Climbing the iconic Table Mountain is not for the faint-hearted. More people die on Table Mountain than Mount Everest. Rocky cliffs, steep drops, puff adders, searing heat when the sun rises, yet there are many experienced guides to lead you safely up its 1088 metres. Formed over hundreds of millions of years, the Table Mountain National Park is the richest single floristic area on the planet.
1500 plant species are found on the mountain itself, including fynbos (Afrikaans meaning “fine bush”), scrubby vegetation consisting of proteas, restios, ericas and geophytes. South African flora features in so many of our gardens, perhaps unknowingly; geraniums and freesias, for instance, have their origins in fynbos.
On the eastern slopes of the Mountain lies one of Africa’s loveliest gardens, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, and from here one can reach the summit of the Mountain up a ravine called Skeleton Gorge.
But before you do that, you will need several hours to visit this very beautiful garden, established to conserve and promote South Africa’s diverse indigenous flora. Of course we all expect displays of proteas – King proteas are SA’s national flower and feature on their cricket jerseys.
There are plenty of Strelitzias :
and Agapanthus :
But there are vast areas to be explored – I was fascinated by the display of traditional medicinal plants and their uses, for example, Melianthus major (a staple foliage plant for garden designers) is a traditional cure for snakebites and swelling, though poisonous in itself.
There is a wonderful Tree Fern Dell, their unfurling branches casting welcome shade :
Cycads, those wonderful structural plants dating from the Jurassic Age, have an amphitheatre of their own, the finest collection I have seen, some now extinct in the wild. Very sadly, last month 24 cycads were stolen from Kirstenbosch, including 22 critically endangered Encephalartos latifrons. I don’t think anyone who steals from the very organisation dedicated to their survival, can call themselves a plant lover. It highlights again the need to know the provenance of what we buy.
Recently a new aerial Walkway was constructed in the Arboretum, which swirls and snakes through the tree canopy, adding an interesting new perspective.
Kirstenbosch is more than just a beautiful garden; it is part of a Nature reserve, protecting the natural beauty of the mountainside, the forest, the flora, fauna and birdlife.
The natural setting of this beautiful Botanical Garden is second to none.
Useful sites :
Moving on :
On Friday I move further north to the Lake of Stars Festival on Lake Malawi, though there will be one or two more posts on South African gardens in due course. I may however be without internet for a week or two, so apologies for late responses to you.
Best wishes, Lorna.