This blog comes from Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities at the south-western tip of the African continent.

Moraea aristata: A new home on Rondebosch Common

Moraea aristata: A new home on Rondebosch Common

There are many stories of species only just holding on against extinction. One that stands out is that of Moraea aristata. This enigmatic Irid has long been admired. First described in the mid-18th Century by colonial botanical explorers, it quickly found its way into European collections, many of which still persist today. Historical records indicate this Peacock Moraea has always been a narrow endemic. Its natural distribution is the flats adjacent to Table Mountain, between present day Cape Town CBD and Rondebosch.

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Critically Endangered Biodiversity at Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area threatened by development

Critically Endangered Biodiversity at Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area threatened by development

Another precious fragment of our Critically Endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos is under threat. Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area lies at the heart of Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs and is the jewel in the crown and most intact fragment of this unique vegetation that is only found within the Greater Cape Town area. This site is of local, national and international biodiversity importance.

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The Disa and the Steam Engine

The Disa and the Steam Engine

I grew up a winter baby, born in February in the northern hemisphere. Childhood birthdays were days for hot chocolate, tobogganing in the snow and soggy visits to the zoo watched by various bemused creatures hiding from the horizontal Westcountry rain. Six years ago I moved to Cape Town and suddenly the seasons were ‘back to front’ and my birthday moved to mid-summer and the hottest time of the year. It also now coincides with the flowering of one of the Cape Floristic Region’s most spectacular orchids – The Pride of Table Mountain or Red Disa (Disa uniflora).

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The one and lonely: Bringing Serruria furcellata back from the brink of extinction on the Cape Flats

The one and lonely: Bringing Serruria furcellata back from the brink of extinction on the Cape Flats

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the last in the world of your kind? There are many species who have experienced this fate in the hands of people. The most famous of these is Lonesome George, a giant tortoise of the Pinta subspecies from the Galapagos Islands. Despite the best efforts of conservationists, when Lonesome George died in 2012 at the age of approximately 102, the Pinta Island subspecies of giant tortoise died with him. I was lucky enough to meet Lonesome George at his last home at the Charles Darwin Research Centre during a stint of volunteering in the Galapagos Islands during my teens, and it is a memory that has stayed with me.

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Tokai: The Outdoor Classroom

Tokai: The Outdoor Classroom

This week at Notes from a Cape Town Botanist, we have a guest post from Environmental Educator Wendy Hitchcock about some of her wonderful work at Lower Tokai Park. Today she writes about exploring this wonderful area with grade four learners from Oakley House, a school catering for children with special needs. The first aim of the outing was to develop map-reading skills and looking for landscape features to orientate themselves in the Park. The second was to introduce them to the idea of biodiversity and what it means.

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Cape Town is situated on the rugged and mountainous Cape Peninsula, stretching from the iconic profile of Lions Head, Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak in the north to the Cape of Good Hope in the far south. Table Mountain was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the natural world.

What makes the Cape Peninsula so special?

 The Cape is characterised by a type of vegetation known as fynbos, a Mediterranean climate shrubland that is both fire prone and fire dependent. Fynbos is renowned for its phenomenal plant diversity with a total of more than 9,000 species of vascular plants in an area less than the size of Portugal. The Cape Peninsula has 2,285 plant species and Table Mountain alone has almost 1,500 species in just 57 square kilometres.

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Taking Action

There are many environmental organisations based in Cape Town and beyond that require the services of volunteers to undertake their work. So if you have a little time to spare please get involved.

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