After the fire: Bettys Bay fynbos five months on

Text and photos by Zoë Poulsen

On New Year’s Eve of this year, in the small Overstand town of Bettys Bay, a boat flare was set off, landing in the fynbos on the mountains above. This was to be the beginning of one of the biggest fires of the 2019 season and the worst in the Overstrand for more than 30 years.

Above: Fynbos above Harold Porter National Botanical Garden two weeks after the Betty’s Bay fire, looking towards Leopards Kloof.

After several days with fire crews from across the Overberg and beyond giving all their worth at the fire line, it was thought that Bettys Bay and nearby Pringle Bay were out of danger. Then the wind picked up. Howling gale force southeaster winds sent the fire barrelling down the mountainside into the heart of Bettys Bay and Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, jumping across the R44 and roaring through the fynbos towards Pringle Bay. Terrified residents were evacuated, houses were ablaze and a life sadly lost. Many lost everything and the community was left reeling. My heart goes out to all those affected.

Above: Blooms of Amaryllis belladonna near Pringle Bay after the Betty’s Bay fire.

South Africa’s fynbos is a fire prone and fire dependent vegetation, making it a tough neighbour to live alongside when the summer fires come. Without fire there would be no fynbos. Many fynbos species are completely reliant on fire to flower, set seed and reproduce. After this tragedy comes new life to the veld, like a phoenix out of the ashes.

Top: Locally endemic Haemanthus canaliculatus flowering after the Betty’s Bay fire. Above: Fire lily (Cyrtanthus ventricosus) in bloom two weeks after the Betty’s Bay fire.

Initially after a fire moves through the landscape the grey ash and blackened stems of fynbos shrubs resemble a lunar landscape. Across the landscape in the first few days the heat from the fire and chemicals from the smoke trigger the opening of seed cones and release of many thousands of seeds. These will form the next generation of Proteaceae.

Above: Red hot pokers (Kniphofia uvaria) blooming in wetland at Pringle Bay after the Betty’s Bay fire.

Around ten days after the fire, on southwest facing slopes across the area fire lilies emerged, their blooming triggered by heat and chemicals in the smoke from the fire. Cyrtanthus ventricosus are the only true ‘fire lilies’, rarely seen and often waiting for years for an opportunity to bloom.

Above: The zigzag trail above Harold Porter NBG, looking towards Disa Kloof, with fynbos resprouters and residers growing apace.

As the autumn rains come later in the season, they trigger the emergence of autumn bulbs such as Amaryllis belladonna and rare local endemic Haemanthus canaliculatus, flowering en masse after the fire. By April, the wetlands by the junction to Pringle Bay were ablaze with colour from carpets of red hot pokers (Kniphofia uvaria).

Above: King Protea (Protea cynaroides), South Africa’s national flower, resprouting above Harold Porter NBG after the Betty’s Bay fire.

By late May, Harold Porter NBG’s hardworking horticultural team had repaired many of the paths in the garden, granting access to Leopard’s Kloof and the upper contour path through the fynbos leading to Disa Kloof. With some fynbos species re-sprouting and some reseeding after fire moves through the landscape, the once blackened ash-covered slopes are now green, full of new shoots from king proteas (Protea cynaroides) to sundews (Drosera spp.). The tiny delicate white flowers of Crassula capensis, also known as Cape Snowdrops, can be seen blooming in damp areas under rock overhangs.

Above: Sundews (Drosera spp.) and a Restio resprouting after the Betty’s Bay fire.

The hard work to restore Harold Porter NBG fully to its former glory will no doubt continue over the next few months, with much work still to be done. Those affected will never forget the 2019 Bettys Bay fire. Meanwhile as new life comes to the fynbos, visitors to the garden will marvel at the constantly changing new growth emerging from the ashes.

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A new look for the Kirstenbosch gift shop

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, in collaboration with Tourvest, is proud to announce the launch of their new look gift shop. The Kirstenbosch Gift Shop, located at the visitors’ centre at Entrance 1, celebrates the talent of local artisans and South Africa’s spectacular Cape Floristic Region.

This exciting new retail experience showcases the work of local artists and designers with 85% of products sourced from local suppliers. Visitors to the new gift shop can look forward to a variety of product ranges including African crafts and souvenirs, bath and body products, homeware, children’s gifts, clothing and edible gifting.

The new gift shop celebrates all things botanical, including the work of ceramic artists such as Hennie Meyer, Gemma Orkin and Lisa Firer. Other local suppliers include Carole Nevin’s range of botanical tablecloths, cushion covers, runners and serviettes; Peppertree, and Mongoose bags and accessories; Charlotte Rhys luxury body, bath and skincare products; Rosehip’s botanical printed raincoats and umbrellas and much more.

“The Kirstenbosch gift shop’s collection of merchandise is specially curated to appeal to both our local and foreign visitors’ interests and tastes, and the shop provides an incredible platform upon which to place the best products South Africa has to offer,” explains Sarah Struys, Events and Tourism Manager for Kirstenbosch.  “We are passionate about sourcing and developing unique products made in South Africa that reflects both our South African and our Cape Floral Heritage – and thereby helping to stimulate the local economy.”

The previous Kirstenbosch gift shop had been operational for many years, leading to the need for a new look and feel for this important retail space. There were also some merchandise ranges that needed more space. The new design improves the impact of the store, drawing visitors into the space. One of the main features is a shaded covering with laser cut leaf patterns forming a virtual tree canopy with birds, butterflies and insects depicting the seasonal changes of the gardens.

“We are immensely proud of this world-class retail store that celebrates the unique beauty of the Gardens, translated into extraordinary merchandise that is presented in a magnificent space.  For me, the new gift shop evokes a sense of absolute amazement at the natural beauty we are surrounded by in Kirstenbosch and echoes a true sense of place. The store is filled with natural light and a palette of delicate, muted shades. It is a gentle space where customers have room to breathe and move from department to department without restriction, allowing them to enjoy a shopping experience unlike any other,” says Allison Graham, CEO of Tourvest Destination Retail.

We encourage visitors to the garden to come and see this stunning new addition to Kirstenbosch for themselves. BotSoc members with their valid membership cards enjoy a 10% discount on all product purchases from the new gift shop.

The Kirstenbosch shop is located in the Visitors’ Centre (Gate 1) at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Rhodes Drive, Newlands. It is open every day of the year from 09h00-18h00 in winter and 09h00-19h00 in summer.

Kirstenbosch Plant Fair: Growing Indigenous and Cultivating Community

Article and photos by Zoë Poulsen

Last week the Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society held their much anticipated plant fair, loved by all and one of the biggest events in the BotSoc calendar. More than 11,000 indigenous plants went on sale with horticultural advice from experts from Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Karoo Desert Botanical Gardens, CapeNature, the SANBI/BotSoc volunteer programme and more. Around 3,200 members of Cape Town’s plant community arrived for this popular event, with 90% of stock selling out on the first day. By Sunday more than 10,000 plants had been sold including 1730 Proteaceae and 650 Ericaceae plants. A total of 260 BotSoc members volunteered to make the plant fair happen. For the Kirstenbosch Branch volunteers, committee and staff involved, we offer a huge thank-you for your time, hard work and effort, it couldn’t be done without you!

In addition to this botanical bonanza, the event also served as an expo for various organisations. Experts from the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) were there to introduce would-be citizen scientists to their work, explaining how anyone can contribute to threatened species conservation. The Calitzdorp Succulent Society answered questions about their annual festival and Soil for Life were raising awareness with some lovely winter vegetable seedlings on sale. The Candide SA team were also ready to answer questions about their incredible horticultural app designed to share knowledge through an online gardening community. I am sure all who visited their stand will look forward to growing their free kohlrabi seeds.

This year’s theme was ‘Amazing Aromatics’, celebrating the many South African plants that enrich our natural vegetation and our gardens by smelling as good as they look. The most well-known of these are the Buchus from the Rutaceae or Citrus family that form an integral part of South Africa’s fynbos. Agathosma crenulata and Agathosma betulina have many traditional medicinal uses. The leaves can be used to make a tea or steeped in vinegar or brandy and have been used in the treatment of stomach complaints, kidney and bladder ailments. They make great garden plants too. Members of the genus Pelargonium were also on sale. Different species of this tough and drought tolerant genus may smell of lemon, mint and rose. Many have edible flowers and leaves and can be used as a food flavouring or in potpourri. Branch volunteers had a stall at the fair dedicated to selling handmade potpourri, further demonstrating the versatility of our indigenous flora.

The Kirstenbosch Plant Fair has always acted as a one-stop-shop for enthusiasts of growing South Africa’s extraordinary and biodiverse flora, paired with expert advice accessible to everyone from beginner to the most knowledgeable of gardeners. When gardening in the water scarce Western Cape it makes complete sense to grow indigenous drought tolerant plants adapted to our climate and soils in a world class range of sizes, colours, shapes and scents. With expanding urban development and agriculture, our gardens become all the more important as havens for wildlife. Those Red Hot Pokers, Aloes and Cape Honeysuckle sold at the plant fair will grow to provide food for spectacular sunbirds, always wonderful guests to have visiting. Threatened species such as the Extinct in the Wild Erica verticillata may also find a corner in your garden within its former range.

As well as raising funds for the Kirstenbosch Branch, the Plant Fair also encourages a sense of community among a wide spectrum of people. It inspires people to plant, garden and enjoy nature in any green space, no matter how large or small. Whether you have a tiny balcony, access to a patch of sand or a larger space, it can become a garden. Those who volunteer their time at the Kirstenbosch Plant Fair play a vital role in encouraging others to start greening their own spaces for nature. The satisfaction from planting and growing brings joy and a wonderful social space to enrich the lives of all who get involved. Everyone brings home good memories, and look forward to doing it all again for the plant fair next year.

Reporting Back on the 2019 National AGM

On 12 February the Botanical Society held its national Annual General Meeting at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens with the meeting attended by more than 250 members. The AGM was held early to elect a new council following on from the Interim Council elected on 17 August 2018. The financial statements from 2016, 2017 and 2018 were approved as well as the appointment of Ms. Annelie Lucas as auditor.

The following Council members were elected: Chairman: Marinda Nel; Treasurer: Tony Storey; Councillors: Dave Henry, Kevin McCann, Bongani Mnisi, Sershen Naidoo, Hedwig Slabig, Johann van den Berg, Toni Xaba

The Chairperson’s Report was first presented by Marinda Nel, who opened by noting that “Achievements are a collaborative effort,”. The interim council has achieved a great deal during its time in office and all outgoing interim council members and advisors were thanked for their support, effort and hard work during this intense time for the Society. A list of those acknowledged is presented in the full report to be published in the March Issue of Veld and Flora. Dr Bruce McKenzie has been appointed caretaker of the Society until a new General Manager can be appointed.

Above: Bruce Mckenzie presents an update on BotSoc’s ongoing conservation and environmental education projects. Photo: Zoë Poulsen

Bruce McKenzie presented a report on BotSoc’s ongoing projects. All of these are undertaken within the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, for which the Society is an active partner. One of the longest running of these is the CREW Programme (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) for which trained citizen scientists collect data and monitor rare and threatened flora. BotSoc is also active in stewardship, through one staff member based in KZN who through working with the KZN Coastal Branch, CREW and other partners works to identify sites for stewardship, putting agreements in place while working closely with landowners.

Above: Students supported as part of the BotSoc-CPUT partnership in the field. Photo supplied by CPUT.

the Botanical Society also works in collaboration with the Conservation Department at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) to support under-resourced students to further their studies through funding the practical component of the course and provision of learning resources. BotSoc, in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs and other partners, runs several initiatives to conserve highly threatened Cycads. Various educational resources have been produced as part of this project in line with the National Curriculum.

Above: Outgoing Treasurer Brian Christie presents the Treasurer’s report at the national AGM. Photo: Zoë Poulsen

Outgoing Treasurer Brian Christie was thanked for his hard work over the last few months. Brian Christie first provided assurances that no evidence was found to substantiate any suggestions of fraud or financial misappropriation. BotSoc’s non-current assets and reserves are healthy, with R35.3 million in net assets. It was recommended that the incoming council should invest some of this capital into projects and assets that carry forward the Botanical Society’s objectives. Donations received by BotSoc totalled just under R4 million in 2018 and donations made by the society were about R2.3 million. The main recipient of donations has been our partner SANBI. This includes 10% of membership fee income payable to SANBI in terms of the memorandum of understanding between BotSoc and SANBI under which SANBI provides free access to its gardens for members. A large part of donations relate to the CREW programme.

Above: Working hard collecting data for the CREW programme. Photo: Petra Broddle.

Contracts and job descriptions for all BotSoc staff are being reviewed in consultation with each individual. We congratulate Ms Simone van Rooyen on her promotion to office manager. A standing committee to progress practical and broad-based transformation is a priority. Supported by the planned new membership categories, this will focus on growing membership across all demographics, enhancing BotSoc’s relevance among young botanical enthusiasts and building relationships with other entities with similar or complementary objectives.

Above: Back issues of Veld & Flora.

BotSoc has significant media assets and brand value. A workshop was held to consider a discussion document prepared by Mr Mike Martin, past CEO of Jacana Publishers, that proposed a cohesive strategy for publications and bookshops. An integrated communication and promotion strategy is urgently needed. The creation of a new BotSoc website is well underway. Veld & Flora has a huge role to play in creating a sense of wonder about the beautiful world that we are lucky to inhabit. We are grateful to Ms Patricia McCracken who has agreed to edit the March and June issues of Veld & Florauntil a more permanent appointment can be made. It is our aim to allow members to choose to receive a hard copy and/or an electronic version.

Above: Environmental education programme at Durban Botanical Garden funded by the Botanical Education Trust. Photo supplied by the Botanical Education Trust.

BotSoc was established more than a century ago and we have been joined by many conservation organisations in responding to risks and threats to our environment. BotSoc aspires to be an umbrella platform for all agencies that support our mission. We are already recognised internationally as the custodian of our exceptionally rich botanical heritage. This platform will be a place where such people or agencies will find authoritative direction – a place where we all find a role to play.

BotSoc Beyond Botanical Gardens: Exploring Microhabitats in Overberg Renosterveld

Text and photographs by Zoë Poulsen

One of the things that the Botanical Society of South Africa is most famous for is its close relationship with South Africa’s National Botanical Gardens. Some of our bigger branches such as the Kirstenbosch and Bankenveld Branches have their homes at gardens. However, this is not the case with all branches of this extraordinary nationwide organisation. Some branches, such as our Southern Overberg Branch, are in areas that may not have their own botanical gardens but are known for their extraordinary and unique biodiversity. The Overberg area is also home to several fantastic conservation organisations that work tirelessly to conserve threatened habitats in this area. We went to visit our partners at the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust (ORCT) to find out more about what makes this extraordinary vegetation that forms their main conservation focus unique.

Above: The beauty of Overberg Renosterveld in the Eastern Ruens at the ORCT’s Haarwegskloof Renosterveld reserve.

The renosterveld of South Africa’s Overberg region is one of the most species diverse Mediterranean type shrublands. It is also one of the most threatened and under-researched. One of the factors that has caused the evolution of such high levels of diversity and species turnover is the presence of high levels of habitat heterogeneity and many different types of microhabitats within the ecosystem. The levels of diversity and endemism associated with this is something that we are only just starting to fully understand about Overberg Renosterveld.

Above: Succulent species often are well adapted to life in rock crevices in Overberg Renosterveld.

So what does this all mean? When there is habitat heterogeneity in an ecosystem it means that across a relatively small area there is considerable variation in the specific ecological conditions that lead a certain plant or animal calling a place home. Soil chemistry or structure, availability of water, different levels of light or shade from the sun and other factors influencing growing or living conditions may vary to an unusually great extent in this environment. If a certain organism requires a specific set of these conditions to thrive, this is known as a habitat niche. Some organisms may live happily in a wide variety of different habitat conditions, others are adapted to one set of specific needs that can be only found in a select few places.

Top: Polhillia curtisiae named after the director of the ORCT, Dr Odette Curtis-Scott for her services to renosterveld conservation. Above: Endangered Gladiolus vandemerwei growing in a shale rock wall in Overberg Renosterveld.

Where habitat conditions in a small area differ from the surrounding ecosystem, acting as home to a unique assemblage of flora and fauna, it is known as a microhabitat. This is a common phenomenon in Overberg Renosterveld and can manifest in various different ways. The unusually common occurrence of microhabitats has meant that this extraordinary and biodiverse ecosystem is home to an unusually high number of endemic species. The word ‘endemic’ means that the organism being described only lives in one place, and is found nowhere else in the world.

Above: Quartz patches within Eastern Ruens Shale Renosterveld in the Overberg.

One of the most noteworthy examples of unique microhabitats within Overberg Renosterveld are the patches of white quartz found within the Eastern Ruens. These have similarities to the quartz fields found in the Knersvlakte in Namaqualand and in the Klein Karoo, but are home to a unique assemblage of endemic species, many of which are now highly threatened in the wild after their homes have been ploughed up for agriculture and lost forever. The Eastern Ruens quartz patches had previously been dismissed as having relatively low levels of biodiversity, but more recent research has revealed no less than six new species endemic to this unique habitat.

Above: The beautiful and newly described quartz patch endemic Aspalathus quartzicola. 

It has often been said that, despite the fact that renosterveld vegetation forms part of the Fynbos Biome, it actually has a greater ecological affinity with Karroid vegetation types due to its large succulent component. Many of these succulent species have found weird and wonderful places to live within this vegetation type. Succulents are typically associated with hot and dry conditions, but in fact many actually prefer to grow away from the worst of the sun’s heat. Some species might grow inside the large tussock grasses so typical of Overberg Renosterveld. Others are commonly found growing underneath larger bushes. Large outcrops of shale where the softer strata have been weathered away provide deep crevices where both succulents and many bulb species may grow.

Top: Unusual form of Nerine humilis Above: Spectacular Gasteria flowers.

In the Eastern Ruens there are also outcrops formed from quartz geology. These quartz koppies often have a unique array of different species. The ORCT discovered that one of these was the only remaining home for a unique form of the autumn flowering Nerine humilis. This particular form has unusually long styles and filaments, thought to be an adaptation to a specialist pollinator, likely a long-tongued fly. However, sadly despite extensive pollinator observations, the pollinator was not seen and the blooms of these form are no longer being pollinated here. It is thought that the long tongued fly that pollinates this form is sadly now extinct in the area.

Above: Sadly illegal destruction of renosterveld vegetation is still a common occurrence, driven by a desire to make more money from agricultural land and increasing size of farm machinery.

These stories highlight the uniqueness of Overberg Renosterveld, as well as its fragility as it is becoming increasingly fragmented within an intensively farmed agricultural landscape. In the past many of the rocky areas that form the unique microhabitats within this vegetation type have remained safe due to the difficulty in being ploughed out. But now with increasingly large farm machinery these small pockets of vegetation are being illegally bulldozed out. The sheer complexity of this habitat makes it highly challenging, if not impossible to restore once it has been destroyed. So spare a thought for this unique and extraordinary habitat and lend your support to those at the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust who are working tirelessly to conserve it in perpetuity.

Perfect Pincushions: Introducing the genus Leucospermum

Article and photos by Zoë Poulsen

Spring has well and truly sprung in the Cape Floristic Region. After the winter rains the fynbos has come to life, alive with a diversity of stunning blooms and full of busy pollinators. Some of the most spectacular of these are known as the ‘Pincushions’ with such strange looking flowers that one might be forgiven for thinking they have come from outer space.

Leucospermum muirii (Albertinia Pincushion)

These are the Leucospermums, which are part of the Proteaceae, one of the three key families that typify South Africa’s famous fynbos vegetation. The blooms of Leucospermums are recognised by their unusually long, stout and colourful styles that are the ‘pins’ of the pincushion. Unlike their other Proteaceae relatives, Leucospermums have small inconspicuous bracts around the flowerheads and tooth shaped margins at the end of the leaves.

Leucospermum cordifolium (Orange Pincushion)

Members of the genus range in size from huge shrubs to low growing prostrate species that grow along the ground. The larger more upright species are pollinated by sugarbirds and sunbirds whereas the more prostrate ones are pollinated by rodents. After seeds are set they are often predated by rodents. Those that survive are collected by ants, attracted to a fleshy appendage on the seed. The ants carry the seed underground where they are safe from predation. There they will stay until the next fire moves through the fynbos, allowing the seeds to germinate and the next generation of Leucospermums to grow.

Leucospermum harpagonatum (McGregor Pincushion)

The genus Leucospermum has a total of 48 species, the majority of which are found only in the Cape Floristic Region. There are however two species (L. rodentumand  L. praemorsum) with a range extending north into Namaqualand, two species (L. gerrardii and L. innovans) in Kwa-Zulu Natal and one (L. saxosum) in Mpumalanga northwards into Zimbabwe. The most important centre of diversity for the Leucospermum genus is the Agulhas Plain, where there are a total of 30 species occurring.

Leucospermum heterophyllum (Trident Pincushion)

The plant collections at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens showcase a rich diversity of different members of the genus, many of which are flowering now for visitors to enjoy. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Leucospermum cordifolium, with their large and spectacular orange blooms. This species is a popular and easily cultivated garden plant that is used in the cut flower industry all over the world.

Leucospermum oleifolium (Overberg Pincushion)

Leucospermum fulgens, easily recognised with its large fiery red and orange blooms, comes from limestone fynbos in the eastern Overberg. Sadly as a result of inappropriate fire management and loss of habitat to alien invasive plants, it is Critically Endangered in the wild. Kirstenbosch NBG provides this species and many others with a safe home should the worst happen to its wild population.

Leucospermum hypophyllocarpodendron subsp. hypophyllocarpodendron

There are several members of the genus that have flowers that change colour almost like chameleons as the blooms age. Leucospermum oleifoliumflowerheads are initially yellow, turning a rich orange and then intense crimson red as the flowers age. Leucospermum heterophyllum has flowers that are lime green after they open, changing to a deep wine red over time. Often flowers of different colours are present on the same plant as the flowering season progresses.

Leucospermum heterophyllum (Trident Pincushion)

Why not come and visit Kirstenbosch and see for yourself? Entry to all South Africa’s National Botanical Gardens is free for BotSoc members. The Kirstenbosch Nursery also has a great selection of Leucospermums so garden waterwise and indigenous and consider giving a home to one of these beautiful plants.

Wildflower Wonders: Where to find the best blommetjies this Spring

Article and photographs by Zoë Poulsen

This winter, after three long and dry years in succession, the rain came. The drought’s impact has been pervasive, affecting the economy, agriculture, tourism and much more. Above average rainfall this June has provided some respite and improved dam levels, but we are far from out of the woods yet.

However, good winter rains are making it increasingly likely that we will have some wonderful displays of wildflowers this spring. Already there are beautiful carpets of Oxalis giving their winter display along our road verges. We have hand-picked for you a selection of our favourite places to go and experience the Cape’s world famous wildflower displays. All of these stunning places are within five hours drive of Cape Town, easily accessible on a weekend for those of you with limited time available.

NAMAQUALAND 

Nieuwoudtville

The small town of Nieuwoudtville lies at the top of the Bokkeveld Escarpment, five hours drive north along the N7 from Cape Town. It is not without reason that it is known as the ‘Bulb Capital of the World’. The town is home to Hantam National Botanical Gardens (NBG) one of South Africa’s newest NBGs, run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Hantam NBG is 6000 Ha in size encompassing Nieuwoudtville Shale Renosterveld, Nieuwoudtville-Roggeveld Dolerite Renosterveld and Hantam Succulent Karoo.

This unique range of untransformed habitats makes this the place to see many of the rare and special plant species known from the Bokkeveld Escarpment. The garden has nine different hiking trails that allow those of differing levels of fitness to explore as they please. Members of the Botanical Society enjoy free entrance to this and all of South Africa’s NBGs. Additional tourist information for the area can be found at www.nieuwoudtville.com

WEST COAST

West Coast National Park

West Coast National Park lies on the coast between the small towns of Yzerfontein and Langebaan just 1.5 hours drive north of Cape Town. The park is a mix of Strandveld and Hopefield Sand Plain Fynbos.  During August and September visitors to the park are rewarded by the most spectacular displays of flowers in the Seeberg and Postberg sections of the Park. For the more energetic the two day overnight Postberg hiking trail can be done, with an overnight stop (bring your own tents) at Plankiesbaai. Bookings and tariff information can be obtained from Geelbek Information Centre on 022 707 9902. Entrance to the park is R76 for South African Nationals and residents (with ID) and free for Wildcard Holders.

Tienie Versfeld Nature Reserve

Tienie Versfeld Nature Reserve is 20 Ha in size and found just outside the Swartland town of Darling, an hour north of Cape Town. The reserve was formerly part of a farm that was donated to the Botanical Society by Marthinus Versfeld. Marthinus’s sister Muriel was one of the founder members of the Darling Wildflower Society. The reserve is open all year round, but the most spectacular blooms can be seen during the spring season from August to September. Entrance to the reserve is free.

Waylands Farm Wildflower Reserve

Also near the beautiful town of Darling is the fantastic Waylands Farm Wildflower Reserve. The reserve was founded by Fredrick Duckett in the early 1900s and is home to more than 300 different plant species, many of which are geophytes. The reserve forms an integral part of the farm and is grazed from late November to the end of April each year. The spring flower season reaches its peak from the end of August to early September.

CEDERBERG 

Ramskop Wildflower Garden

Three hours drive north of Cape Town on the N7 is the small town of Clanwilliam, which lies at the foot of the Cederberg Mountain chain. Adjacent to the municipal campsite on the banks of the Clanwilliam Dam is the beautiful Ramskop Wildflower Garden. There are more than 300 species of different wildflowers to be seen, and spectacular views down over the dam and up to the Cederberg mountains beyond. Entry is R25 and the gardens are open until 4:30pm during August and September. (Info: 027 482 8000).

Biedouw Valley

 

The Biedouw Valley is one of the Cederberg’s hidden wildflower gems. It can be reached either via Calvinia or the Pakhuis Pass from Clanwilliam. The Biedouw River is one of the tributaries of the Doring River. The valley is bounded by the Biedouw Mountains to the north and the Tra Tra Mountains to the south. The name ‘Biedouw’ refers to the common plant name ‘Bietou’, although there are several plants that go by this name so it is not clear to what species the name originally refers. In spring local farmers restrict livestock grazing in the area to further enhance the stunning wildflower displays. 

CAPE TOWN  

Rondebosch Common

 

Rondebosch Common lies at the heart of Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs. This 40 Ha site is of international conservation importance, being one of the last fragments of Critically Endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, a highly biodiverse vegetation type that only occurs in the greater Cape Town area. It is home to around 250 plant species.

The site is under the custodianship of City Parks and their work is supported by the Friends of Rondebosch Common, affiliated with the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA). Each spring the Friends run a series of walks lead by dedicated volunteers to see the spring flowers on the Common. All are welcome and becoming a Friend is encouraged to support the valuable conservation work taking place. More information can be found on the Friends’ Facebook group.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Friends.of.Rondebosch.Common/