Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fynbos: A Treasured Natural Heritage

In the early 1600’s when Dutch settlers first landed on the shores of South Africa they hoped to find wood to use for building ships, but instead what they found was short flowering shrubs. “What are we supposed to do with this?  There is nothing here but fine bush”.  This is the tale of how ‘fynbos’ got its name.

Fynbos is derived from the Dutch word fijnbosch meaning fine leaf bush. It is the name given to the special vegetation growing in the Cape that accounts for more than 80 percent of the plant species in this region of South Africa. 

These shrubby bushes were obviously not suitable for building ships, but they exhibited such an amazing diversity and rareness that this region was eventually declared one the six floral kingdoms of the world!  Although by far the world’s smallest Floral Kingdom, it is the most diverse with more than triple the floral species of the Amazon Jungle.  Within this 55900 mile area there are over 100 different fynbos plant families and approximately 9000 different species.  In addition, nearly 70% of these plant species are not found growing naturally anywhere else on the planet. 

Fynbos plants can be grouped into four major families:

1. Protea shrubs with large leaves

2. Flowering shrubs like heathers and erickas

3. Restoids or wiry grassy like plants

4. Geophytes or bulbous flowers and herbs

Another amazing and inspiring thing about fynbos is how it flourishes in such harsh and poor conditions.  It endures sweltering droughts, heavy winter downpours, fierce windstorms, nutrient-poor soils and wildfires and yet these cruel conditions are the nuts and bolts of its survival.

Fynbos’ fragile beauty and awesome diversity is truly a treasured natural heritage!

1 comment:

  1. We have a barren hillside in De needs fynbos. But where can we buy it?