Walking around Cape nature reserves, you can see a lot of interesting creatures, from leopard tortoises to sunbirds. But it’s often the plants that steal the show. The wildflower blooms are simply spectacular, and the Cape floral region is one of the most botanically diverse areas on earth. The southern tip of Africa contains 3 percent of the world’s plant life, and more than 20 percent of Africa’s. And more than 70 percent of the plants found here are found nowhere else on earth.
Botanically, the area is more diverse than the Amazon,” said Dominic Chadbon, a nature guide and native plant advocate. “There’s no place else quite like it.”
Much of the plant life is fynbos, fine-leaved shrubs. Among the most well-known outside of South Africa are the proteas, with large striking flowers pollinated by birds and other wildlife.
The Cape Town city limits alone are home to 3,250 species of plants, almost twice as many as are found in the entire British Isles. The Cape floral area is recognized as a World Heritage site, and is protected by a number of fine nature reserves. But these native plants also face a major threat in the form of invasive species.
Invasive species not only threaten plant diversity, they use more water in a region suffering from drought. The Nature Conservancy is working to control invasives and protect watersheds, providing local jobs in the process.
You can enjoy the fynbos at some of the most popular Cape Town tourist attractions, including Table Mountain National Park and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Cape Nature’s many reserves offer opportunities to see a variety of wildflowers. Fernkloof Nature Reserve offers excellent self-guided hiking trails and beautiful views, and excellent interpretive signs for the unique plant life.