Friday, 11 June 2010

Flora and fauna of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – a simple sample ..

A gift to the nation of South Africa from Cecil Rhodes in 1895 – a completely unspoilt area of flowering plants, shrubs and trees on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. What a treat – on this the damper side of the mountain - the property covering the eastern slopes from the bottom up to its highest point, Maclear’s Beacon.

These amazing slopes provide a range of habitat suited to a wide variety of plants. Kirstenbosch in 1913 was planned as a garden where the indigenous flora of Southern Africa would be collected, preserved, propagated and studied.

View roughly to the north from Kirstenbosch. The eastern faces of Table Mountain dominate the skyline. The rainfall on this side is much higher than on the other faces, hence the dense vegetation - see first picture

I can attest to this wonderful Garden, as when in Cape Town I have always visited and spent time enjoying the plants and herbal scents, the scenery of Table Mountain behind, with the views of Cape Town and its surrounds stretching out below – a magnificent setting.

Castle Rock, Cape Town from Kirstenbosch Gardens (with proteas in the foreground.

The wonderful collection made for the nation and as you can see the gardens are as beautiful today as they were 100 years ago. About 4,000 of the 18,000 species of plants of Southern Africa are cultivated in the garden, which covers 560 hectares. It is a garden for all seasons, but spring (September – November) is especially beautiful with its array of early flowers before the beating summer sun burns down.
Just a little more history – this wooded area (hence the bosch in the name) in 1660 was hedged off with wild almond and brambles to protect the perimeter of the Dutch colony, and was harvested for timber during the early days of Cape settlement. The ‘Kirsten’ part of the name is believed to be the surname of the manager of the land, JF Kirsten in the 1700s.

The fact it became a botanical garden was due to Henry Harold Pearson, a botanist from Cambridge University, who had been appointed in 1903 to the newly-created Chair of Botany at today’s University of Cape Town; he took a cart out from the sea-shore settlement to assess the area for its suitability – and thus it became the Kirstenbosch we know today.

LandsatImage over SRTM Elevation, showing the Cape Peninsula in the foreground.

Pearson in fact took on developing the gardens himself and lived there in difficult and reduced circumstances: the task confronting him was formidable .. the area was overgrown, populated by wild pigs, overrun with weeds and planted with orchards, left over from the early settlement. Money was tight and the budget was supplemented by the sale of firewood and acorns .. sounds like today?

He commenced work in the area of Kirstenbosch known as “The Dell”, planting cycads which are still there today. He died in 1916 from pneumonia and was buried in his beloved garden, and his epitaph is still there today and says: “If ye seek his monument, look around”.
Inflorescence of Protea Cynaroides (King Protea)

A befitting remembrance to a wonderful botanical garden, that has enthralled many visitors from around the world .. and no doubt might be garnering a few more enthusiastic supporters from the football tourists – do you think?

Or can I tempt you to enjoy a hike along one of the trails up and around Table Mountain - some of these lead of f the gardens, including Smuts’ Track, after the Prime Minister Jan Smuts who used this route regularly. On the slopes above the cultivated parts of the garden a contour path leads through forests to the south, or to the north taking the hiker past Rhodes Memorial and on to the slopes of Devil’s Peak and beyond. (see right)
Grevillea, rosmarinifolia

Fynbos, “fine bush” in Afrikaans, is the natural shrubland or heathland vegetation occurring in the small belt of the Western Cape of South Africa, mainly in the winter rainfall coastal and mountainous areas with a Mediterranean climate, which includes Table Mountain, and forms part of the enormously valuable Cape Floral Kingdom.

It is an incredibly rich area, of which over two thirds of the 9,000 fynbos species are endemic – this level of variety is comparable with tropical rainforests. Many different microclimates occur so the flora changes from west to east and varies with altitude up the hillsides away from the coast and according to the compass direction.

The wildlife includes a number of endemic bees, beetles, horseflies and ants, as well birds such as the Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird. Many of these birds and insects are important and specific pollinators for the fynbos.

Male Cape Sugarbird

Traditional herbal remedies abound from the fynbos terrains, while our delving into our historical roots establish that the Greeks and Romans also followed similar traditions – which we continue today .. the aloe they used much as we do .. extensively as a herbal medicine, for both internal and external treatments; and now in our tea drinking of the rooibos or red bush tea, which contains high levels of antioxidants with low tannin levels, and is popular throughout the world.
Rooibos flowers
There are larger animals too, including the Cape antelopes of which the Klipspringer (right) is one – they are herbivores, eating rock plants – but the interesting thing is they never need to drink, since the succulents they subsist on provide them with enough water to survive. It is also known for its remarkable jumping ability and is able to leap to staggering heights of 25 feet, which is about 15 times its own height.

Just to round off with another jumper – the endemic Arum Frog. They have bright orange feet and can change their colour to camouflage themselves. Their natural watery habitat in this Mediterranean shrubby vegetation is under serious threat .. and a reminder to us all that we need to protect our flora and fauna.

Hyperolius horstockii – Arum frog

As you can see they tend to hide at the bottom of Arum lilies waiting to catch pollinating insects and are threatened as the lily flowers are picked to be sold. Arum lilies, native to South Africa, are now naturalised in Australia (and classified as a toxic weed and pest!), while in the States and the UK we have a number of cultivars used as ornamentals.

A wonderful rich and diverse part of the world – which can so easily be totally destroyed or parts lost forever – if we do not protect it, but which Kirstenbosch stands guardian over, and I hope the many visitors to South Africa at this time, take some time out to enjoy the scenery and take in and absorb the wonders of this Cape Floral Kingdom.

Dear Mr Postman – we seem to be in quiet times .. my mother enjoys the tennis if it is on and she is awake .. but as she still can’t and I have a feeling this will not come back & there is nothing more we can do to help, I will have to use my creative abilities to find new ways to at least give her something different to see and thus think about – as I cannot read or talk to her, nor can she read.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Paul C said...

Cecil Rhodes was, indeed, one of the great philanthropists to bestow such a valuable territory for a national garden. That and his Rhodes scholarships... I am amazed at the great diversity of plants that are growing there.

Barb Hartsook said...

Oh dear -- I wanted to recommend Closed Caption T.V. for your mom, but if she doesn't see the words, that won't help much. With your readership maybe there will be a creative suggestion or two for you. Can she read lips?

You are taking me places on your side of our globe I probably will never see beyond books and photos. This area is lovely. The birds are gorgeous -- as is that plant the Cape Sugarbird sits atop. Do you know the name of that flower?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paul – he was as you say one of the great philanthropists: I know a few of his Rhodes scholarships' recipients .. great people. His heritage is pretty amazing – and the Gardens are quite beautiful .. but that coastal belt of fynbos is under huge threat from development .. this garden route and medicine basket of wonderful plants is in dire need of protection, especially as we haven't explored it all, or absorbed all the plant knowledge we can glean.

The plant species here are vast .. thousands of them & many endemic .. the spectacles of the Cape flora are wonderful all the year round ..

There’s more to see .. anotehr post I guess .. thanks for the visit – always lovely seeing you here .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures. Did I ask if you take these? If so, you are an accomplished photographer. Rhodes was an amazing human being. Think I'll do a Google on him this weekend.

Stephen Tremp

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Barb .. well she reads one word at a time .. but that’s slow too & obviously communicating not easy .. we have a comfortable relationship and understanding .. I’m not sure if she can read lips – she certainly guesses .. but I sort of sign and lip with her .. not always successfully .. but we live with it .. what else can we do – unfortunately.

So pleased that you enjoy the visits around the UK, Europe (I’ll be doing some more posts from here too) and southern Africa – it’s good to share (as the adverts say!) .. but boy is it great when people share my pleasure & I can impart my interests or love of places to you (all). The birds are gorgeous and that is a protea (one of the species of fynbos) that the little Cape Sugarbird is sitting atop.

It’s just great to see different areas, learn new things .. but recollect our past – our tastes, our parents’ views – which we saw as children and I hope these posts do a little of that & sometimes look forward too ..

It’s always lovely to see you – thanks Barb .. have a great weekend .. Hilary

Davina said...

I love reading stories such as Pearson and his garden; the effort he put into it and the obstacles he over came. Satisfaction. More great pics, too, Hilary; especially the sugar bird and the wee froggy.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Stephen .. yes you did ask .. but I don’t they all come from Wiki (well 99% do) – wish I could have travelled as much as my pictures show, and to the heights that some of these pictures are taken from ..that would be very good to be true!

Rhodes .. was an amazing man .. a bit of a funny chap – but over and above that his legacies live on .. let’s hope Zimbabwe comes back .. his burial place outside Bulawayo is amazing .. in the Matobo Hills, part of the National Park .. Wiki has some good pictures! & the two articles one on Rhodes and the Park ..

To my surprise he lived less than 50 years .. – such accomplishments – in an era where you could get things done .. & in a new continent and countries where opportunities abounded.

Enjoy your research .. I wonder what he’d think about wormholes? Have a good weekend . Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Davina .. yes – I had to put the bit in about Pearson – because the Victorians/Edwardians did do wonderful things for us when they just did .. settled in to their passions and pursued them to the end. I hope he rests easy in the peace of the Gardens – he should do .. especially as his legacy lives on ...

Thanks for the pics comments – can’t resist them! The sugar bird and froggy - just had to include those .. they’re fun aren’t they – nature is wonderful ..

Great you appreciate them .. have a lovely weekend .. the hikes here were for you!? I can see you pounding the slopes of Table Mountain .. talking to the ancient plants and rocks .. and then just enjoying the views and vistas .. good to see you - Hilary

Claire - Gratitude Connection said...

Lovely post, thanks for sharing.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Claire .. good to see you again .. and thanks for leaving a comment - glad you enjoyed it ..

Have a great weekend - Hilary

Robin Easton said...

Dear sweet Hilary, first off, I am so deeeeply moved by how you are with your mom. I know it cannot be easy, and yet is an act of love that do with great fortitude and love. I am grateful to you for being such a truly caring soul. If there is a heaven, you must be looked down upon with reverence and completely love. Regardless, you are already those things yourself. You give so much, no only to your mom, but to all of us. I just can't get over that.

And this post is just STUNNING. This is a place I must see in my lifetime. I can hardly believe the beauty here, and seemingly very diverse and rich as well. Oddly aspects of it remind me of Australia, no all but some. Did you take most of these photos? They are stunning. And that "sugarbird" is a work of art! What a magnificent bird. Do you know you put all these posts of your into a book and sell it. They are fascinating!! I canNOT get over how well traveled and knowledgeable you are. Every time I come here it makes me realize how much I don't know and how much I want to see in the world. That is very GOOD thing!!

Thank you so much dear Hilary for just being you. You are seen and so very very appreciated. Thank you also for all the kindness you give me and so many others. You make a HUGE difference. Much love, Robin xo

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Robin .. I honestly cannot believe your comment – I am truly honoured and really don’t believe I’m doing anything that special .. I just want to do what I can for my mother. Believe it or not – today .. she can hear again .. so long may that continue .. It’s my mother’s indominitable spirit and her faith in still continuing to set examples for us to follow.

If I help others somehow through connecting over the net – then that is wonderful .. and if I can cheer others and spread feelings of love and positive thoughts .. then that too gives me a huge amount of pleasure.

It is an unbelievable place .. the flora and fauna are too beautiful and for you being able to hike – you would see so much. It is incredibly rich .. but Table Mountain really does look like the views you see .. flat topped, often with a table cloth of cloud over it .. Kirstenbosch just sits on the slopes. You’re right there’s quite a lot of Australia here .. but then I can’t comment as I’ve never been to Oz.

The photos – I select those that fit my post .. and vary them – so there’s a mix .. they all come from Wikipedia .. but the visual aspect is often remembered, but definitely adds to the text . I have thoughts for the future .. but I need freedom and space .. and until my life is slightly sorted and my Ma is settled .. these posts are my asset base – for many ideas I have for the future. So if you endorse the book idea .. that’s brilliant news.

I’m just passing on information that I find elsewhere - exactly the kind of information I’d read to my Ma and keep her spirits and interest up, as well as sending copies to my uncle – who couldn’t wait for his letter! So I think I’m being the teacher .. only by dint of being one step ahead of my intelligent readers!!!

If these posts inspire you to see more of the world – that is fantastic .. and I’m very chuffed! Thankyou ..

I can’t believe and feel extremely grateful for your very kind words .. I just enjoy being around you all .. then if it’s mutual .. that is magical .. you are extremely generous in your commenting .. and I am mighty grateful .. much love and hugs to you too .. have a great weekend .. Hilary xoxo

Paul Maurice Martin said...

Great photos - thanks for the day trip!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paul .. good to see you and thank you re the photos .. delighted you feel like you've been on a day trip .. it's a lovely place to be -

Have a peaceful weekend .. with thoughts - Hilary

Mandy Allen said...

Hi Hilary, I love your travel documentation, and what a wonderful variety of places you have seen. Africa is somewhere I have never been but would love to go one day. A friend of mine went for a treat on her 50th brithday and has been back every year since! She loves it and goes to a different place each time.

I'm sorry about the RSS feed on my blog - I don't know a thing about it so no idea why it doesn't work! And you are welcome for dinner anytime...

Enjoy the journey.


Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,

What a wonderful place that you have helped us to visit today. With all of it's wonders. We learn so much when we visit your blog. Thank you for a wonderful time.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mandy .. great to see you .. I haven’t been to that many places – at least I don’t think so! .. not compared to some of my friends – but I’m pleased to show you places I love and have seen, or perhaps not even been to – just the imagination takes me there. Southern Africa does hook you – that is for sure .. lucky lady visiting every year!! You must tag along sometime?!

No worries – I signed up via email .. and thank you for taking up my request for dinner – sometime! Have a lovely Sunday .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. many thanks - it is just one of those most peaceful of places, situated in such wonderful surroundings. Just enjoy and learn a little as you visit - that's the fun I'd like you to experience ..

Have a good Sunday .. Hilary

Janice Lynne Lundy said...

Hilary, a beautiful post, but then I adore gardens, botanical gardens, gardens of all kinds. And like the gentleman who chose to be buried in the one he created, I can truly understand. :-) Whenever I travel I check out the gardens, flora, fauna. My grandkids think I am a bit koo-koo (daft) because I am always rushing towards flowers and plants to savor them. Thank you for the tour!

And so dear to read that you continue to find ways to nurture your mom along. You are a very special lady, do you know that? I think there are not many daughters who would be so dedicated. xo to you

Janice Lynne Lundy said...

Hilary, the silly mixed up word that I had to type in (security code) was "houndflub." Isn't that funny? It sounds like a word meaning you would reveal - in your native British jargon!

Short Poems said...

Beautiful pictures, great work!

Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord said...

Hilary, the pictures that accompany your posts complement your words perfectly. I love looking at them, and actually wondered if that sugarbird was perched on something, or if the dark length I saw was actually his tail (which would mean his tail was three times the length of his body).

Sending love and light to you and your mother; may both your days be filled always with joy.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jan .. – yes .. I can imagine this would suit you.. and I can hear the grandkids a bit koo koo .. because us adults do seem to aim straight for the feel of the leaves, the colours or scents of the flowers – we’re not mad though!! Wasn’t Pearson an unsung hero – but at least he’s remembered in the gardens for posterity .. to know the Garden’s roots.

Well I simply cannot leave her .. and my brain is always working out how I can help or stimulate my Ma .. she can hear again .. so that’s something. Fortunately there are a few good tv things on now for a few weeks .. then we’re back to trying to be clever! Thanks for the compliment though – much appreciated. All the best to you .. and thoughts .. xo Hilary

PS .. yes we do get silly words popping up don't we .. & yes .. I did look just in case there was something - but even I cannot find anything! Our jargon is strange and very ancient?! Great to see you here - twice?!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Marinela .. hope you enjoyed the story and seeing a different part of the world ..

Good to see you - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Megan – so lovely seeing you here .. it is actually his tail! Long long long .. quite spectacular photo of the Sugar Bird perched on a protea– came out of Wikipedia. Glad you appreciate the matching up .. I try to match pictures to text as best I can ..

Thank you for your thoughts .. we’ve been watching the Queen’s tennis final – mens’ pre Wimbledon .. so something different & now her hearing is back – that will help a little. I take the positives away .. and that’s the most important .. – have a great Sunday - Hilary

Dot said...

Thanks for this, Hilary. Oh, what I'd give to be able to visit Africa!

What Would You Do In Heaven said...

This is very refreshing! I could already imagine trekking and enjoying the beautiful scenery and kaleidoscope of various flora and fauna. Truly a gift from God!

Wilma Ham said...

Oh Hilary, wonderful that your mother can hear, now you have to be careful not to mumble anything bad. My ex MIL was so used to her deaf husband that when she was with me she sometimes muttered things she thought I could not hear either.
Gardens are the best legacy to leave and I do hope I will leave one too. They are beautiful, giving so much joy and forever changing. Never really dating or decaying like castles do. Give me gardens any time.
Much love to both of you, xox Wilma

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dot .. good to see you here and I hope all’s improving slowly for you – look after yourself. Wouldn’t it be a lovely thing to be able to do .. but I hope I can send you there with some of my stories. Thanks so much for coming by and commenting – all the best Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jocelyn .. thanks for coming over .. Glad you’ve enjoyed it – yes the Gardens would clear the cobwebs as we walk round. As you’re a hiker .. you would love the country and the scenery .. how far you’d get in a country with masses of species .. new flowers, blooms, plants, insects etc .. I do not know – constantly checking all the flora out ..?! Mother Nature is fantastic – have a lovely week -Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma – isn’t it .. and don’t worry I’ve been careful for too long .. filtering letters we get in, not speaking about drinking, or eating too – but Mum’s hearing is very clear when she wants to hear .. How funny about your story .. we’re not in that stage – thank goodness!

Sorry – yes castles and buildings do decay don’t they .. but in fact so do Gardens – new ones being created in some of the castle gardens – odd ones too .. but more anon ... Absolutely ... gardens – and I do hope you have your wonderful place to spend many hours in allowing your creative green fingers to give us many wonders.

Thanks for your thoughts – I’ll now be able to pass your love and thoughts on to my Ma! Xo Hilary

Sara said...

Hilary -- You gave me quite an adventure. I had never heard of these gardens before, but really enjoyed learning about their history.

I loved the persistence of Pearson to create this beauty and I think his epitaph was PERFECT!

I also thought the little frog was many unique creatures, flower and fauna...the world is pretty amazing, isn't it?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. great to see you & hope you’re feeling better. It is a wonderful place to visit .. but great that I’ve opened your eyes to the Gardens and their history - I thought it was a change to football .. but still about South Africa!

I just think these early pioneers were amazing – to set off to live in another country and yet dedicate your life there too is a testament to their fortitude. I agree – like you .. I had to put his epitaph in ..

There’s certainly a lot to see that’s unique out there .. and the world is an amazing place .. great to see you .. have a good week - Hilary

J.D. Meier said...

That Klipspringer is absolutely crazy. It's unbelievable. I ended up searching for the Top 10 Best Jumper Animals!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. well you got me laughing at this hour in the morning .. and you got me searching too .. not quite sure what you found? .. but I got some confirmation that the Klipspringer jumps ten times its own body height .. from here:

Kangaroos, hare, grasshopper and Bharal .. fastest jumper, longest jumper, one of best jumper etc.

"Got me" another post idea though! or two or three .. thanks for calling in .. always good to see you with your salient comments ..

Have a good week - Hilary

Mark said...

It is a wondrous planet on which we live. The beauty that you shared is breathtaking and humbles ones self. Thank-you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark .. thanks for dropping in - and you are so right the beauty here is amazing .. and that mountain certainly stands over us .. when we're in Cape Town .. but supports so much diversity of life - long may it last.

I really appreciate your hearthfelt comments .. we should be humbled more often by the world around us .. it a truly amazing place.

Have a good week - Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

And there's that passion flower again!! I know how fond you are of those.

What a gorgeous, rugged beautiful place. I had no idea S.A. was that awesome-looking. Oh, so so many things I've never known.

I think I'd never want to leave Table Mtn -- even if horseflies are part of the parcel. :)


Davina said...

I can see me hiking the slopes of Table Mountain, too. Yes, I can! :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. yes a King Protea one .. and it doesn’t produce a granadilla as its fruit .. but they are magnificent and are sticky attracting lots of ants for its nectar.

I think you’re right when you’re in Cape Town .. it is awe inspiring .. and you would love it .. it’s wonderful to go west a little to Blouberg and look across the Bay and up at the Mountain .. & even on the top .. it is relatively flat, surprising really ... and that table cloth of cloud keeping the area watered and able to support all the flora and fauna is mesmerising.

Go higher Jannie and you’ll escape the horseflies .. get to a place with a wonderful view and just slump and let nature flow over you .. with wonderful vistas .. it’s great .. have lovely dreams .. and see you over in Funsterland shortly !.. hugs - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Davina .. glad you picked up my comment .. yes so I can see you hiking around too - and I'll meet you and we can go off and have a lovely meal at a vineyard afterwards?! Sounds good .. even when it's early here - enjoy the thoughts .. Hilary

Liara Covert said...

Botanical gardens, insects and all Nature's creatures are such meaningful teachers. As you choose to reconnect with Mother Earth, your senses expand and you remember how to communicate differently. Thanks for sharing all this insightful information. What do the animals tell you from their perspective? And the flowers, trees and wind? How do they feel the climate change?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. yes there are lots of changes going on at the moment .. and we realise there are so many things we don't comprehend yet .. Nature's creatures do show us so much in so many different ways and many we're still finding out about. Animals telling us from their perspective .. I'd love to have talks with the animals Dr Doolittle .. but there are some obvious changes taking place already - which are apparent .. if we look and if we take note.

Good to see you - have a great weekend .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

Hilary, the Arum Frog is so cool! I love frogs, so imagine my delight at a frog with bright ORANGE feet! Fabulous! I would love to see something like that in my back yard! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tony .. isn't he .. I had to include him - especially with his huge bright orange feet! Grab some arums .. hop (froggy hop!) on to a plane, play some football, and come back with some orange feet topped off with a little frog.

He's pretty isn't he nestling in the arum .. but I suspect he's happier in and around Cape Town .. sorree!

Thanks - delighted to have your comments - Hilary

Mark said...

Pleased to be a five percenter! You said it well, we are a dominant force and we can create or we can destroy, it is up to us! Thank-you for all you share.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark .. I think the 5 percenter applied to the Nature in Balance post .. but here is just as good with all the flora and fauna needing our care in this unique area at the southern tip of Africa.

Very glad to to know you enjoy ... and are here - many thanks - Hilary