Heading North: The Day of the Unexpected
On Friday October 7th, 2011, our group of fine horticulturists, reeling from the most amazing experiences in Cape Town, headed north. Our first stop was a ‘darling’ little town called Darling. While we traversed through horse and cattle farms, we finally arrived at our first stop, a wildflower tour of Burgherspost Nature Reserve. We were greeted by Jacques van der Merwe, who is the conservation specialist for the reserve. Even though we were slightly late in seeing the peak of flowers for South Africa’s springtime, what an amazing tour we had! We piled into two off-road vehicles to discover and learn about the fynbos and renosterveld vegetation that is so special and specific to that area. Fynbos vegetation includes Restiods (grasses), Ericoids, (heath family), and Protiods (Proteas) and are mostly found in sandy soils. Renosterveld includes families such as Asteraceae and bulbs which thrive better in clay soils. The total acreage is approximately 3000 hectares. 1200 of which is being conserved and monitored. So many of the species in this particular area are in a delicate existence, and our group was amazed to learn that approximately 45 species within a two hectare range of wetlands are endangered!
Since so much of the existing reserve was cultivated in recent years, it has taken the fynbos and renosterveld a long time to recover. Jacques and his team are devoting to making sure the area is being managed in a way that will increase biodiversity and a more sustainable balanced ecosystem.
Many of the most unusual species of the renosterveld and fynbos that were encountered are Hyobanche sanguinea, a fleshy root parasite, Boegoe, a medicinal plant, Moraea bellandinni , Ixia paniculata, and Nemesia barbata. The Cape Rain Daisies, Dimorphotheca nudicaulis, are EVERYWHERE!!
While traversing in the back of the vehicles, and in between various conversations and a lovely rendition of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’….Don’t ask!!… , we were luck y to encounter a heard of wild plains zebra. The inquisitive herd (two separate families actually), stood long enough for us to take some snapshots before moving on. Other noted species of animal that inhabit the reserve are the local Blesbok, the elusive Eland, Bontebok, the Cape Claw Otter, and the Honey Badger.
After a truly amazing experience at Burgherspost, we were ready to take off! Thank you Jacques!!!
We were ready for lunch, then a guided tour of Duckkitt Nursery, which is a local orchid production facility……Whoa!!! Unfortunately, our plans quickly changed!! Shortly after leaving the nature reserve, one of our vehicles struck a rock on the dusty dirt road that lead us out of the reserve….Flat tire!!!
This is where things get interesting….We would like to give a shout out to Tim Snyder, our fellow classmate, for stepping up and changing the flat in record time! You’re the best Tim!!
When our sun soaked, weary bodies were able to finally decompress, we took in a healthy lunch in the little town of Darling before heading out to our next destination of Citrusdal. Even though our directions took us approximately 35 kilometers down a very long dusty bumpy road before finally hitting pavement, we couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. We were truly experiencing the South African countryside in its most primal state.
John Moore, PG Class of 2011