Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Snails

Well I did a little research (thanks Wikipedia) and discovered that most of us have the same pesky snail in common. It is known as Helix Aspera and originated in the Mediterranean area. They have since spread far and wide and become a pest to most gardeners. However some creative Capetonians have started harvesting them from our vineyards and exporting them to restaurants overseas. The really weird thing is apparently our local restaurants prefer a different type of snail and so we import it! What a crazy world we live in. Lately I have seen ads for face cream made from snails; apparently it’s great for wrinkles and scars. Maybe sticking them to our faces while we do our morning gardening chores will chase away  few wrinkles.The only other bit of useful information that I could glean is that this snail has an aversion to copper so putting copper bands around precious plants may offer some protection.
My garden doesn’t only suffer from the brown snail; I have another little monster that mostly confines itself to a small front bed containing pelargoniums and gazanias. I think I detest this one more then the big brown one as it is much smaller and more proliferous and consequently more difficult to collect. Again thanks to Wikipedia I think this culprit is Theba pisana, also originating from the Med and fast becoming a major problem in the USA.

Orpheum frutescens

Finally the Orpheum frutescens that I planted in the new front bed is flowering. I am really thrilled at how good it is looking. The glossy pink star like flowers with prominent yellow anthers make a lovely show when clustered near the tips of stems covered with bright green leaves. All the gardening books say it likes lots of water but mine is flowering despite the fact that it has been hot, dry and windy and I seldom water the front bed. By seldom I mean maybe once every six weeks.
The texture of the flowers is hard to describe – they have a waxy almost sticky feel to them, but they leave no sticky residue on your fingers. Something else amazing about his plant is the way it is pollinated. The anthers on this plant are intertwined and only unlock to a certain frequency of wing beat created by a particular bee. This is called buzz pollination.
This plant is great for difficult areas close to the sea as it tolerates poor sandy soils and doesn’t mind the salt–laden air.
The garden fundi’s also say it needs to be replaced every few years – time will tell!


  1. Well, you're becoming a bit of an expert on snails then, aren't you? If only you could invent a foolproof way of eliminating them you'd soon be very rich.
    The buzz-pollination effect sounds really wierd. How many (thousands / millions of)generations of the plant would it take to evolve that???

  2. Don't get me started on snails again! I went out the other night and picked and squashed more than 550 of the voracious beasts. I counted 550 but only started after I had already killed some.

  3. Hi Hazel
    Wow, I thought I had a problem.
    Hi Mark
    It seems buzz pollination is quite common, potatoes, tomatoes and blueberries are all pollinated this way.

  4. Hi

    I've just discovered your blog and think it's just wonderful.

    Saw your post on the Orpheum frutescens and decided I have to get one. I live in one of the windiest suburbs in Cape Town and my garden is a large exposed balcony so I'm always on the look out for flowering plants that can handle the wind.

    How big does it grow?

    In looking for information on the Orpheus I came across the Zandvliet Trust site. They're looking for nice photos for their plant species list but don't have one for the Orpheus. I thought since your photos are so lovely you might like to share them with the trust.

    Keep blogging. I look forward to seeing photos of your river bed and bog this winter. It's a wonderful idea.

  5. Hi Sal

    Thanks for the compliment. Orpheum would be a great choice, they only grow to about 60cm. But you will need to plant 2 or 3 together in a large pot as they tend to flop over if they don't have support. Thanks also for the Zandvlei link.