Lesser Balloon Vine

Family: Sapindaceae

Species: Cardiospermum halicacabum var halicacabum

(Lesser Balloon Vine, Heart pea, Winter Cherry, Love-in-a-puff, Blaasklimop (Afrikaans))

It is just amazing how much can be learnt from the internet. You just have to insert the correct search words to open up a wealth of information. In this case, just the species name of this beautiful plant opened up wonderful facts about such a humble little vine.

This alien from tropical Asia supposedly has medicinal properties and has been tested in a study for antidiarrheal and homoeopathic properties.

Apparently various forms of gel, cream and shampoo products are available in the market for use on the skin for itching, itching, eczema, inflammation, rashes, swelling, scaling, blisters, burning and pain. It is also marketed as a natural relief for hay fever, allergies, sneezing, watery eyes and allergic reactions.

The roots are considered as diaphoretic, diuretic and aperient and are apparently administered for fever. Furthermore it is claimed to be used by tribes in Asia and Africa for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Please refer to the link below for more information, it is a scientific report about these claims, but understandable for non-scientists.

For Further Reading:


Passiflora vines

Family: Passifloraceae

Species:     Basananthe triloba

Passiflora subpeltata (Granadina, White passion flower)

Basananthe triloba is a low growing perennial vine with exquisite creamy green flowers. The ellipsoid fruit capsules are about 15mm long. I found the plant on a small granite kopje. I have never found the green-grey leafs opened up, it is always closed up.

The Passiflora subpeltata (native from Brazil) is an alien invader plant in our area and I’m trying my best to eradicate it. This I do manually by pulling it from the moist soil after a good rain shower. The leafs are water repellent and leaf spraying with herbicide are thus not very effective. Those that I can’t pull out are cut and then effective sprayed with an herbicide containing Picloram. The fruit capsules are collected in a bag and burnt.

Although the fruit has a very pungent smell, Vervet monkeys love it and spread the seeds in their droppings. It is however not for human consumption, not that I think anyone in their right mind would eat the foul smelling thing! The plant contains cyanic acid and is toxic to livestock if eaten in large quantities.

Antlions and lacewings

Order:   Neuroptera

Family:  Chrysopidae

Species: Chrysoperla sp (Green Lacewing)

Family:  Myrmeleondidae

Species: Palpares sp (Antlion)

Family: Psychopsidae

Species: Silky Lacewing

As kids we used to say a certain rhyme when trying to entice antlion larvae to surface from their larval-pits:

Molletjie, molletjie kom tog uit,

Sout en peper en boerbeskuit

Unfortunately it loses its power in translation but I’ll roughly translate for what it’s worth:

Little mole, little mole come out,

Salt and pepper and Boer rusks

It is unbelievable to think that larvae this ugly can turn into such fragile, beautiful adults.

In my research about these critters, I learnt that green lacewing larvae are ferocious predators with sickle-shaped mandibles and that some are ‘trash carriers’. This is illustrated in the picture of the green lacewing larvae, the white fluff on its back is the remains of previously eaten insects; in this case some kind of scale insect nymph.

Lady beetles are the number one predators of scale insects, but the beetles and their larvae will prey on the chrysopid larvae that compete with its scale insect food source.

This type of predation has a special name – intraguild predation. This happens when a predator becomes prey, the killing and eating of competitors.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“Intraguild predation, or IGP, is the killing and eating of potential competitors. This interaction represents a combination of predation and competition, because both species utilize the same prey resources and also benefit from preying upon one another. Intraguild predation is common in nature and can be asymmetrical, in which one species feeds upon the other, or symmetrical, in which both species prey upon each other. Because the dominant intraguild predator gains the dual benefits of feeding and eliminating a potential competitor, IGP interactions can have considerable effects on the structure of ecological communities.”

 For more information:

It is not a bird or a bug… it is a Beetle!

Order: Coleoptera

Family: Coccinellidae


Cheilomenes lunata (Lunate Lady Beetle)

Exochomus flavipes (Black Mealy Bug Predator)

Hippodamia variegata (Variegated Lady Beetle)

Invasive species:

Harmonia axyridis (Harlequin Lady Beetle)

Ask any child to draw a beetle, and this is most probably what you will get. The beautiful Afrikaans name is “Lieweheersbesies” (Roughly translated as beetles from the dear Lord). We used to call them “Skilpadjies” which refer to the almost tortoise shape.

Coccinellids are mostly predators that feed on aphids and scale insects. A few are herbivores and can be detrimental to certain crops. Such is the Harlequin ladybird that is a world-wide invasive species who are known to feed on both animal and plant material.

Harlequins have a variety of colour variations. I found these on an Olea europaea africana (Wild olive or Olienhout in Afrikaans) tree where they were feeding on scale insects. They can be easily distinguished by the black M or W shape on the pronotrum.

Lady beetles should not be confused with beetles from the family Chrysomelidae.

For more information:

Leaf and Tortoise Beetles

Order:   Coleoptera

Family: Chrysomelidae


Leaf Beetles:                 Chrysolina sp

Tortoise Beetles:           Conchyloctenia punctata (Spotted Tortoise Beetle)

Although many of my insects are not identified to species level, I can at least put most in a family and in some instances identify up to the genus.

If you can help with identification, please contact me.

Longhorn Beetles

Order: Coleoptera

Family: Cerambycidae


Afridophanes amicus

Crossotus plumicornis

Cymatura bifasciata subsp. bifasciata

Litopus latipes dispar 

Macrotoma pulmonata (Large brown longhorn)

Mallodon downesi

Promeces longipes (Common Metallic Longhorn)

Prosopocera lactator (Turquoise longhorn)

Tithoes confinis

1 Unidentified species

Several species of longhorns are pests, where the larvae bore into wood. I found the Mallodon downesi in a fallen Cussonia paniculata (Hoëveld Kiepersol – Afrikaans) after severe damage by the larvae.

If you can identify some of the unidentified longhorn beetles  or see a misidentification, please make a comment with the information. Your assistance will be appreciated.

Updated 08/04/2015

Interesting find – Lindernia nana


Family: Linderniaceae

Species: Lindernia nana

It is said that I don’t have patience. But I do. Just not with people, I have patience in other ways… Late April 2011 I found a small little plant with a single white flower just off a huge granite outcrop. When I say small, I mean I had to lie on my tummy to photograph it. With small things it is difficult to see on the camera view finder if the photograph was successful, and I marked the place properly in case I had to come back. I don’t have fancy filters for my camera, and I found the photo to be over exposed. It is HARD to photograph white flowers! I went back late afternoon and took several pictures before I had a single usable photograph. Since then I have found another plant, a few metres away on the granite within a hole filled with soil and humus. My books didn’t contain anything like my little flower, and without a family not even the internet could be used as a source of information. But… I found a wonderful biodiversity website where one can share your findings and someone on iSpot suggested that my little flower might be a Craterostigma species. Searches about the genus came up with several similar looking species, but so far I haven’t been successful with mine. Someone else (in a private email) suggests that it is a Lindernia species The most interesting fact about Crateristigma plants is that they can survive desiccation (severe water loss to the point of drying out) and are called ‘resurrection plants’. Desiccation‐tolerant plants have the ability to tolerate severe water loss and resume normal physiological functioning on rehydration. Most ‘higher’ plants (unlike seeds) do not survive desiccation to an air-dried state. It is said that they are able to stay in this desiccated state until water becomes available and then immediately resurrect, grow and reproduce before other species can do so. It has been identified since as Lindernia nana. Similar looking species include Craterostigma plantagineum and Craterostigma wilmsii For further reading about desiccation:

Luckybean Creeper

Family: Fabaceae

Species: Abrus precatorius africanus

The Luckybean creeper has always been one of my favourite plants with the bright red and black seeds. I used to collect them on the farm where my mother-in-law’s stayed in the Barberton area and put the seeds in various shapes and sizes of small glass bottles. Back then I was not interested in the flowers, my only concern was the seeds.

You can keep a pod ‘bundle’ like this for a long time if you can protect it against handling. It makes a magnificent display with other seeds. BUT BEWARE!!! the seeds are poisonous when consumed. KEEP AWAY from small children!! If you want to keep it, then keep it in a safe place.

From my research I knew it was from the family Fabaceae and that the flower was pink, but it took almost eight years on the farm to eventually find a plant with flowers in bloom.

Please take care – The seeds are EXTREMELY poisonous, and there is no antidote available. It contains abrin, a chemical that penetrates the cells of the body and inhibits cell protein synthesis. Symptoms and the severity of the effects depend on the way of exposure and the dosage.  Death could take place within 36-72 hours of exposure and the dose received.

If the intact seed is ingested, it might pass through the gastrointestinal tract without any harm, due to the hard shell of the seed. Rather be safe than sorry and when ingested accidently, find help at your nearest hospital or toxicology desk as soon as possible.

For more information: