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South Africa - Western Cape (1)


By AndrewR


Back in September, I flew off to South Africa for a holiday, my fourth visit to the country. With so many different soil types, variations in the terrain, and multiple micro-climates, there are more endemic plants here than in any other country in the world; even Table Mountain has more different plants growing on it than the whole of the British Isles! We had two days in Cape Town before heading up the west coast, an area I had not visited before.

After an overnight flight, we had a gentle introduction with a visit to the Company’s Garden, directly opposite our hotel. Initially an area growing fruit and vegetables to feed the first Dutch settlers, ornamental plants began to be introduced. At first these included roses, oak and pine tress brought from Europe, but later native plants were grown here, and these are mainly what you can see today.

After catching up on sleep, we were due to go up Table Mountain on our second day. The day dawned sunny and clear, the conditions were perfect. Our local guide, who had lived in Cape Town for 15 years, said he had never seen such good weather for a trip, and a couple of Americans we met later had waited two weeks for a break in the weather.

You go up in a cable car which slowly revolves, so everyone gets a view of the mountain and the city below.

The top of Table Mountain. The bush is leucadendron tinctum, a protea relative.

Plants here are typified by their small leaves, an adaption to the cold winters, hot dry summers, and acid soils which are poor in nutrients. These types of plants are known as fynbos (meaning fine leaves). Here is another, adenandra villosa.

We then headed for Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Founded in 1913 to preserve the country’s unique flora, it was the first botanical garden in the world with this ethos.

This is a leucospermum, another protea relative. To the left are the tall dark flowers of melianthus major.

Among the thousands of plants growing in the gardens are this spiky aloe and colourful lampranthus.

Another important family of plants is the cycads. These plants existed in the time of the dinosaurs (hence the models among the plants), but the greatest risk to their survival now is ground being taken for agriculture.

There were also plenty of birds in the garden. This female owl seemed quite tame, and was sitting on her nest behind a rock; the male sat in a tree overhead, keeping an eye on things.

Finally for now, the King Protea, protea cynaroides, the national flower of South Africa.

To be continued….

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wow, what a wonderful blog. I really wish I could get over my dislike/fear of flying. There are so many places I'd like to go to, to see the plants.
the photos are sharp and make this a joy to read. looking forward to the next one.

21 Jan, 2017


Fantastic, thank you! It is so interesting to see what at first looks like a well planned British garden and then on closer looking the plants are quite different! Looking forward to the sequel.

21 Jan, 2017


What a wonderful place to visit, and what weather indeed, great blog Andrew, looking forward to the second one...

21 Jan, 2017


yes a nice insight into some of the plants of S.A

21 Jan, 2017


OH would like to visit Victoria Falls, go over them on a steam train, but I said only if we could see Kirstenbosch Gardens in the South and do the Garden Route. Your blog has wetted my appitite, all those wonderful different species, in your excellent photos. However I didn't quite realise, how many misty days there might be, up Table Mountain. I await your next instalment from the West Coast with anticipation.

22 Jan, 2017


Sue - there's not actually that many misty days on Table Mountain, and a run of bad days is pretty unusual. There is a prevailing wind from the north that usually blows any fog off there quite quickly. But if the conditions are right, the top gets covered in cloud which gradually rolls down the sides of the mountain - the locals call it the tablecloth.

22 Jan, 2017


I think I saw the Protea plant (National Flower SA)
at Tresco Abbey Gardens. Will check my photographs.
Lovely blog. Thank you for sharing your adventure.

22 Jan, 2017


Diane - yes, they grow it there. There are some being grown in milder parts of the UK mainland now as well.

22 Jan, 2017


Absolutely stunning plants and scenery. Thanks for taking us there , looking forward to seeing some more of your holiday.
There is a Protea on Tresco Diane, in the gardens there. The one photographed here is so lovely.

22 Jan, 2017


Fascinating blog and lovely pics Andrew.

22 Jan, 2017


Gorgeous pictures, the gardens look so wonderfully lush.
Thank you for sharing, looking forward to the next instalment.

24 Jan, 2017


Great to see plants growing outside like that!

25 Jan, 2017


A fascinating blog I would love to see the Leucadendron and Protea growing in their native habitat. Both are exotic favourites in the floristry world... :o) I've just read part 2, so now I'm off to find part 3! ;o)

29 Jan, 2017

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