Once upon a time (some 12 years ago) wandering along the path between Lewis Gay and Kleinplaas Dams above Simon’s Town, I came upon my first sighting of the Atlantic. I sat down on the side of the path to survey yonder hills and dale when I was accosted by a beautiful petit flower gently touching my arm. For a moment I was speechless. In the stillness that followed, I could swear this young lady was flirting with me. And so began my love of the beauty that is fynbos.
Since that day when time and weather has allowed, I have traversed the mountains from Simon’s Town to Muizenberg waiting for the next flower to call “Me, Me, Please take a picture of me”!!!
A special calling and, pictures and places I will look back on, way after nature has called time on my ability to wander amongst the wonder of fynbos and the beauty that surrounds us.
As the cameras on the cellphones improved, so did the quality of the end result. Add to that dealing with the wind while trying to take a picture of a swaying flower. Leave too early before the wind starts and the flowers haven’t opened. Nobody said it would be easy!!!
What follows are 10 slideshows. In all about an hour’s pictures (you will have to add the music – YouTube wouldn’t approve my choices). Best viewed on big screen TV or full screen on computer.
Endeavours to name the flowers turned out not to be as easy as anticipated as many can be wrongly identified.
There is no copyright on these pictures or slide shows. Feel free to spread far and wide.
Many garden plants originate from fynbos.
Fynbos is fire-adapted vegetation and evidence suggests that, in the absence of regular fires, all but the drier fynbos types would become dominated by trees. Fynbos can thus be viewed as a fire-dependent vegetation type, along with grasslands and savannas. The infertility of fynbos soils means that the recycling of soil nutrients is essential for fynbos survival.
Fynbos plants exhibit several adaptations to enhance the uptake of minerals from the soil. The most common, found in plants thought the world, relies on a symbiotic relationship with a soil fungus known as a mycorrhiza. Members of the Protea family have developed an unusual form of root growth as an adaptation to nutrient-poor soils and periodic drought. Tufts of hundreds of fine rootlets, resembling cotton, sprout from the surface roots of the plants after the first rains of the season, rapidly absorbing surface moisture and minerals released by the decomposition of leaf litter. *
Swedish naturalist Andrew Sparrman, who visited the Cape in the latter half of the 18th century, was among the first to experience the botanical wonders of fynbos. His journal entry for April 1772 records his excitement: “At first almost every day was a rich harvest of the rarest and most beautiful plants; … at every step we made one or more new discoveries” – and this was written in autumn, when relatively few species are in flower.*
Many fynbos shrubs are rich in bitter tannins or aromatic oils, which may serve to deter predators. Flowering in fynbos is concentrated in spring, when some 60 percent of the species are in bloom, but at least a fifth of fynbos species can be found in flower in any month of the year.
The flowers of many fynbos plants are unusual in appearance, sometimes strikingly beautiful. This is the result of the wide variety of strategies that they have evolved for attracting pollinators, probably a result of the relative shortage of insects in the Cape, both in variety and number of individuals.*
*From John Manning’s Field Guide to Fynbos