May 22: Walking With Christmas Trees

Until this morning when they left, some of my best friends were here in the Kalahari. They’re wonderful people; all super-bright and glowy and full of happy light and colour. They’re warm, comforting and homely. And I only get to see them once a year. And I spend all year looking forward to seeing them. So I guess they’re like Christmas Trees. I love Christmas Trees.

The Christmas Trees have just ended an incredible three weeks in the Kalahari. They’re living proof of the saying that “the Kalahari reveals itself only to those who seek it with a true heart”. They were truly blessed to witness some seriously kudutastic things here.  And the memories and mind-blowing photos they take home with them today prove that you don’t need to spend all that money on those really, really big cameras. Buy a point ‘n shoot and get lots of chocolate and flip-flops with all that money you’ve saved. That’s what I would do.

So the Christmas Trees ended their wonderful trip with a morning walk.  The walk was magnificent as walks always are, but i’m just going to write about my shoes. When I got back, they looked like this:

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I’m a geek. If you were one too, you’d also be hugely enthralled with the many ways that grasses disperse their seeds. It seems two of my favourite grasses hitched a ride home with me today! *Sigh* A piece of the Kalahari that literally clings to you and wants to get under your skin (and onto your shoes). Love.

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Bur Bristle Grass

The blob of yellowish stuff is Bur Bristle Grass (Setaria verticillata). An epic grass that loves to live in the nitrogen-rich soils that happen under Camel Thorn Trees. Its sticky, sticky seeds stick to anything they can stick to, and stick there until they arrive at a new destination where they un-stick themselves and decide to stick there instead. It’s very sticky indeed. This works great in the Kalahari, because animals that graze on the grass will be velcro’d with the stuff and will carry it off somewhere new.

The finer, paler seeds on my shoe belong to Tassle Three Awn (Aristida congesta congesta).  It’s called ‘Three Awn’ because of the three stringy bits that sit above the seed (the ‘awns’). These are like helicopter propellers and help the seed to travel in the wind. When it’s not windy, the propellers work like anchors and stick themselves to anything that passes by. It sticks surprisingly well even without the seriously barbed hooks that Bur Bristle Grass has. Once Tassle Three Awn claims your socks, it’ll be with you forever. Even if you have a really fancy washing machine…

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Tassle Three Awn

But that’s not what’s most awesome about Tassle Three Awn. Once it gets to its destination and decides to plant itself, it lies around on the ground waiting for some rain. Moisture causes the shaft of the seed to twist into a perfect corkscrew. It corkscrews into the ground and effectively plants itself. I tried this on the walk this morning by licking a number of Three Awn seeds, but none of them corkscrewed like they’re supposed to. And I looked weird. Love Kalahari anyway.

This morning’s sightings:

 Springbok
Wildebeest
Ostrich
Whistling Rat
Kori Bustard
Slender Mongoose 

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