The world’s 17 megadiverse countries have either massive landmasses or are situated in tropical zones, thus supporting a very rich fauna and flora. However South Africa doesn’t meet either of these criteria, but one special factor nevertheless carries it into this auspicious list of 17 nations – the Cape Florisitic Kingdom. By far the smallest of the world’s six floristic kingdoms (the others cover vast areas, being: Holarctic – all of North America, Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia; Palaeotropical – subSaharan Africa except the southwest Cape and tropical Asia; Neotropical – central and south America; Australian – Australia, New Zealand and surrounding islands; and Antarctic), the Cape Floristic Kingdom is phenomenally species rich, with more than 9,000 vascular plants of which 69 percent are endemic! This region’s habitat is also known as the Fynbos (meaning “finebush” in Afrikaans) and is one of the world’s few Mediterranean climatic regions. It is famous for beautiful flowering plants, including proteas, ericas and restios and is recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its astounding biodiversity. An indication of its floral wealth is that this region covers a mere 0.5% of Africa’s landmass yet supports nearly 20% of the continent’s flora! Another example of its staggering wealth is the fact that the 22,000 hectare Table Mountain National Park situated within the city of Cape Town has more plant species than the whole of the British Isles or New Zealand!
An Eland walks through a field of multicolored flowers in the Postberg section of West Coast National Park by Adam Riley
Lying directly to the north of the Cape Floristic Kingdom is Namaqualand. This arid region of the Northern Cape falls within what is termed the succulent Karoo and is for most of the year a dry and desolate landscape. Yet Namaqualand boasts the world’s highest diversity of succulents and it is even more famous for the fields of wild daisies that erupt into color during the short spring season that falls between the cold wet winter and the scorching dry summer. Between these succulents, bulbs and daisies, more than 3,000 species of flowering plants compete for pollination rights, resulting the world’s greatest wildflower show.
A field of Namaqua daisies in Namaqua National Park by Adam Riley
This particular spring season has resulted in one of the richest wildflower spectacles in living memory both in the Cape Floral region and in Namaqualand. A combination of a wet winter and a warm, dry spring has resulted in a kaleidoscopic fairlyland of colorful flowers blanketing the landscape, as some of these images from my recent trip to Postberg in West Coast National Park just north of Cape Town and Skilpad in Namaqua National Park near Kamieskroon show.
A Cape Mountain Zebra stallion poses in the Postberg section of West Coast National Park by Adam Riley
A selection of wildflowers in the Postberg section of West Coast National Park by Adam Riley
A different variety of wildflowers in the Postberg section of West Coast National Park by Adam Riley
I couldn’t resist one final remarkable flower-filled scene from the Postberg section of West Coast National Park by Adam Riley
A scenic shot from the Skilpad section of Namaqua National Park by Adam Riley
Fields of brilliant daisies in the Skilpad section of Namaqua National Park by Adam Riley
More scenes from the Skilpad section of Namaqua National Park by Adam Riley
Most of South Africa’s 19 endemic bird species occur in the region covered by the Cape Floral Kingdom and Namaqualand, and below are some bird images from these two sites taken during a recent trip. These photos are a small taste of the birds that can be encountered during a trip to this area during the spring season (August-September is usually best but the exact flowering peak varies according to several climatic factors).
The Southern Double-collared Sunbird is a common denizen of the West Coast of South Africa where-ever flowering plants abound. Image by Adam Riley
The Bokmakierie is an aberrant bush-shrike that prefers more open areas, and its far carrying song is the derivation of its name. It is common in the Fynbos and succulent Karoo regions. Image by Adam Riley
Another common members of this region’s avifauna is the cute Cape Bunting. Image by Adam Riley
A Cattle Egret hunts grasshoppers and other insects in a field of wildflowers in West Coast National Park. Image by Adam Riley
Helmeted Guineafowl are also common and the flowers make a great backdrop for photographing these attractive birds. Image by Adam Riley
A noisy Pied Starling perched in a typical Fynbos plant in West Coast National Park. Image by Adam Riley
Flocks of massive Alpine Swifts scream overhead fields filled with flowers. Image by Adam Riley
A handsome male Cape Sparrow poses in West Coast National Park. Image by Adam Riley
Rather dull in appearance but making up for this in song and character, a Karoo Scrub-Robin sings atop a flowering plant. Image by Adam Riley
The endemic Karoo Prinia is a common and confiding birding of the region. Image by Adam Riley
South Africa’s smallest bird, the Cape Penduline Tit near its nest in West Coast National Park. Image by Adam Riley
The near-endemic Hartlaub’s Gull posing in a field of flowers in West Coast National Park. Image by Adam Riley
Below – a Black-shouldered Kite with its prey in the form of a Striped Mouse in West Coast National Park. Image by Adam Riley