The Garden Route Was Brimming With Wildflowers In South Africa
Our drive from Port Elizabeth to Mossel Bay in South Africa followed the Garden Route. Bob and I were looking forward to seeing that region because the landscape is painted in a wide range of wildflowers.
After spending a couple of hours beachcombing in Port Elizabeth that morning, we were ready to get underway. Unfortunately, we lost some time after discovering that our car had a flat tire. Thankfully, Bob was able to change the tire himself.
After leaving Port Elizabeth, our route took us across the plateau bordered by the Tsitsikamma Mountain Range.
Fynbos biome covers a narrow belt of land between the Tsitsikamma Mountains and the coast of both the Western and Eastern Cape regions of South Africa. Above is a type of Yellow Fynbos shrub that grows vigorously and freely along the Garden Route.
It is the proliferation of wildflowers and unique vegetation called the Fynbos Biome that has the landscape looking like a garden. It was appropriately named the Garden Route.
As the landscape changed, we soon started to see exotic vegetation sandwiched between the forested slopes and alpine grasslands and the coast of the Indian Ocean.
The vibrant colour of Crocosmia flowers really stood out against the surrounding greenery. Crocosmia is a flowering plant in the Iris family. Several varieties of Crocosmia are native to southern and eastern Africa.
Fynbos are fine-leaved plants that occupy the coastal belt. Fynbos form part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of 6 Floral Kingdoms in the world.
The Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest yet richest of the world floral kingdoms with over 6,000 species of endemic plants. Watsonia Pillansi or Pillan’s Watsonia is one species of Fynbos vegetation.
Still dogged by inclement weather, we found water droplets clinging to most plants that we photographed. Another Pillan’s Watsonia caught our eye, its tubular flowers held aloft above clumps of narrow leaves.
We traveled through South Africa in November, a little early for the masses of spring-blooming flowers. Still, the roadsides were abloom bringing a brightness to an otherwise dull day.
Calla Lilies grew freely in the ditches nestled among a spread of cheerful yellow flowers.
Calla Lilies prefer a moist habitat, and there below the Tsitsikamma Mountain Range, an ample supply of water gives moisture to the lowlands. Tsitsikamma actually means “place of much water”.
Various species of Protea are conspicuous across the Fynbos biome such as this yellow Protea Pincushion. About 92% of Protea species in Africa occur in the Cape Floral Kingdom where the diverse landscape has led to development of separate species because populations of the plant become separated and then diversify.
Protea belong to the oldest family of flowering plants on Earth dating as far back as 300 million years. Alternately called Sugarbushes, Proteas are Cape Fynbos known for their unusual flowers that are produced from large, plump buds.
Here, we see one of the buds almost ready to open into a flower.
It is the long protruding styles with their thickened tips that give a Pincushion Protea flower the familiar appearance of a pincushion.
The leathery leaves of Protea are capable of absorbing water from the atmosphere, a benefit during the dry summer months. The striking flowers are pollinated by birds, mammals and insects.
The Tsitsikamma Mountain Range was a constant presence as we motored along the Garden Route. We were duly impressed with the many gaping gullies carved into the landscape by turbulent rivers rushing toward the Indian Ocean.
Where there is fertile soil in the Fynbos Biome, agriculture is eating into the floral reserve. At Keurboomstrand, we broke free of the mountains and found a broad river valley dedicated to farming.
It is in these areas where the verges act as miniature fynbos reserves because the rare plants are separated from the cultivated land by fencing.
The natural shrubland or heathland vegetation of the fynbos biome includes plants such as this Water Heath.
At Keurboomstrand, Bob and I rounded a corner to this spectacular view of the Keurbooms River. We finally had reached the boundary of the Western Cape and at long last, we broke free of the rainy weather.
Bob and I were intrigued by the growth habit of some fynbos such as these Sour Figs. They are a type of creeping succulent. One plant can grow to cover an area 65 feet in diameter.
The fruit of Sour Fig plants can be eaten fresh or cooked into a tart jam.
Another type of fynbos to catch our eye was the Silver Protea. This species of Sugarbush will grow into a large evergreen tree.
A softly textured shrub endemic to the Western Cape is Berzelia Abrotanoides, and swaths of it grew along the road.
The distinctive leaves of this Cape Fynbos are crowded densely on slender stems.
Berzelia abrotanoides also goes by the name Redlegs because of the swollen red stem that supports the clusters of fluffy flowerheads.
As we left the Tsitsikamma Mountains behind, the peaks of the distant Outeniqua Mountains rose before us on the horizon. Before we knew it, we had arrived at our accommodation in Mossel Bay. It was with great pleasure that we took up residence there for a couple of days.
It was so relaxing to walk up the beach and then enjoy an ocean view while having dinner at a local cafe.
As we toasted ourselves on another great day in South Africa, a blazing sunset lit the sky for our pleasure.