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  • Writer's pictureBridgette Macilwaine

The richly biodiverse fire managed Fynbos landscape

One of the richest areas in the world for plant biodiversity. Always a great day out at the Eden Project, surrounded by beautiful plants to admire, winding paths to explore, gardening tips to learn and always so much information to be learned. On this specific trip we spent many hours in the large domed greenhouse appreciating the Fynbos zone.

Fynbos - meaning fine-leaved plants (is a vegetation type) - a small belt of natural shrubland or heathland vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.

South Africa's Cape floral kingdom is one of the richest areas in the world for plant biodiversity.

Fire, drought and nutrient poor soil have created this unique environment, many of the 7000 Fynbos species are found nowhere else on earth. From the ashes of drought stressed forests some of these plants ancestors date back 65 million years to when South Africa was a tropical forest.

To most people it can seem treeless, scrubby and brown, but on a closer look, you start to realise the beauty and detail of this planting mix. It wasn't wiped out by the ice age like other forests, but the climate slowly became drier and cooler. Some plants became extinct, others evolved, into this unique flora.

A large number of fynbos species are very rare and in danger of becoming extinct. The Fynbos has been fire managed shrubland for conservation since 1960’s but is still threatened by development in some parts. The fire reduce most of the Fynbos to ash, and it is simple that no fire = no fynbos.

Every bit of fynbos existing today has been repeatedly burned to the ground over tens of thousands of years. Because the FYnbos has developed as a result of the changing climate over millions of years due to fires and drier climates.

As a result, the fynbos plants now require fire to complete their life cycle, as the flames burn accumulated dead plant material, this then recycles nutrients back into the depleted soil. The intense heat also opens tightly-sealed seed and triggers underground bulbs to start growing.

This image below shows an easy to understand graphic regarding the 5 main types of plants which make up the Fynbos.

Within this planting area there's is a lovely little quote written on a rock which could be quite easily be missed when your eyes are being drawn in all directions to the colours and textures of the surrounding plants.


"The spirit of Ubuntu - that profound African sense that we are human beings only through thte humanity of other human beings - is not a pharocial phenomenom, but has added globally to our common search for a better world."

Nelson Mandela.

A few popular species in this planting mix include:

  • Salvia africana-lutea

  • Cape Reeds – Restios – are a key indicator of a very environment.

  • irises such as Watsonias

  • orchids such as The Blue Disa

  • proteas - South Africas national flower

  • Small Brown Afrikaaner Gladiolus

  • the Candelabra Lily - only emerging for a few short weeks at the end of summer.

  • heathers

  • daisies

  • as well as members of the pea and carrot families.

  • Plants relating to the citrus family such as Agathosma betulina

The few images below show the local landscape from a recent trip to South Africa.

The image on the right is referenced from

The map indicating the extent of the area covered by the Fynbos landscape in South Africa.


Thanks for reading, ntil next time.


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