By Malu Lambert
Words & Photography
The line of cars outside of the West Coast National Park is already long and it’s only 8am. Over Landers are packed full of excited kids (some dressed as fairies), picnics and binoculars. It’s spring fever and the flocks of flower-loving city folk have descended on this pristine coast.
They have good reason to be excited, the Cape Floral Kingdom is one of six floral kingdoms in the world, and although it’s the smallest it’s also the richest and most diverse. Comprising less than 0,04% of the earth’s land surface, the Cape Floral Kingdom harbours a whopping 3% or 4% of the world’s species. Table Mountain alone has over 1 500 different types of species—that’s more than the entire United Kingdom.
Once inside the reserve the wild flowers are dotted intermittently—bright jewels hidden in the green shrub. The closer you get to the Postberg Flower Reserve inside, the larger the clusters become. Once inside, the flowers are a thick quilt of colour—a veritable psychedelic fairyland.
Try going between 18-20 September, so you can check out the Darling Flower Show. And while theSandveld flowers and fynbos are striking enough, it’s also a good time for orchids; the Duckitt Orchid Show (also in Darling) will be running at the same time. For the more trained eye, visit the nearby Tienie Versveld Reserve and view babianas, lachenalias, chincherinchees and sundews.
Don’t be misled by their dainty looks—these wild flowers are survivors. Succulents, like brightly coloured vygies, have adapted to sea spray, strong winds and being buried in sand. The human touch unfortunately is another story.
Pick a posy, don rose-coloured glasses—do whatever you have to do to go see the spring show. After all as Emerson once said: ‘the earth laughs in flowers’—you don’t want to be the last one laughing.
Things to Keep in Mind When You Go Flower Spotting
No making daisy chains. The flowers may look plentiful, but many species are actually in danger of being wiped out. Look but don’t touch, if caught picking you could land up with a hefty fine.
Leave no trace. The best way to enjoy the flowers is with a picnic, but remember fizzer wrappers, soft drink cans and cigarette butts don’t belong in the flora.Stay on the beaten track. Crushing flowers underneath heavy shoes will make you very unpopular in fairyland. So, rather stick to the well-worn paths and keep Tatiana happy.
To Maximise Your Viewing Pleasure, Follow These Tips:
Remember to put sunblock on your neck. Walk with the sun on your back as the flowers turn towards the sun and therefore should be viewed while walking with the sun behind you.They like it hot. The flowers are at their brightest and best during the hottest part of the day, from around 11am until 4pm.
Check the weather report. Rainy skies make for dreary flower viewing. Not only will the colours be flat but the kids will also be covered in mud.
Other Areas Worthy of Mention
The West Coast is blooming marvellous between the months of August and October; coming up in trumps not only in the flower department, but the area is also rich in bird and game life. But don’t forget about these areas…
Namaqualand. Probably the most famous flower area of them all, and for good reason too. Prepare to be dazzled at the Goegap Nature Reserve and Skilpad Wildflower Reserve at Kamieskroon.
Niewoudtville. Like looking for buried treasure, this area plays host to many flowers, bulbs and orchid species that are not found anywhere else in South Africa.
The Cederberg. Take your time with this one. Not only is there the town of Clanwilliam to visit, but also the Biedouw valley, the Boskloof valley and the Nardouwsberg. Not to mention the ostentatious display on at the Ramskop Wild Flower Garden.