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Trees, flowers & plants

© Jennifer Stern© Jennifer SternIf you are botanically inclined, you will love southern Africa. It covers a vast area encompassing many different biomes and displaying a staggering biodiversity. In fact, a small part of South Africa near Cape Town encompasses the world’s smallest and most diverse plant kingdom and has been declared a world heritage site. Situated in the far southwest of the African continent and influenced by swirling cyclonic weather systems travelling up from the low latitudes, the area around Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, windy summers and cool, moist winters, creating a unique floral assemblage. The Cape Floral Region (CFR) covers only 0.2% of the earth’s surface, and is home to 3.6% of the world’s plant species, nearly 70% of which are endemic, ie that occur naturally nowhere else in the world. Of the 9,000 plant species over 1,400 are threatened, and 112 threatened animal species occur in the region. Many of the plants that occur here go to make up the biome known as fynbos, which consists of mostly low-growing aromatic flowering shrubs.

In spring (usually August), the arid areas north of Cape Town are gloriously colourful as thousands of desert and semi-desert plant species enjoy a brief but spectacular flowering season.

But fabulous as the CFR is there is so much more to southern Africa than fynbos and flowers. Most of the sub-continent is situated on a high-lying plateau, between two very different oceans. The Indian Ocean, on the east, is warmed by the Mozambique or Agulhas Current which flows down from the tropics, while the Atlantic, on the west coast, is cooled by the icy Benguela Current which comes up from the Antarctic. These two different oceans, the prevailing wind and the topography of southern Africa combine to create lush forests and subtropical savannah on the east coast, where most of the rain falls, gradually changing to desert or semi-desert on the west coast.

Other floral attractions include wonderful sub-tropical coastal forests, semi-deserts with a phenomenal array of flowering succulents, savannah grasslands with majestic trees, including the iconic baobab, extensive wetlands and some spectacular Afro-montane forests and grasslands. Each of these biomes has its own special attractions, and observant visitors to the reserves and national parks will notice the incredible variety of wonderful plants and trees as well as the animals.

Although there are a few specialised plant tours – most notably in the areas north of Cape Town in spring - the best way of seeing plants is to visit a botanical garden or just pay attention to them as you do other activities. On most game drives, guided walks or hikes and other trails, your guide will point out interesting plants, often describing their traditional uses and medicinal properties. If you really like trees, you should definitely do a tree-top canopy tour.

Sun Mountain Farm

Contact us for accommodation, hikes and camping on a pristine mountain of fynbos. Or make an enquiry.

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