Discover Fynbos. (Extract article from the volume 2005/1 Newsletter)
Living in in Cape town we often take our natural environment for granted. We forget that our mountain chains form a wonderful ecosystem of life and that we have a whole floral kingdom within the boundaries of one country.
The uniqueness and diversity of plant species found in the Fynbos region earned itself a special recognition as one of the six main floristic kingdoms and its known as the Cape Floristic Kingdom.
Fynbos is characterised by having restios, proteas and ericas.Millions of years ago Africa, North and South America, Europe Australia etc formed part of one big continent known as Gondwana. Gondwana began to break up some 140 million years ago and plant and animal species became adapted to their specific environment through evolution. When studying the Fynbos region pollen of the Protea has been recorded from 95 million years ago. Recent research on fossilised pollen in sediments indicates that there has been a rapid increase in the number of species in the past 3 million years.
What has made this plant kingdom so special is the fact that it has 2600 species of flowering plants in an area of about square 500kms. This is more species than the total number of species found in South Australia (Kidd 2000). The kingdom also has about 360species of proteas of which more than 330 species are confined to the Cape floristic Kingdom (Rebelo 2201).
Fynbos plants are adapted to grow in sandy soils with low nutrient content derived from Table Mountain Sandstone. The Western cape is also known for being a winter rainfall region with warm dry summers and strong south easterly winds. In order for the Fynbos to survive the summer weather they usually have small ericiod leaves covered with waxy, waterproof covering to prevent water being lost. Stomata (pores/openings) are usually present or placed on the lower surface of the leaf where they are in shady hollows surrounded by hairs to reduce air movement thus minimising water loss. Another adaptation is that leaves tend to point to the sky so that only a small surface is exposed to the sun (Branch 1999).
Seed dispersal / pollination
Besides plants being pollinated by
insects and birds and seeds being distributed by wind, ants also play an
important role in the Fynbos ecosystem.
Fire in the Fynbos
As previously mentioned certain fynbos
plants need fire in order for the seeds to germinate. The fire will
break the dormancy of the seeds.
How to prevent fires;
Together we can preserve the floral treasure of our region.
Erika Foot (Manager – Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve)