The Company’s Garden is the oldest garden in South Africa, a park and heritage site located in central Cape Town. The garden was originally created in the 1650s by the region’s first European settlers and provided fertile ground to grow fresh produce to replenish ships rounding the Cape. It is watered from the Molteno Dam, which uses water from the springs on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. The Dutch East India Company established the garden in Cape Town for the purpose of providing fresh vegetables to the settlement as well as passing ships. Master gardener and free burgher Hendrik Boom prepared the first ground for sowing of seed on the 29th of April 1652. The settlers sowed different kinds of seeds and kept record thereof each day. Through trial and error they managed to compile a calendar which they used for the sowing and harvesting throughout the year. At first they grew salad herbs, peas, large beans, radish, beet, spinach, wheat, cabbage, asparagus and turnips among others. By 1653 the garden allowed the settlers to become self sustainable throughout the year.
When I visited Madagascar the focus was really on chameleons and lemurs. There was little time to explore the beautiful and unique birds of Madagascar. What I lost in numbers I gained in quality. The birds I did see were colorful and unique many of which found only on Madagascar. The distance from Africa to Madagascar and the surrounding islands does not seem that far for birds but they seem evolve in isolation creating beautiful riffs on familiar forms. The Malagasy Sacred Ibis seen above is a good example. Long thought to be a minor variation on the African Sacred Ibis, new research established them as a separate species and renewed focus on their habitat and numbers. Unlike the African Ibis, they seem to prefer mangrove swamps and are rare away from the coast and in freshwater settings. In fact they are so sparsely distributed along the west coast of Madagascar that there may be fewer than 2000 left in the wild. Even for birds, Madagascar may be far more like the Galápagos than we previously thought.