Taking place annually on the third weekend of September, the Darling Wildflower Show is the second oldest wildflower show in the world. Visitors come from far and wide to enjoy this highlight of the West Coast’s event calendar, organised by volunteers from the Darling Wildflower Society with support from members of the BotSoc West Coast Branch.
Above: View over the picturesque small town of Darling in the Swartland from Darling Renosterveld Reserve.
The small town of Darling is located an hour’s drive north of Cape Town, inland from the West Coast town of Yzerfontein. It was founded in 1853 on the farm Ormonde, formerly known as Langfontein. Today this picturesque town has blossomed into a thriving centre for festivals, performances, quality food, beer and wine and much more.
Top: Lachenalia pallida. Above: Monsonia speciosa.
Within and around Darling are no less than seven wildflower reserves, conserving and showcasing the beauty of the region’s critically endangered Swartland Renosterveld. The majority of this highly biodiverse vegetation, known for its plethora of beautiful geophytes, has been lost to the plough for agriculture. These reserves are some of the last precious habitat for many threatened species that call the Darling area home.
Top: Unusual red form of Drosera cistiflora. Above: Geissorhiza monanthos.
The Darling Wildflower Show is an annual celebration of the area’s wildflowers and biodiversity, bringing together dedicated volunteers from the community to construct a series of beautiful themed exhibits to showcase and raise awareness about the Swartland’s Renosterveld flora.
Above: Carnival dragon in the wildflower displays at the 2019 Darling Wildflower Show.
This year’s flower show was the 102nd with the theme ‘a carnival of wildflowers’. Visitors to this year’s show could also enjoy live music, a craft and gourmet food market, a display of vintage tractors and more. The tractor ride was one of the highlights, taking trailers of visitors nestled on haybales out to a wetland on the neighbouring Oude Post Farm not normally open to the public to view the wildflowers in habitat.
Above: Chicken and Chinkerinchee (Ornithogalum thyrsoides) in the floral displays at the 2019 Darling Wildflower Show.
The Darling Wildflower Show also serves as an information point for those wishing to visit the surrounding wildflower reserves, reaching their flowering peak in the second or third week of September. It is easy to combine a visit to the show with a leisurely ramble through the Renosterveld with its stunning spring blooms.
Above: Display tables at the Darling Wildflower Show showcase examples of the key flora of the Darling area.
Shortly after turning off the R27 West Coast road towards Darling, the Tienie Versveld Nature Reserve can be found on the left. The land on which the reserve now lies was once part of the farm Slangkop. In 1958 Marthinus Versveld donated this 20 ha piece of Renosterveld to what is now the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Many rare and threatened Swartland Renosterveld plants grow here, including some only found in the Tienie Versveld Reserve and nowhere else.
Above: Darling Renosterveld Reserve in the evening light.
Darling Renosterveld Reserve lies above Darling behind the primary school and was also donated for conservation by the Versveld family. A beautiful circular walk showcases a variety of different Renosterveld plants, offering stunning views over the town and the sweeping agricultural landscapes of the Swartland beyond.
Above: Waylands Wildflower Reserve, Waylands Farm, near Darling, Swartland.
Waylands Wildflower Reserve, located 6 km east of Darling on the R307, is also known for its spectacular Renosterveld wildflower displays. It is part of Waylands Farm that has been owned and farmed by the Duckett family since 1865 with the reserve founded in 1922. Waylands Wildflower Reserve is home to around 300 different plant species and many species of birds. It is open to the public during daylight hours throughout the spring season.
Top: Caterpillar on ‘Chinkerinchee’ Ornithogalum thyrsoides. Above: Long-tongued fly pollinated blooms of Babiana tubiflora.
After a hard day of soaking up the spring beauty of the Darling Wildflower Show and the town’s stunning wildflower reserves, there is no shortage of lovely cafes and restaurants to seek some well-earned refreshments. Comfortable accommodation is also available aplenty for those who wish to make a weekend of their trip.
Find out more: https://www.darlingwildflowers.co.za