The Western Cape, and the Cape Peninsula in particular, is world-famous for its diverse, endemic flora — in fact, The Cape Floral Region — comprising eight protected areas stretching from the Cape Peninsula to the Eastern Cape — was the sixth South African site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), and whilst the smallest of these, it is considered the richest.
Where a month is given, this refers to when I took the photo, and therefore generally equates to when the plant flowers.
So as is often the case, I walked right past this one on the Boesmanskloof Trail and other members of the party called me back to have a look. It immediately made me think that it may be related to Wolwekos, but I could not find anything that looked like it in my fynbos guide. A quick upload to iSpot, and viola! it was identified as Mystropetalon thomii in a matter of minutes!
Sighting: Boesmanskloof Trail [May]
We were very lucky to see an amazing display of this species on the Rooihoogte slopes in Cape Point Nature Reserve that had undergone a prescribed burn a good few months back. We were particularly surprised at how little regrowth had taken place. However, there was a profusion of these plants on the slopes of the koppie. The sight of the bright yellow flowers glowing with sunlight through the blackened skeletons of the protea bushes was breathtaking.
Sighting: Cape Point Nature Reserve [September]
Aloes are very much a part of the South African landscape. They have succulent leaves which are normally spiky and have spines or teeth along the margins.
This aloe is limited to the extreme south-western Cape. It is more commonly known by its Afrikaans name, Bergaalwyn. They occur quite commonly on the back table of Table Mountain in the area of the huts, and near the Overseer’s Hut.
Sightings: The huts at the dams, and near the Overseer’s Hut on the Back Table; slopes of Lion’s Head.
Sightings: on trail to wall of dam on Table Mountain
The tubers are a favorite food for Porcupines!
This beautiful lily is a common site in Cape Town in damp or swamp-like areas; the verges of the N7 in the Philadelphia area are lined with plants in bloom in August and September.
We found loads of them along the Rheenendal Road near Knysna and quite a number of them had a small white frog inhabiting it!
It is also known as the “Varkblom” (Afrikaans for “pig-flower”).
Sightings: top of Newlands ravine; verges of the N7 [September]; Rheenendal Road [October]
Autumn Painted Lady
Sightings: Pipe Track [late April]; Devil’s Peak [late April – after fire]
This stunning small guy occurs as a single flower. I spotted quite a few dotted on the slopes above Oude Schip where they like the granite soil.
Sightings: Oude Schip [May]
When I spotted this exotic looking bush while walking the trail to the Storm’s River suspension Bridge I thought it must be some kind of invader. In hindsight highly unlikely considering its location! The starkly contrasting purple and yellow colors of the flower are quite vivid and unlike the more muted colors of our fynbos.
Sighting: Tsitsikamma Park
This little bit of nastiness is, I guess, our answer to poison ivy. It causes bad blistering of the skin if you come in contact with it. The effect is triggered by sunlight: in theory, if you do come into contact with it and cover the site of contact immediately, there will be no blistering. I have had two very minor brushes against bushes on Table Mountain. I noticed nothing at the time, and only later developed tiny, discoloured patches on my skin with no discomfort.
The plant is a member of the carrot family. The leaves look remarkably like celery leaves. The brown flower in this photo is the flower head — the little flowers would be a yellow color when in bloom.
Sightings: Platteklip; Pipe-track extension; Constantia Corner; Fountain Ledge; Ledges [late February]; Right Face—Arrow Face Traverse [late February].
We found this beauty on Kloof Corner. Bobbejaan is the Afrikaans word for baboons (bobbejaantjie being the diminutive), who happen to be partial to their corms.
Sighting: Kloof Corner [September]
We sighted quite a number of these pretty flowers whilst hiking to the kloof on the Olive Glen Mountain Farm.
Sighting: Olive Glen Mountain Farm [August]
The Blue Disa is fairly uncommon. Unlike the Red Disa which tends to occur in numbers in specific areas they find suitable, the Blue Disa usually occurs singularly, and sporadically. Having said this, I found a great number of beautiful specimens along the Hole-in-the-Wall trail behind De Villier’s Reservoir on the Back Table of Table Mountain.
It is an orchid, similar in shape to the Red Disa, but is a pretty purplish-blue color. A single, long, reed-like stem bears multiple flowers. There are no leaves in evidence.
Sightings: above Llandudno Ravine [early February]; near Aqueduct off Smuts Track [late February]; trail behind De Villier’s Reservoir [early March].
The family Mesembryanthemaceae consists of all the “vygies”. The bokbaaivygie is smaller than the vygies that are commonly found on sand dunes along the coast, with succulent leaves. Once the flowers have died off, they look almost like a type of carrion plant, which is what I thought they were.
Sighting: Ramskop Wild Flower Garden [October]
This beautiful flowering plant grows in profusion after a fire.
Sightings: path from Beaverlac campsite to the Main Pool [late October]; Bobbejaansrivier [December].
This occurs fairly commonly on slopes in less damp areas.
We saw heaps of these beautiful lilies on our Robberg Peninsula run, and subsequently in the duneveld in the West Coast National Park. Amazing that such a pretty flower survives the strong winds laden with salty moisture.
I have also seen a lawn covered in them in Stilbaai, but had to wonder if they were not planted there as there were so many of them in a suburban setting.
A beautiful cluster of white flowers in a sharp, conical shape. Occurs commonly in fairly large numbers. Can be seen on the grassy centre islands of the M3 below Newlands Forest.
My earliest memory of these flowers was going to pick them on the Duckitt farm near Darling.
Sighting: Rhodes Memorial [late October, November]
Another member of the orchid family. Unlike the usual one or two flowers that you see on the Blue or Red Disa, the Cluster Disa sports many, bright red flowers in a triangular cluster.
Sightings: Constantia Corner and Hole-in-the-Wall route [early March]
The Common Paintbrush (or in Afrikaans, Veldskoenblaar) is a member of the Amaryllis family.
It is a fairly odd-looking plant with its single thick stem and striking flower-head. They are dormant through summer.
It looks similar to the related H.Coccineus which has a barred / spotted stem. I have seen both species together in Oudekraal Ravine.
Sightings: Bloupunt Trail
These succulent shrublets are commonly spotted in the Western Cape.
Sightings: West Coast National Park [March]
We found these pretty little members of the Crassula family on the slopes above the river in Cogman’s Kloof, Montagu.
Sighting: Bold and the Beautiful Crag, Montagu [October]
Immediately recognizable by it’s intense red color and very plump flowers, this erica flowers in areas after fire. We saw a super display on Rooihoogte in the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
Sighting: slopes of Rooihoogte, Cape Point Nature Reserve
Foetid Cape Tulip
Spotted this guy in abundance on the Upper Contour path on Table Mountain in spring.
Phew it took me ages to find out what this flower is! I finally got some help from the members of iSpot.
And yes: it really is that scarlet red color!
This stunning lily is a rare find! A member of the Amaryllis family, it was first described on Guernsey Island, even though it is endemic to the Cape .
Sightings: Blackburn Ravine [April]
Beautiful aloe with flat, smooth, rounded leaves that no “teeth” along the margin.
Sighting: Olive Glen Mountain Farm
I saw one of these flowers along the contour path between Hout Bay Corner and Myburgh’s Ravine. It is so beautiful, and seemingly out-of-place, that I started to believe that maybe it was a foreign bulb that someone had dropped or planted there for some obscure reason.
I saw a few more of them near the Breede River in the Bontebok National Park, and managed to photograph them this time.
Whilst very rare in the wild, ironically the best display you will see is all along the island in the middle of the M3 between UCT and Paradise Road traffic lights!
Sightings: Hout Bay contour path [February]; Bontebok National Park [late February]
This guy, also known by the Afrikaans name “Vingerpol” is listed in my little book as being quite rare — so I was well chuffed to find a couple of them on the slope above Oude Schip.
They can grow to a fair size and generally look pretty alien and ugly, however a closer look when they are flowering reveals a prettier side to this spiny succulent shrub.
The milky sap (latex) which is characteristic of the Euphorbia is a skin & eye irritant .
This member of the Amaryllis family flowers from March to June.
Sightings: Cogman’s Kloof [April]
Pretty, plump pink flowers.
Sightings: Silvermine West [June]
I spotted this Oldenburgia grandis in Kirstenbosch Gardens, and only include it here as I have never seen it in the wild, and it is related to my friend, Oldeburgia paradoxa. It is known as a Suurberg Cushion Bush.
Sighting: Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
I found this unique specimen at the summit of Bloupunt, on the Bloupunt Trail in Montagu. It took me ages to find a book that listed this plant − and I hope that I have at last identified it correctly!
It is difficult to assess how much of the overall mass is the plant, and how much is the rock it is growing on. It appears to be made up of hundreds of smaller plants, with quite tough, leathery leaves, and fluffy flowers.
There are a number of large specimens of Oldenburgia grandis in Kirstenbosch. The similarities are fairly obvious, even though the plants differ in many ways.
I first saw this flower in Cogman’s Kloof, and I actually reached down to pick it up thinking it was some kind of “tumbleweed”! They are quite unusual looking.
Like much of the fynbos, it flowers best after fire, and prefers sandier, flat areas. I saw quite a few on my visit to the Bontebok National Park.
This shrub is common on the slopes of Table Mountain in spring, and puts on an impressive display of pink.
Pelargoniums are one of my favourites, and do will do well in your garden, or even in a pot on your balcony.
Sightings: abundant on Table Mountain
Pelargoniums are pretty distinctive looking plants. We saw a fair number of these beauties on Day #2 of the Outeniqua Hiking Trail. The heart shaped leaves are a distinguishing feature.
Identified with the help of the kind people on iSpot!
Sighting: Outeniqua Hiking Trail [August]
This Pelargonium has only two petals at the top of the flower, and stamens sporting red anthers.
Sightings: Beaverlac [October]
This absolutely stunning flowering plant is abundant on the slopes of Table Mountain in the spring-time.
They flower prolifically, occurring in large displays of flowering plants, especially after fire.
Sightings: Jonkershoek [November]
This pretty red flower is known in Afrikaans as the Rooipypie.
Sightings: Devil’s Peak [July]
Fairly common — these guys grow in the cracks of rocks, and often look like the are growing straight out of the rock itself.
The flowers are bright, scarlet red and can be seen standing out in stark contrast against the rocks they grow amongst.
Sightings: Twelve Apostles Path [February]; Ledges [late February]
This rare member of the Orchid family is truly beautiful to behold. It is the largest South African orchid. It flowers in January and February and occurs in permanently wet or moist areas. Whilst they only occur in very specific locations, when they do occur they do so in surprisingly spectacular, abundant displays.
It is the floral emblem of the Western Cape.
Sightings: Myburgh’s Waterfall Ravine [early February]; Table Mountain [early March]; Groot Winterhoek [February]
One of the major groups under fynbos, the restios are by and large indistinguishable from one another to all but an expert.
Whilst they may not appeal to me as much as say the Protea family, they do hold an attraction of their own and are an unmistakable feature of the Western Cape landscape.
They also have a practical use: dekriet is used to thatch houses and is a distinguishing feature of Cape Dutch Architecture. Thamnochortus insignis is used specifically and comes from the Albertinia area.
Fairly common with beautiful pink flowers and strap-like leaves which are often spotted.
Sightings: Oude Schip
Unmistakable bushes with small, bright pink flowers.
Sightings: Back Table [June]
Smooth-leaved Bush Bugloss
Lobostemon glaucophyllus or fruticosus
This small shrub has masses of pretty blue flowers. Prolific on the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak. I am not entirely sure which of the Lobostemon species this is.
Sighting: near Oude Schip [July]; along jeep tracks on slopes of Devil’s Peak [September]
We saw, and felt, loads of this plant sprawling along the coast along the rocks on the water’s edge in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. The flowers are bright yellow and daisy-like, and the leaves are bristles that end in very fine spikey thorns.
Sighting: Cape Point Nature Reserve
Another in the Sundew Family. Whereas the leaves of Drosera pauciflora are basal, the leaves of this sundew always occur scattered up the stem.
Sighting: Perdekop Trail, Kogelberg
This unusual little plant flourishes in very damp soil; when you see them generally you will see hundreds of them! The leaves are basal (at the base of the stem) unlike those of Drosera cistiflora which are scattered along the stem.
Sightings: Table Mountain; Cederberg
Table Mountain Watsonia
Watsonias flower best after a fire, and enjoy moist / marshy conditions. They often occur in spectacular displays on mountain slopes.
Sightings: Twelve Apostles Path [early February]
Tree Sweet Pea
A small tree / shrub that bears a profusion of mauve-pink flowers that look like those of a normal sweet-pea.
Sightings: Kalk Bay mountains [September]
I actually got this photo in the sandy veld along the driveway to our home! It was fairly easy to identify as it closely resembles the Sandviooltjie. It has a single leaf with distinct horizontal maroon zebra striping at its base.
The cylindrical flowers are reminiscent of an erica, and are a delicate bluish colour with almost purple tips.
The plant is about 30cm tall.
Sighting: Philadelphia [September]
The best example of this I have seen is on the verge of one of the roads in the business park where I work in Tokai. Once the pretty flowers have fallen off the head looks quite alien.
It does occur quite commonly on the mountain.
Sightings: Lion’s Head; Bontebok National Park [February]
This odd, red, sponge-like looking plant is one of two parasites I have come across, the other being the equally unusual looking Aardroos (Mystropetalon thomii). The plant is fairly rare, and I have only seen it occurring in the Cape Point Nature Reserve, and at the side of the road at the summit of Katbakkies Pass in the Cederberg.
Sighting: Cape Point Nature Reserve, Katbakkies Pass [September]
I am doing my best to identify the plants I see using these two books (both available from Exclusive Books):
- “Common Wild Flowers of Table Mountain“ by Hugh Clarke & Bruce Mackenzie. Its a clever little field guide that is organized by color!
- “Field Guide to Fynbos“ by John Manning. A more extensive reference work.
Here are some photos I have taken of plants I have NOT been able to identify. I would greatly appreciate anyone being able to help me identify them correctly.
This yellow flower was seen at Beaverlac in the Cederberg.