The genus Protea is one of the most well-known and charismatic of the Cape Floristic Region’s (CFR) Fynbos Biome. The King Protea (Protea cynaroides) is South Africa’s national flower. Proteas are exported as cut flowers all over the world, prized for their beauty, diversity and longevity. They are often depicted in artwork and are popular garden plants. Members of the genus are also known as sugarbushes.
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.
“I’m chilling in the tent…..in both senses”. Camping on Namaqualand’s Bokkeveld Plateau in August is not for the faint hearted or those lacking in strong constitution as we were soon to discover! At that time of year it is COLD! Snow on the nearby Hantamsberg is not uncommon in winter and spring and known locally as ‘kapok’ meaning cotton in Afrikaans.
Renosterveld is also part of South Africa’s Fynbos Biome and the CFR. However, it is notably different from Fynbos vegetation in several ways. Firstly in contrast to fynbos it occurs on relatively fertile soils, predominantly derived from shales although can also occur on silcretes and other lithologies. Members of the three dominant plant families in fynbos: the Restionaceae, Proteaceae and Ericaceae are mainly absent and instead renosterveld is dominated by shrubs predominantly from the Asteraceae family as well as various C3 grasses and C4 grasses.
One tends to take the functionality of the human body for granted. Life goes on, one day to the next until suddenly something changes, pulling you up short and forcing you to re-evaluate. One fateful day in August 2012 I was knocked down by a car, thanks to the strange Capetonian paradox of a traffic light that was green for cars and pedestrians at the same time. Suddenly for nearly two months I was to be a parcel, only able to go where I was taken. For the next six months climbing mountains was forbidden.