Field Trip To Lake St. Lucia
KwaZulu-Natal Province
South Africa

By Jacques Gerber - Click images to enlarge

Jacques Gerber is a wetland ecologist, currently studying for his PhD in Botany at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

In late March of 2003, I went with several others to do fieldwork at Lake St. Lucia, , in an area of swamp forest. Nymphaea capensis, N. caerulea and N. lotus have all been recorded in the area and are found throughout the region. The N. caerulea in the area are more blue than the ones I collected last year at Rust-der-Winter, and the N. capensis have been recorded as being pink. N. lotus is rare in the area but is found.

"Many millions of years ago, the flat coastal plain of Zululand lay beneath the sea. When the waters receded for some unknown reason, they left a broad sandy terrace of about 100 km wide. Rivers now found themselves with a new obstacle, and they began to form a system of lakelets on the sandy plain. The wind created a ridge of sand-dunes along the new coast, hampering the rivers even further from reaching the sea. Several combined to form the huge shallow estuary system known as Lake St Lucia, the largest salt-water body in Africa." First paragraph of The Story of St. Lucia

  Swamp, Lake and Plantation
This picture shows a small patch of indigenous dune forest in the foreground, then a pine tree plantation, some more forest, the swamp, a patch of swamp forest, and Lake St. Lucia in the background. The area that looks like a grassland is the swamp. The pine plantations date from before the area was proclaimed as a world heritage site. They are being allowed to mature, and are then clear cut, allowing the natural forest to restore itself.
  Rhynchospora and Fimbrostylis Peat Swamp
Water here varies from 10 cm to 60 cm. Some Utricularia and even a young waterlily or two occur here, as do several other sedge, and two grass species. The line of trees in the distance is two kilometres away. That area is a Sphagnum peat swamp forest.
This picture shows me with a large Ludwigia. It's next to a small bridge spanning a stream through a narrow strip of Barringtonia riverine peat forest. The clothes I'm wearing are due to the need to go wading, and the collared shirt is normal field wear for experienced ecologists - collar keeps the sun off your neck, and the button up front helps you to keep cool.
   Barringtonia Swamp
This picture was taken at a narrow point along the Barringtonia riverine swamp forest where a bridge crosses the main stream.
    Dead Sysigium and Andropogon
This is the very edge of the swamp after the first crossing. The Sysigium are the dead trees, which were killed by the last fire, while Andropogon is the grass. This area is part of the Sphagnum peat swamp community.
   Ina Venter in the Eleocharis swamp
She's standing in a hippo track, roughly knee deep in water. The peat swamp is her MS project study site. The darkish green reed on the right is Eleocharis, though I don't know which species. I collected Nymphoides thunbergiana here, as well as a crop of leeches.
   Eleocharis Swamp
This area is a smaller swamp within the main swamp complex. The whole area is criss-crossed by hippo trails which form deep channels. It was very dry when we were here, with Nymphoides plants actually growing out of the water in some places. The water here is infested with leaches.
   "Ina Innit"
This gives an idea of the height of the Eleocharis here. Ina is about the same height as me - 176cm.

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Profile - Jacques Gerber

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