Western Cape AttractionsThe Cape Floral Region
The magnificent Cape Floristic Region is, as its name implies, situated in the Western Cape and parts of the Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. It is significant for being one of the world’s most diverse and abundant floral areas, home to about one-fifth of the vegetation in all of Africa. Perched right at the tip of the continent, this region is not only fascinating for those with a penchant for flora, but also spectacular.
Where? The Cape Floristic Region includes eight representative areas, all of which enjoy similar protection. For details see below.
When? Always best during daylight hours
The natural wealth of the floral kingdom is particularly impressive if one considers that it only covers about 78 555 square kilometres. As such, it is the smallest of all six recognised floristic kingdoms known to man. Still, it boasts more than 9 600 species of South African plants including ferns, trees, flowers, mosses and fynbos varieties, of which 69% are endemic. A large proportion of this vegetation is included under the Fynbos umbrella. This is a beautiful, hardy group of plants (most of which bear lovely flowers) that creates a shrub land where it is found in abundance. Due to its being unique to South Africa and stunning to witness in the wild, Fynbos has become somewhat of a tourist attraction in its own right.
The entire Cape Floral Kingdom is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for ...
1) its outstanding processes in terms of ecology and biology, which is particularly due to the Fynbos biome, and
2) its sheer diversity and abundance within such a confined area.
In terms of the processes, this area has exhibited plants that have become adapted in their manner of fire resistance, as well as to the patterns of seed dispersal undertaken by various insects. With regard to its biodiversity, there are approximately nine species per genus and 52 different plant families. The species density is the highest in the world, making it one of only 18 biodiversity hotspots on the planet.
A number of mountain ranges are included in the Cape Floristic Region. These include the iconic Table Mountain as well as the Tsitsikamma, Outeniqua, Cederberg, Hottentots Holland and Zuurberg ranges.
The Cape Floristic Region includes eight representative areas, all of which enjoy similar protection. These are:
1. The Table Mountain National Park (this region alone is home to more floral species than the whole of New Zealand)
2. The Cederberg Wilderness Area
3. The Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area
4. The Boland Mountain Complex (this includes the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve, Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, and Limietberg Nature Reserve)
5. The De Hoop Nature Reserve
6. The Boosmansbos Wilderness Area
7. The Swartberg Complex (which comprises the Swartberg Nature Reserve, Gamkapoort Nature Reserve, and Towerkop Nature Reserve)
8. The Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve
Significantly, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens form part of this site, making them the first of their kind to be included in a floristic region by UNESCO.
This region is also made special and unique by its inclusion of freshwater and marine environments, which add significantly to its biodiversity.
In addition to its vegetation, the Cape Floristic Region naturally showcases many of the animals for which South Africa is acclaimed. These range from insects to predators and everything in-between, making their homes in the varied landscape on offer.
For additional info see: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1007 (UNESCO).