Spring truly arrived this week in our part of KwaZulu-Natal with a full day of gentle rains, softening the hard soil after a long dry winter. Fresh leaves are unfurling on deciduous trees and flowers are in bud or already blossoming.
However, the most famous spring flowers in South Africa are in the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape. This year the region had a bumper flower season and although – because of the Covid-19 pandemic – international tourists were not able to be here to see it, lockdown restrictions were eased just in time to enable local people to self-drive to enjoy the spectacle of colourful spring flowers carpeting the landscape.
After seemingly peaking during July, Covid-19 infections and associated hospitalisations continue to drop steadily across the country, even though lockdown regulations were relaxed to ‘level 2’ in mid-August. This week our president announced a further relaxation of lockdown regulations – moving to ‘level 1’ from 21 September – with the easing including moderating further existing restrictions on travel. International travel to and from South Africa, although under constraints, will recommence from 1 October.
So it seems appropriate enough to share spring flower photographs taken on a day trip we did while on holiday in Cape Town (a few years back) to the West Coast National Park, as a celebration of spring and as an acknowledgement that tourism may cautiously start emerging within the context of the ‘new normal’ with various health protocols in place.
On our daytrip from Cape Town to the West Coast National Park, we stopped off at Bloubergstrand, with its famous view across Table Bay to Cape Town, to photograph Table Mountain catching the first light of the rising sun
Our holiday to Cape Town took place in August (2007) and coincided with flower season in the Postberg section of the West Coast National Park, renowned for the spring flowers that brighten the strandveld (coastal vegetation) with a vast array of colourful blooms.
The West Coast National Park is about 120 km (75 miles) north of Cape Town and lies along the Atlantic coastline from just north of Yzerfontein in the south extending up to and surrounding the saltwater Langebaan Lagoon in the north and including an adjacent inland area. The Postberg region of the park lies on the strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Langebaan lagoon. (For maps see here).
The two main vegetation types in the Postberg Nature Reserve – Saldanha Limestone Strandveld and Saldanha Granite Strandveld – are endemic to the Saldanha Bay region, which includes the West Coast National Park. Both vegetation types feature many threatened species and because a high percentage of the relatively small original extent of these vegetation types has already been lost to agriculture and development, what remains is critical for biodiversity.
Spring flowers in August in the Postberg section of the West Coast National Park. Postberg is open to the public only during the flower season, in August and September each year
A view to the distance granite rock spires known as the Vingerklippe (finger rocks) that can be approached by following one of Postberg’s walking trails
Nature’s garden – the splashes of mauve are from one of the many succulent vygies, possibly Lampranthus amoenus. The orange daisies are likely to be the Namaqualand marigold, Arctotis hirsuta
I have written in a previous post about the exceptional diversity and richness of the Cape Floral Kingdom in the extreme southern and western regions of South Africa. Although it is limited to only 6% of the country it contains 8 700 species, many of them extremely localised endemics.
Strandveld vegetation is considered to be a subtype of the fynbos biome. It is coastal vegetation that is limited to the Cape Floral Kingdom region and includes shrubby and succulent perennials. Annuals occur in disturbed ground. Postberg was formerly farmland, and perhaps the disturbance resulting from former livestock farming partly accounts for the high number of annuals that flower in the spring.
This is another member of the vygie (Aizoaceae) family of succulent plants: Livingstone daisies (Cleretum bellidiforme) also known as Bokbaai vygies. This plant with pale-centred flowers is one of the many colour variants of the Bokbaai vygie
I think this is one of the many other colour variants of the Bokbaai vygies
A close-up of these day-glo flowers
One of the low-growing babiana species (possibly Babiana ambigua) on the left above, and the white rain daisy (Dimorphotheca pluvialis), which flowers in great profusion at Postberg
Oxalis in several colours occur in the region. This salmon-coloured flower is Oxalis obtuse, also known as yellow-eyed sorrel
The lovely blue of the wild or blue flax (Heliophila coronopifolia), also known as sporrie, adds another dimension to the mix of blooms. It is one of the 71 species of Heliophilia growing in the Namaqualand and south-western Cape regions
A view across the flowers to the Atlantic Ocean forming the distant horizon
The waves from the Atlantic roll into Plankiesbaai in the north-west corner of the Platberg nature reserve
Granite boulders are characteristic of this part of the west coast
From a viewpoint in Platberg, the turquoise waters of Langebaan lagoon can be seen below
Flamingos resting or searching for food while wading in the shallow waters of Langebaan Lagoon.
Langebaan Lagoon is of great ecological significance, not least for water birds, and it is on the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International importance. Despite this status, the lagoon is under considerable pressure from human activities and industries in the Saldanha Bay region
Part of the marshland at the southern end of Langebaan Lagoon with the Geelbek visitor centre and restaurant in the background. The Cape Dutch-style buildings date back to 1744
Marshland at the southern end of Langebaan Lagoon
Athough almost microscopic in comparison, of course we do have springtime to celebrate in our garden, which I have posted about before, see for example One fine spring day thirty minute photo shoot and Spring is bursting, but it has been nice to expand horizons and revisit springtime on the west coast.
Black sparrowhawk update: Since last week’s post I have seen the female black sparrowhawk once in her favourite perching tree, once in the nesting tree and I have also heard her calling from the plantation. But we have also seen an African harrier-hawk fly into the nesting tree on two separate occasions, but we have not seen any activity at the nest – not that we have made the time to watch the nest for extensive periods. So at least one of the black sparrowhawks is still around, but whether the youngster is still in the nest I don’t know. Also during this week, the Egyptian geese have disappeared from the neighbourhood despite being so noisily active and present in the preceding few weeks.
Sources: Chapman Poulsen, Zoë. 2020. Spring Flower Watch: West Coast National Park. https://botsocblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/02/spring-flower-watch-west-coast-national-park/; Sanparks. [n.d.] West Coast National Park: Park History. https://www.sanparks.org/parks/west_coast/about/park_history.php. ; Van der Walt, Liesl. 2000. Heliophila coronopifolia. South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). http://pza.sanbi.org/heliophila-coronopifolia
Posted by Carol