What makes South Africans so botanically privileged is that the Cape Floral Kingdom is the world’s richest natural garden.
Usually referred to as fynbos, the Cape Floral Kingdom is a tiny, crescent-shaped floristic region, stretching from Vanrhynsdorp in the north, taking in the Cape Peninsula, to as far as east as Grahamstown.
Nowhere else on earth is there such a profusion of endemism (meaning plants living in only one particular location or habitat) concentration of species per sq metre.
In places, this extraordinary crescent of life is just more than 40-km wide, and nowhere is it more than 200-km from the sea.
Crammed into this area, which comprises just 0.04% of the world’s land surface – are an astonishing 8 578-plus species, of which just under 70% are endemic, as are 20% of its 995 plant genera as well as six plant families.
This kingdom – as the smallest, and proportionate to size, by far the richest – is a true jewel of Nature.
Did you know that another of six plant kingdoms is the Boreal Kingdom, which covers the whole of the northern hemisphere?
The reason why the northern hemisphere has so few plant species is that the ice age, which ended about 100,0000 years ago, effectively wiped out its entire plant life.
In contrast, Southern Africa wasn’t disturbed by such glacial forces, and some plant species in the fynbos vegetation type date back more than 60 million years.
This ancient lineage helps account for its incredible diversity and abundance, where fynbos has on average 1,300 plants – more than three times the equivalent (400 species) of the Brazilian rain forest.
And if you travel north to the little inland town of Nieuwoudtville, you can explore the Hantam Botanical Garden.
This whole area falls into a much larger biome called the Succulent Karoo stretching all the way to southern Namibia.
The garden was once a sheep farm called Glenlyon which was owned by visionary nature lover Neil MacGregor. When Neil retired and his children didn’t want to take over the farm, the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust – through WWF – helped to secure this land to form the first wildflower national botanical garden in South Africa.
There are nine trails laid out here for visitors who can see the flowers close-up for themselves.
Six Good Reasons to go Flower Hunting.
Winess Mother Nature unfurling her spring bounty after reviving winter rains.
Acknowledgement: Mountains In The Sea – SA National Parks, and Andrea Weiss – WWF