|Stunning spring flower displays at the small Namaqualand town of |
Nieuwoudtville in August
This mountain plateau is a highly popular destination for those making the annual pilgrimage to see the Namaqualand spring flower displays and rightly so.... The Fynbos, Mountain Renosterveld and Mountain Karoo vegetation here supports a total of 1350 plant species, more than the entire flora of the UK. An incredible 80 of these plant species are endemic to the Bokkeveld Escarpment, therefore occurring nowhere else in the world. These endemics constitute a total of 6% of the Bokkeveld's flora.
One of the highlights of any visit to Nieuwoudtville and its surrounding area is the Nieuwoudtville Falls. Here the Doring River plunges 100m off the Escarpment into the pools below, often with rainbows forming in the rising spray. It is a spectacular sight and one of my favourite places in Namaqualand.
Nieuwoudtville is also home to the newest of South Africa's nine National Botanic Gardens: the Hantam NBG. This amazing place was formerly the farm Glenlyon, owned by the McGregor family. In 2007 it was sold to SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) with assistance from the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International and the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust. The veld here is recognised to be of international conservation importance and was used in the filming of Sir David Attenborough's classic BBC series the 'Private Life of Plants' in 1991.
We spent almost two days exploring Hantam and its maze of walking trails: there is much to see. August is the peak flowering season for the majority of the extraordinary diversity of geophytes that occur in this landscape. The area behind the main farmstead is gently undulating and dotted with dolerite koppies. There were flowering bulbs are far as the eye could see, from the tiny purple triangular marked flowers of Lapeirousia oreogena to the tall monkey beetle covered orange spikes of Bulbinella latifolia subsp. doleritica. Both of these are endemic to the Bokkeveld Escarpment. The latter is only known from seven populations due to habitat loss for agriculture and is listed as 'Vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List.
After taking in our fill of beautiful wildflowers, we meandered back to camp. There we were joined by friends doing fieldwork for pollination biology research. They were doing research on the somewhat pungent topic of orchids that attract pollinators using carrion odours. This involved various experiments involving digging up and burying roadkill in varying stages of decomposition. All in the name of science!
We headed out of town together to the edge of the Bokkeveld Escarpment for sundowners to catch the last of the evening sun. The view was stunning...few things beat the view of the sun setting over the Knersvlakte far below us with the Matsikamma Mountains far away in the distance. Then it was back for another chilly evening huddled around the camp fire, braaing our dinner and early to bed.
It was with great reluctance that we meandered southwards back home to Cape Town the next day. Instead of the speedy and more direct N7, we decided to take the road less travelled and meandered on the back roads south via the Botterkloof Pass southwards through the Cederberg Mountains. We eventually emerged a few hours later in the Cederberg dorp of Clanwilliam. Winter is peak citrus season here and so the car was inevitably stuffed with naartjies for the journey home. A perfect end to a great roadtrip.
|Bulbinella latifolia subsp. doleritica flowering in Hantam Botanic Gardens.|
|Hesperantha cucullata flowering at Hantam Botanic Gardens just outside|
Nieuwoudtville. Flowers of this bulb only open in the late afternoon.