Cape Town, Namaqualand and Stellenbosch
Notes on the MPG visit to South Africa, 24 August – 6 September 2015
During 11 days 19 of us saw the main flora of the Cape in its early spring glory.
* Six national parks or nature reserves and three other distinct natural areas
* Three botanical gardens
* Four gardens, a nursery, a flower show
We mostly saw fynbos (pronounced faynboss) fine-leaved plants in three main families: Proteaceae – 387 species; Ericaceae – 682 species; Restionaceae – 314 species, plus a vast array of neophytes (2,200 species in the Cape) notably Iridaceae. All survive in a generally dry climate on stony ground with some winter and spring rain. Various factors have contributed to this astonishing diversity developed over many millennia including geology, climate, fire, and no ice age. Animal seed dispersal has helped speciation as plants adapted to evolving environments.
The dates were chosen to give the best chance of seeing the spring flowering of the northern Cape area. It is not quite the ideal time to see gardens as they are only just emerging from winter. Vineyard and camellia gardens were exceptions.
Monday 24 August – cloudy, cool
The Vineyard, Newlands, Cape Town
Our hotel was a restored country villa built in 1799, with wonderful views of Table Mountain and delightful gardens reaching the river. Although not part of the tour proper, this pre-tour day gave our early arrivals the opportunity to make precious first contact with the Cape Horticultural Society (CHS).
Charles and Jennie Smith, Barbara Jones and Richard Barrett met CHS members at Arderne Gardens public park and arboretum:
Glenda Thorpe, Henry Diesveld, Hank Lith, Errol and Jenny Scarr, Michael Tuffin (chair). The generally level 5-hectare garden is open to the public but until the Friends of the Arderne Gardens was formed it was a no-go area with much illegal activity. With small grants, FOTAG has transformed its accessibility and public use, and the work continues, particularly the protection of outstanding ancient trees. Hank explained its original creation in 1845 and how the southern hemisphere tree collection mirrored the arrival and dispersal of the tree species of Gondwanaland 200 million years ago when the land masses of Africa, Australia, India, Antarctica and South America were joined.