One of the leading SA tourist attractions is the Garden Route, for good reason. The area lies on the border of both summer and winter rainfall regions, which translates to a degree of rain year-round. The milder temperatures and higher rainfall have allowed Afromontane forests to develop in the rich soil.
To observe the interaction between indigenous fynbos and forest ecosystems one has to travel to one of the nature reserves that hug the mountains and coastline. The area also encompasses sand, granite and shale fynbos that transforms the landscape into a colourful display. So let's have a look at some of this region's attractive flora.
The region marks the border of the Cape fynbos as it transitions into Afromontane forests.
Knysna is well known for its logging history, goldmines, endangered Cape seahorse (the world's rarest) and its last remaining elephant, but it offers far more in terms of flora. The area is home to the endangered Knysna sand fynbos that includes the green protea (Protea coronata), red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria), Erica hispidula (hispidula referring to its 'somewhat hairy' appearance) and diaphanous heath ( Erica diaphana).
The Afromontane forests that borders the fynbos contain slow-growing indigenous trees, the most renowned being the yellowwood (both Outeniqua
). The latter has both female and male forms of which the female cones are pollinated by 1-year-old cones. The edible fruit forms the staple for the endangered Cape parrot among other frugivorous birds.
Did you know | A yellowwood tree grows at roughly 0.23 cm/year (stem diameter), therefore a tree with a 1 m diameter is 400 years old.
The region is home to some interesting bulb plants that provide a colorful display even after seeding.
Lying between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, Harkerville is known for its series of hiking trails that lead you to the cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean. It is also the final 24 km extension to the Outeniqua hiking trail (108 km), a mountainous route that is the strenuous cousin to the Tsitsikamma trail. The coastal trail is home to the Harkerville porcelain flower (Acmadenia alternifolia), African honeysuckle (Halleria lucida) and mountain reedpipe (Tritiniopsis caffra).
Fungi are far more prolific in Afromontane forests than fynbos so you could potentially come across cinnabar brackets (Trametes sanguinea), funnel woodcaps (Lentinus sajor-caju), turkey-tail (Trametes versicolor) or anemone stinkhorns (Aseroe rubra). The colourful array of fungi make for some very interesting photo's.
For a detailed list of fauna and flora from the Bitou region go here
Tip | Guides are available for various hiking trails as part of the SA Mountain Guides program. You can book accommodation and trekking through such vendors as Go Trekking or GoVertical.
Candelabra lilies bloom in their dozens during late summer.
Robberg, so named for the prolific Cape seal colonies that have called the small archipelago home, is a breathtaking nature reserve. The caves on the Indian Ocean side have undergone several archaeological digs since 1880, where carbon dating of remains placed the earliest inhabitants around the Middle Stone Age (125 000 years ago). A detailed plack depicts how the remains show the variation in fossil remains over the centuries.
For a view of the dig tap the post below:
This World Heritage Site is also home to a great selection of coastal strandveld flora. It boasts massive flowering succulents (Gasteria acinacifolia
) during the winter months in between the scrambling boulders. If you can brave the onslaught of tourists in late summer, you will be granted an even more fascinating display as the mountainside is transformed by bright red candelabra flowers. The flowering bulbs push out of the sandy ground by the dozens to put on a spectacular display.
Gasteria in habitat:
During Spring flowering Erica shrubs up to 1.5m tall line the highway.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The area is slightly unpredictable when it comes to weather, which means multi-day hikes may see at least one day of rain. The best time for an activity is spring and autumn; however, this falls outside of the best times for floral displays. Late summer and early winter will show different flowering species.
Travel time: 5-6h one-way (from Cape Town)
Nearest Airport: Plettenberg Bay (Private charters), George (1h22 one-way)
Look out for: Protea coronata, candelabra lily (Brunsvigia orientalis), golden disa (Disa cornuta), green woodorchid (Bonatea speciosa).
- Rainfall can be unpredictable therefore it is advisable to always carry the appropriate gear.
- Private guides are available from various organisations.
- The area is vast and with increased tourist activity becomes harder to monitor.
- If you notice any disturbance in natural flora please report it to the nearest office or call the number provided at reception.
- If you are enthusiastic about conservation then visit the SANParks website
to apply for the Honorary ranger program.
A nice tip to remember is that proper identification of fungi require images of the gills, stems and surface.
Inskeep, R., & Vogel, J. (1985). Radiocarbon Dates from the Holocene Levels at Nelson Bay Cave, and an Interim Report on Their Associations. The South African Archaeological Bulletin, 40(142), 103-105.