Our Grasslands – So much more than meets the eye

“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story” Linda Hogan

Our South African grasslands cover one third of the country, providing an extensive range of biodiversity. Dundee and surrounding Northern Kzn fall into one of four zones – the ‘Mesic’ or ‘sourveld’ grasslands.

Grasslands play an important role in providing a food source for domestic and wild herbivores. They are complex ecosystems that provide homes for many species of flora and fauna. They also control water flow and regulation, erosion, pollination, provide building materials, traditional medicine and are vital for our eco- tourism.

Sadly our grasslands are shrinking. They are under much stress from modification for agriculture and forestry, as well as urban and industrial development. Erosion, alien plant infestation and climate change have all taken their toll.

In fact grasslands play a significant role in ridding the environment of excess carbon. Compared to other ecosystems, grasslands have high soil carbon levels as up to 90% of their biomass lies underground.

According to Professor Eugene Moll “It is our grasslands we need to protect as they are really ancient – certainly older than most of the oldest forest trees”.

Aristida congesta – a beautiful grass – the name was quickly changed to the ‘fluffs’ by my family.

The radical nun and pop artist of the sixties Corita Kent would encourage her art students to pay closer attention to the details. She said that one had to be a ‘microscope’ – “You have to look at the world in small pieces at a time. In doing so you see so much more.”  I think we could all benefit from paying closer attention to our natural world.

Aristida canescens
Cympbopogon pospischilii – another unpronounceable but beautiful grass. Quite common to our area.
Eragrostis curvula – a lovely grass especially when covered in dew drops
Possibly a Miscanthus or another one of the ‘fluffs’
Sporobolus africanus
Me quite literally getting close to grass!
Sir Tobias my daughters cat (who traveled all the way from Grahamstown to be with her in Dundee Kzn during lock down) particularly enjoyed my basket of collected grasses.

I took a short walk through the veld the other day paying particular attention to the many species of wild veld grasses growing in just a small area. It was surprising to say the least. I selected a few of these as well as some dried flower heads and leaves  growing amongst these grasses to take home and draw. The bird featured in the drawing is a ‘Laviantts cistecola’. One of the many beautiful grassland birds found in our area.

Finally many hours and evenings later my drawing is complete. I decided to add some of the dried leaves and flower heads growing among the grasses. I used a fine ball point pen which allowed me to work very finely and in detail. The bird is a common grass bird to South Africa – Laviantts cistecola

6 thoughts on “Our Grasslands – So much more than meets the eye

  1. What an interesting post and although your photos made me miss our former walks in grasslands, it is a great reminder of how wonderful our natural grasslands are. Under lockdown we walk in exotic eucalyptus plantation – it is decorated on its margins mostly by invasive alien plants, sadly. As your post highlights so well, it is interesting that the important roles that grasslands play ecologically are so undervalued, especially as grasslands are so threatened. Your drawing is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too re learning about grasslands and I have a long way to go identifying specific grasses!
        You are right about walking through the plantation being better than round and round the garden – it is also a lot better than walking through suburban or urban streets, so we are very lucky to have the plantation at our doorstep, even if I do feel a pang now and then for more natural landscapes.


  2. You have brightened my day on two counts: your beautiful drawing; and the focus on grass! I have a loose arrangement of grasses from my garden in lieu of flowers (non-existent at the moment) in my home. As a farmer’s daughter I am fully aware of the value of grass – you have hit the nail on the head as far as their importance. A truly interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

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