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Beach Flora of Southern Africa | A virtual tour Part 2

Going.Local
Published on January 14th 2021
Beach flora
In Part 1 of this series, we explored the lush semi-tropical beaches of Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape to give you an idea of the gems that lie hidden in the dunes. In this second instalment, we explore the changing flora of the Cape with its shipwrecked coastline.
Many of these will be on the cliffs overlooking the sandy beaches, so do not despair! Even if the beaches are temporarily closed, you will be able to get a close look at these wonders.
beach south africa flora
Beach flora can change depending on the climate and amount of rainfall. The Cape receives mostly winter rainfall.

Buffels Bay (Goukamma Nature Reserve)

Buffels Bay plays home to the Goukamma Nature Reserve, a marine protected area (MPA) that can be considered as relatively young. It was declared an MPA in 1990 in part due to a treasure lying offshore. Few realise that the waves conceal a fossilised submerged dune that is now an avid fish nursery.
In 2017 a fire ravished the area, burning through large portions of the dune fynbos and trails, which has seen it closed for a couple of years. Nonetheless, the reserve plays an important role in both fauna and flora conservation. You may find both delicate Gladiolus vaginatus and Calystegia soldanella if you keep your eyes peeled.
Take note that the flora will differ depending on which route you opt to explore. If you plan ahead of time, you can observe both coastal and freshwater habitats simultaneously.
Ferraria crispa bulb flower beach flora
Ferraria crispa in bloom above Diaz beach.

Diaz Beach (Cape Point Nature Reserve)

One of the windiest and most iconic beaches on the Cape Peninsula is Diaz Beach. So-named after the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Diaz who sailed around the Cape in 1487.
You descend a cliff to reach the sandy strip at the bottom, but the true gems are hidden next to the unassuming boardwalk along the way. Here you can find flowering Ferraria crispa, Drosanthemum candens and Aloe arborescens.
This is the perfect place to slow down and look closer. The best and brightest that the reserve has to offer is on ground level, so do not miss out!
Some additional species to look out for:

Blaauwberg Nature Reserve

Vast swathes of the Atlantic seaboard may have been converted to housing establishments, but this was not always the case. A mere 20 years ago, you would have to traverse a gravel road and skirt a dune to get a glimpse of the rippling waves. Blaauwberg Nature Reserve is a small reserve that holds on to the indigenous strandveld, giving us a glimpse of the past.
The backdunes hide treasures like Sea lavender (Limonium peregrine), Cape Moonseed vine (Cissampelos capensis) as well as the Duiker-root (Grielum grandiflora) with its alien-like seedpods.
The reserve is home to more than 500 plant species as well as 30 reptile species, so tread carefully in summer months. For an updated plant list, visit The Friends of Blaauwberg Conservation Area.
Other striking species to look out for:
  • Babiana tubiflora
  • Cynanchum africanum
Aloe flower
The Kranz Aloe derives its name from where it grows along cliff faces. The high moisture content along the coast allows it to survive with a minimum of soil.

BEST TIME to Visit

If you are keen to get some nice macro shots of vibrant bulbs, then spring or summer (October-February) is the time to aim for. Winter is by no means bare, as Lachenalia will still keep you company in July.
When: Spring and Summer
Nearest airport: Cape Town International (Blaawberg & Diaz Beach) and George (Buffels Bay).
Important info: Nature reserves such as Goukamma can suffer fires, which would result in the temporary closure of trails. Visit the respective sites for more info.
Weather: Goukamma is in a transition zone, which makes weather patterns unpredictable. The reserve also has minimal water points so carry enough water on long hikes. Cape Point can be extremely windy, so it is best to keep an eye on forecasts.
Travel times: From Cape Town City centre Diaz Beach takes 3h round trip, Blaauwberg Nature reserve approximately 1h round trip and Goukamma Nature Reserve 5h one-way or 45 min from George airport.
Diaz beach

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