Cape Fynbos
     
 
     
Fynbos consists of a cornucopia of woody plants (almost all with small leathery leaves - hence the name), herbs, bulbs, Cape reeds, proteas, ericas and members of seven plant families found nowhere else in the world.
 
     
 

The rugged but incomparably beautiful southwestern corner of the African continent is home to Fynbos (Dutch for ‘fine bush’). Here it forms the major vegetation type of the world’s smallest botanical region, known as the Cape Floral Kingdom. The other five recognised floral kingdoms cover huge areas - even entire continents. By contrast Fynbos only covers the mountains, valleys and coastal plains of southwestern South Africa. Existing between roiling ocean on the one side and the arid desert and semi-desert interior of South Africa on the other Fynbos is highly adapted to local growing conditions. So it comes as little surprise that the Cape floral kingdom is not only the world’s smallest but also its richest floral kingdom, with the highest known concentration of plant species in the world: 1 300 per 10 000 km2. This is more than 3 times the concentration found in the Amazon rain forest!

Fynbos consists of a cornucopia of woody plants (almost all with small leathery leaves - hence the name), herbs, bulbs, Cape reeds, proteas, ericas and members of seven plant families found nowhere else in the world. Interestingly true grasses are rare. Of the over 7700 plant species in the Cape floral kingdom more that 70% are endemic, i.e. occurs nowhere else in the world. In part this is the result of a large number of species having very small distribution ranges. Indeed for many fynbos plants their entire world range is smaller that a football field! Fynbos plants include the majestic King Protea (Protea cynaroides), SA’s national flower, the elegant Red Disa (Disa uniflora), the symbol of the Western Cape province, and many garden plants known throughout the world, ranging from pelargoniums to watsonias.

The soils on which Fynbos thrives are nutrient poor and thus Fynbos does not provide sufficient protein for large mammals. Several smaller mammals are however found the best known of which is probably the chacma baboon. The Fynbos region is not bird rich, nevertheless there are six bird species that occur only here. Fynbos also supports many butterfly species, more than half of SA’s frog species, the world’s second rarest tortoise and several threatened fish species.

Several factors threaten the Cape’s Fynbos. The biggest of these is the spread of alien plants. Other significant threats include too frequent fires and fires in the wrong season (Fynbos requires occasional fires to regenerate, with some species only flowering after fires), the growth of forestry plantations and commercial housing and agricultural development. The survival of many Fynbos plants are today seriously threatened and almost thirty have already become extinct.

 
     
 

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