to tick more boxes. This is the one I am plumping for. African Foxglove   –   Sesamum angolense – confirmation, please.

Similar but Very different Flowers at Pamuzinda

Figure 13.

13 and 14. Two similar plants through the lens. Completely different in reality. Both grow in grassy scrub and often side by side. 13 is only a quarter the size of 14. This is a parasitic plant and can invade a wide variety of agricultural crops, severely depleting the yield. Probably African/Asian in origin it has now spread to other continents where it is officially listed as a “noxious weed”. Witch Weed   –   Striga asiatica

Figure 14.

This plant is the classic example of why we adopt local names for various species as opposed to relying solely on Latin. See the end of the text for an explanation. Its local name in most areas seems to be Pimpernel. It is an invader of grassland and an anathema to cattle. With a high content of Prussic acid, it is acutely toxic and can asphyxiate an animal in a very short time.

It is also the food plant (the plant on which the butterfly lays its eggs and the caterpillar feeds) of a beautiful Butterfly species – the Black Tipped Acraea – Acraea caldarena. The caterpillar ingests the poisons when feeding and retains them to be passed on to the adult butterfly stage thus rendering the insect toxic as well. Potential predators are aware of this and give the species a wide berth. Pimpernel   –   Tricliceras longipedunculatum (a name not lightly dropped into conversation.)

Other flowers in, Selous Mashonaland West

Figure 15.

 This pretty little flower springs up in places you would never expect it to be. These were on the arid sides of a vlei. Their name comes from their fruiting bodies which sport two upright pointing thorns that supposedly are reminiscent of a Devil’s head. One traditional use for the plant was to crush it in water and the resulting mucilagenous mess could be used as soap. Devil’s Thorn   –   Dicerocaryum eriocarpum

Figure 16.

This diminutive but delightful little flower grows right on the river bank, often actually in the water. It attracts a variety of insects so I guess its nectar is pretty satisfying as well as providing welcome perching for passing Dragonflies. Can be used medicinally as a “pick me up” and the young branches apparently make very good brooms. River Star/Otterbush   – Gomphostigma virgatum

Figure 17

This is the woodland floor flower that collapsed as I was photographing it. The understory was covered with the plants and they were all in flower by about 8 in the morning. At lunchtime when I returned they were virtually all gone except as related in the text above. I checked every day thereafter and never did catch them. They were delightful to see and such a pity if they are a one-day wonder as not many will have the opportunity to see them. I have no idea what they are so help is definitely needed, please.

Significant Flowers at Pamuzinda

Woodland flower at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge
Figure 18.

Another little woodland plant that occurs throughout the reserve. The flower, in the wild, is quite small but I have seen a garden version of this where the flowers are much larger, probably as a result of selective breeding. The colourful throat is more noticeable in the cultivated form. It is the favoured foodplant of several Pansy Butterfly species. Chinese Violet   –   Asystasia gangetica

Another toxic flower at Pamuzinda
Figure 19.

This one is somewhat hard to miss. It favours a number of different habitats and flowers just before, or early in, the rains. The flower heads are up to the size of a tennis ball and are very distinctive. As it ages the stalks lengthen and the flower sphere finally falls off and rolls along the ground in the breeze. As it rolls it distributes its seeds along the way. It grows from a bulb which is highly toxic and even the pollen can cause headaches, irritate eyes and cause skin rashes.

The leaves frequently appear after the flower has dispersed. An extract of the plant is used in places as a fish and arrow poison. The flower is so distinctive, and there are other members of the family, that it has been taken into cultivation and a number of varieties are available. There are a number of local names such as Fireball Lily, Blood Lily, Rain Lily and Tumbleweed   –   Scadoxus multiflorus

Thank you for your time


Replies to our Zimbabwe Wildflowers Identification – Please help – can be made either to the Lodge or directly to me as below. If you think you can identify any of those where requested, it would help greatly if you could provide both the Local and Latin Names. If I have misidentified anywhere please do not hesitate to correct me (whisper it in my ear and I’ll correct it before anyone else realises that I’ve boobed!!)

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A Guide to different Species of Flowers at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge

A Guide to different Species of Flowers at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge
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