I knew I was hooked, for the rest of my life, when I positively identified my first wild orchid. Even as a very young child in Robertson I had an abiding interest in plants, first in my mother’s garden, and later when my grandfather, Oupa Boy, started taking me into the veld on Saturday mornings. Patiently he showed me the Kleinkaroo specials, num-mun, klapperbos, melkbos and kapokbos. Then, somewhere in matric, I found myself on the top of the Boesman’s Pass, south of McGregor and my eye caught the most spectacular plant I have ever seen: it was Bartholina ethelia, to my mind the most beautiful of all our indigenous orchids.
Since that day I have chased out indigenous orchids from Cape Point to the tropical forests of Equatoria, always on the lookout for new “twitches”. Now, to my eternal delight, the supreme field guide to these spectacular plants have been published by Struik Nature. This is a serious field guide, with the right mix of introductory depth, balanced with truly wonderful photographs of nearly 500 species. It’s a revelation to find that we have 144 species of Disa alone, of which 128 are endemic to the subcontinent!
This field guide, Orchids of South Africa, by Steve Johnson and Benny Bytebier and photographs by Herbert Starker is a world class publication – it would have been the perfect gift for Charles Darwin.