This blog comes from Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities at the south-western tip of the African continent.
In March 2015 the Peninsula burnt. The biggest veld fire since 2000 raged across Table Mountain National Park. People lost homes and businesses. Bees Marais, one of the country’s top helicopter rescue pilots, tragically lost his life in the line of duty while fighting fire at Cape Point. The blaze and the acrid smoke cloyed the air all over Cape Town, turning the sky scarlet and orange as the sun went down each day.
I dedicate this post to my Mother. After several years of breast cancer she sadly passed away in February. The following month was spent at my family home in England sorting out all to be done. As spring arrived in our rural corner of the Westcountry’s Dorset I begun the long journey southwards to Cape Town once more. While sitting in Doha airport in the dark and early hours of the morning, a plan was hatched. We were going to Swaziland for Easter.
“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.
The City of Cape Town is one of South Africa’s largest urban areas. It is also one of the country’s greatest conservation challenges. The Cape Peninsula, at the south-western tip of the African continent, on which Cape Town has been built happens to be one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The Peninsula is home to a total of 2285 plant species, of which 7% are endemic and therefore occur nowhere else on earth.
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.
The Kirstenbosch Plant Fair is a long held tradition and this year heralds the 40th one held since its relatively humble beginnings. Dirk Muller, Chairman of the Kirstenbosch Branch of BotSoc, recalls attending the first plant fair in 1975 which saw eager members queuing up at 6:30am in the morning prior to the opening and by 11am every plant on sale had marched out the door in the hands of inspired and enthused growers.
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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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.