Moraea aristata flowers (Blue-eyed Uintjie or Blouooguintjie in Afrikaans)

Viewing rare gems on our doorstep                                                                                                              Found only on the clay slopes and flats of the northeastern Cape Peninsula, Moraea aristata survives in the wild in one single location near the Liesbeek River in the Two Rivers Urban Park. Moraea aristata (Blue-eyed Uintjie or Blouooguintjie in Afrikaans) is a critically endangered species unique to the Cape.

Staff from the Village Todds Pre-primary School in Maitland Garden Village took the opportunity during September to visit the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and observe the large and striking flowers of this winter-flowering bulb.

Baby blue flowerTeachers

The principal, Carol Booysen, and her team, are passionate about teaching children from a young age about nature. They are familiar with this “peacock iris”, as students from the UCT IES Abroad programme recently developed a mural and lesson plans for their school, illustrating this Moraea, (along with the western leopard toad, and the Cape Monarch Butterfly). This was however the first time any of the teachers had seen the peacock iris living in the wild, and right on their doorstep.

Moraea aristata flowers for approximately three weeks in September, and walking tours can be arranged through the SAAO over this period.

Wall at School


Urban Park helps Astronomers plant trees

On 1 September the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) hosted a tree-planting event. In a ceremony marking the start of Arbour Week, nine Outeniqua Yellowwoods (Podcarpus falcatus) were planted by representatives of the local community and senior South African astronomers from around the country. Phil Charles, the Director of SAAO, welcomed Molapo Qhobela, Deputy Director General of the Department of Science and Techonolgy, Wilmot James, MP, and Liz McDaid, Chair of the Two Rivers Urban Park of which SAAO forms a part. Despite the rain during most of the day, the group were fortunate in having a patch of dry weather for their activity.

The event began with short speeches from Charles, James, Qhobela and McDaid in which they all emphasised the role that SAAO plays in bringing together the Observatory staff, local academics and students as a result of its proximity to UCT. They also stressed the strong mutual support between the Observatory and the Two Rivers Urban Park.

Charles announced that SAAO staff and students had been given the opportunity to sponsor trees. Due to the overwhelming support for this initiative, 60 trees will be planted during September, as fast as holes can be dug for them.

(Photos: Simon Fishley, SAAO)

Cleanup on Workers’ Day

A group consisting mainly of  residents of the South African Astronomical Observatory spent an hour on Saturday morning cleaning up the path from Observatory to the pedestrian bridge over the Black River, between the Observatory and Valkenberg Hospital. They filled a dozen bags of rubbish and recyclables plus half a wheelie bin of broken glass. With the help of their local conservationist James Cooper they anticipate that any remaining wood, which might be attractive for making campfires, will be removed in the near future.

We hope that this will begin to make this area safer for the general public.

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