FYNBOS | A Virtual Travel Guide- Part 2
From the majestic Cape Winelands we move out to the coast via the R44 to explore the famous Kogelberg Biosphere. This area is one of the Western Cape’s best-kept secrets as the gateway rivers (Steenbras and Palmiet) had made the area inaccessible to early settlers (preserving its splendor for future generations). It is rich in Khoisan history and the home/resting place of one of South Africa’s first botanists (1).
We will be exploring the multitude of flora behind several reserves and highlighting both critically endangered and endemic species of the region.
Syncarpha vestita can form clusters that take on the appearance of snow white fields.
BRODIE LINK NATURE RESERVE/Hangklip
The reserve encompasses Hangklip Mountain and forms an ecological corridor for both fauna and flora (2). It has a rich history of early Khoisan habitation, evident by what remains of their shellfish harvests. The latter is still practiced by some Papio ursinus aka Chacma baboons, that is after the nutritious flesh. These primates also feast on the local Leucospermum including the iconic Grey Tree Pincushion.
If you manage to dodge the troop of baboons, you will be treated to several terrestrial orchids (summer), Gladiolus brevifolius, Mimetes hirtus, Leucospermum prostratum and a hilltop filled with Erica species. Endangered/Near threatened species to also look out for include the Early Blue Disa.
A Gladiolus in bloom.
KOGELBERG NATURE RESERVE/Betty’s Bay
Betty’s Bay, along with the rest of the Kogelberg Biosphere, played host to several enthusiastic botanists. The most renowned, Thomas Pearson Stokoe, identified/collected/named around 150 specimens over the course of his lifetime. You will note that several species contain his name e.g. Nivenia stokoei, Protea stokoei, Berzelia stokoei and Mimetes stokoei. The latter was listed as extinct in 1959, however 5 plants were found and the species is currently listed as critically endangered.
You will find these along with several endemic species within and around the reserve. Do not miss the hundreds of Prince of Wales Heath that bloom yearly in Betty’s bay itself and be sure to visit Disa kloof in summer to spot some Disa uniflora.
A Nivenia in seed in Kogelberg Nature Reserve.
FERNKLOOF NATURE RESERVE/Hermanus
The reserve is situated between two hills and has played host to the Hermanus Botanical Society (HBS) for several decades. If you have been lucky enough to climb the mountain in late spring and summer, you would have noticed fields of Syncarpha vestita.
A sight that is shared with Hangklip and equally impressive. No less so than the Edmondia sp. lining the hiking trails or the various carnivorous plants growing in it. In addition to its natural splendor, the HBS has cultivated a small garden that includes a Mimetes hottentoticus at the entrance. This species is normally confined to 5km2 of a hilltop; therefore if you can snap a picture of it in bloom count yourself lucky.
Mimetes hottentoticus in flower.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
If you love orchids and would like to see some Mimetes in bloom then aim for December to February. The flora in bloom changes drastically from season to season so I would encourage locals to make a trip out at least once during each season.
Travel time: 3h00 round trip from Cape Town (subject to traffic)
Look out for: Marsh rose (Orothamnus zeyherii), Mimetes hottentoticus, Erica (Prince of Wales), Disa uniflora and so much more.
Important info: The flora differs between Hangklip, Kogelberg Nature Reserve and Hermanus (Fernkloof). A good way to observe the area is by doing the Highlands Hiking Trail which traverses these mountains (not to be confused with its namesake in the Drakensberg). The Botanical Society currently offers talks on a regular basis at Harold Porter Botanical Garden which take place on weekends and are open to the public free of charge (you are welcome to donate at the occasion).
For more information you can contact the respective reserves. If you find yourself in the region let us know!
Brodie Link Nature Reserve observed from Hangklip Mountain.
(1) Slingsby, P., & Johns, A. (2009). T.P. Stokoe, the man, the myths, the flowers. Cape Town: Baardskeerder.
(2) Allan Heydorn (2015). The Hangklip eco corridor-The untold story. Retrieved from: http://kogelberg-botsoc.co.za/Blog/index.php/2015/09/04/the-hangklip-eco-corridor-the-untold-story/