iNaturalist & the City Nature Challenge 2022


iNaturalist is a social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. iNaturalist may be accessed via its website or from its mobile applications. As of February 2021, iNaturalist users had contributed approximately 66 million observations of plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms worldwide, and around 130,000 users were active in the previous 30 days.

iNaturalist describes itself as “an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature”, with its primary goal being to connect people to nature. Although it is not a science project itself, iNaturalist is a platform for science and conservation efforts, providing valuable open data to research projects, land managers, other organizations, and the public. It is the primary application for crowd-sourced biodiversity data in places such as Mexico, southern Africa, and Australia, and the project has been called “a standard-bearer for natural history mobile applications.


iNaturalist began in 2008 as a UC Berkeley School of Information Master’s final project of Nate Agrin, Jessica Kline, and Ken-ichi Ueda. Nate Agrin and Ken-ichi Ueda continued work on the site with Sean McGregor, a web developer. In 2011, Ueda began collaboration with Scott Loarie, a research fellow at Stanford University and lecturer at UC Berkeley. Ueda and Loarie are the current co-directors of The organization merged with the California Academy of Sciences on April 24, 2014. In 2017, iNaturalist became a joint initiative between the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.

Since 2012, the number of participants and observations has roughly doubled each year. In 2014, iNaturalist reached 1 million observations and as of December 2021 there were 99 million observations.

Observations & Platforms

Users can interact with iNaturalist in several ways:

  • through the website,
  • through two mobile apps: iNaturalist (iOS/Android) and Seek (iOS/Android), or
  • through partner organizations such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) website.

The iNaturalist platform is based on crowdsourcing of observations and identifications. An iNaturalist observation records a person’s encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and place. An iNaturalist observation may also record evidence of an organism, such as animal tracks, nests, or scat. The scope of iNaturalist excludes natural but inert subjects such as geologic or hydrologic features. Users typically upload photos as evidence of their findings, though audio recordings are also accepted and such evidence is not a strict requirement.

iNaturlist City Nature Challenge

In 2016, Lila Higgins from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and Alison Young from the California Academy of Sciences co-founded the City Nature Challenge (CNC). In the first City Nature Challenge, naturalists in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area documented over 20,000 observations with the iNaturalist platform.

In 2017, the CNC expanded to 16 cities across the United States and collected over 125,000 observations of wildlife in 5 days. The CNC expanded to a global audience in 2018, with 68 cities participating from 19 countries, with some cities using community science platforms other than iNaturalist to participate. In 4 days, over 17,000 people cataloged over 440,000 nature observations in urban regions around the world. In 2019, the CNC once again expanded, with 35,000 participants in 159 cities collecting 964,000 observations of over 31,000 species. Although fewer observations were documented during the 2020 City Nature Challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic (when the CNC became collaborative as opposed to competitive), more cities and people participated and more species were found than in previous years.

City Nature Challenge 2022 – Weskus

The City Nature Challege 2022 is scheduled for 29 April to 02 May 2022. For the first time the Challenge will extend beyond the boundaries of the City of Cape Town into the West Coast (Weskus) and Swartland districts. Visit the CNC 2020: Weskus page on iNaturalist to learn more and to join the project. Plants and animals from both terrestrial (land) and aquatic (freshwater and marine life) are included. Focus is placed on indigenous wildlife and plants however invasive alien species such as Rooikrans, Echium, Water hyacinth, etc. can also be included.

Grazing at Tienie Versfeld Reserve – January 2022

Tienie Versfeld Nature Reserve is a small nature reserve off the R315 in between Darling and Yzerfontein.  The 22 hectare site was originally part of a now neighbouring farm and was donated to the Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) by the then owner Mr. Marthinus (Tienie) Versfeld.  His sister, Muriel was a founding member of the Darling Wildflower Society in the early 1900’s.   

Tienie Versfeld Nature Reserve is managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and is associated with the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.  The Swartland renosterveld vegetation is endangered and protected by national law.  The reserve is a seasonal wetland which is one of the most threatened vegetation types in the world.  A number of the species present are endemic to the region and are listed internationally as threatened. 

Darling Wine Cup / Kelkiewyen. Photographer: Wilfred Duckitt, Oudepost Farm – Darling

Livestock grazing in fynbos and renosterveld has been a controversial topic for many years.  It is no secret that incorrect and over-grazing of renosterveld has resulted in the loss of biodiversity and in some cases completely transformed the composition of plant species present.  However many years ago larger herbivores such as eland, bontebok and zebra freely roamed and grazed the Swartland renosterveld. Today there are no large free roaming wild herbivores and if applied correctly grazing of fynbos and renosterveld has proven to be beneficial. 

The practice livestock grazing to assist with the distribution of seeds has been used as a management tool at Tienie Versfeld for many years and has proven to be beneficial when applied and managed correctly. 

Grazing in the Tienie Versfeld reserve is overseen by the Darling Wildflower Society.  The grazing capacity (amount of animals that can be kept) and the stocking rate (amount of animals the land can really support) are taken into consideration and are monitored. 

Grazing in Tienie Versfeld is planned for January 2022.   Any questions or concerns can be directed to the Darling Wildflower Society chairperson at

Snotrosie / Dew flower Photographer: Wilfred Duckitt, Oudepost Farm – Darling

Darling Wildflower Society Youth Project

Year End Activity – Fire Awareness & Renosterveld

The fourth and final activity of 2021 for the Darling Wildflower Society Youth Group took place on 7 December 2021 at the Darling Renosterveld Reserve.

An interactive talk followed by a Q&A on the relationship between renosterveld and fire was presented by CapeNature and the children aged 10 to 14 years made us proud with their eagerness to learn and conserve.

The Darling Wildflower Society would like to thank CapeNature and the Darling Outreach Foundation for partnering with the Darling Wildflower Society to achieve our mission of encouraging and nurturing the next generation of wildflower custodians.

📷 Angelique Rosant and Nicole Loebenberg of the Darling Wildflower Society

Fynbos & Fire

Fire has and always will be part of the South African landscape. They occur as a natural phenomenon in grasslands, woodlands, fynbos, and sometimes in indigenous forests. South Africa has two fire seasons according to rainfall patterns. In the Western Cape it is during the dry summer months while in the rest of the county during the dry winter months. Fire seasons in the Western Cape commences on 01 November each year and the area is one of the worst-affected veld fire areas in the country, with fires a natural phenomenon in summer.

Most wildfires are started by accident by people being careless with open flames and indifferent to the consequences of their carelessness. A million years ago early humans began to utilise fire and for the last 100 000 years modern humans have used veldfires for hunting and for managing their environment. Today, fire is still employed in the management of veld and forest, to control grazing and habitats, and as a tool in the prevention of uncontrolled fires. However, small fires frequently escalate into disastrous, uncontrolled wildfires.

Credit: Ross Turner (

About 70% of the ecosystems covering South Africa are fire-adapted. They need to burn in order to maintain their ecological integrity. Fynbos soils are notoriously infertile and the recycling of soil nutrients is essential for fynbos survival. Fire is the motor that drives this cycle and fires at appropriate intervals are not only an integral but also essential part of fynbos ecology. Fires can rejuvenate the vegetation by removing moribund growth and recycling precious nutrients back to the soil. Fires also remove the chocking canopies allowing light to reach the soil surface and stimulates the germination of seeds. Some bulb species such as Cyrcanthus versticusos (True Fire Lily) only appear after fire.

Similarly some invasive alien plant species such as Acacia saligna (Port Jackson Willow) and Acacia cyclops (Rooikrans) also benefit from fires. Rooikrans seeds can remain dormant beneath the soil for several decades but will germinate rapidly after a fire.. In addition invasive alien plants increase the fuel load which increases the intensity of the heat of fires making it more difficult to control and dangerous to suppress.

Cyrcanthus verticosus (True fire lily)
Credit: Callan Cohen


Reporting a fire quickly can mean the difference between minor damage and total devastation. Fires can be reported by dialing 112 from a cell phone or your District Municipal offices.

  • West Coast District Municipality 022 433 8700
  • Cape Winelands Municipality 021 887 4446
  • Overberg District Municipality 028 425 1690
  • City of Cape Town Municipality 021 480 7700 OR 107 (landline)


  • Open fires are a common cause of uncontrolled fires in the Western Cape. No open flame or fire may be permitted unless in a designated area.
  • Preferably, do not start a fire when it is hot and dry, and especially not when it’s windy.
  • Never use flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin to start a fire.
  • Do not make open fires close to flammable materials and vegetation
  • Do not leave fires unattended for any period of time
  • Do soak the coals of a dead fire with water (be careful of sparks and steam)
  • On certain days, recreational fires are prohibited, as indicated by the daily “fire danger” rating, which predicts the expected difficulty in putting out runaway fires. The higher the rating, the more dangerous the conditions.
Bulbs flowering post fire on Table Mountain. Photo Credit: The Fynbos Guy

Content sourced from CapeNature and Working on Fire

National Garden Day

Sunday 17 October 2021 is South Africa’s National Garden Day.

The day encourages people across South Africa to celebrate their green spaces and gardens regardless of the shape and size.  Whether it was taking care of one or two houseplants, growing flowers, or an entire veggie patch, lockdown turned many people into part-time gardeners, making Garden Day this year especially appropriate.

Whether you enjoy a braai or picnic with family in your garden , attend a workshop or visit one of the many Botanical Gardens there are numerous ways to celebrate.

Happy gardening!

Great Southern Bioblitz 2021 – southern Africa

6 Cities, 8 regions, 1 province and 2 countries in southern Africa and 2 in central Africa are taking part in the Great Southern Bioblitz 2021. Please join in the fun! For participating cities and countries visit the INaturalist Project Umbrella page.

If you live in or can visit one of our participating cities from October 22-25th 2021, you can take part by recording any plants, animals or fungi within the city boundaries. This involves taking photos and uploading the observations. We recommend that you consider using the smartphone app, uploadable on the address strip below.

If you unfortunately cannot make it, you can still help by helping us with identifications. These can start on 22 October, but need to be done by by the deadline (TBC). You can help any city – or all of them: especially if you are knowledgeable in some groups. Please watch the journal of this project (join to get updates), and the Facebook page for details.

Contact your local CREW or Friends groups or your local reserve manager to see what they have planned in your area.

Text adapted from INaturalist

Local Wildflower Reserves Maintenance & Management

Maintenance of the fences of the Darling Renosterveld and Groenekloof wildflower reserves is being undertaken by a team managed by the chairman of the Darling Wild Flower Society, Mr. Charles Duckitt. Further weeding has taken place of the alien species in both reserves – there is an ongoing plan to be worked during the year to clear paths and manage the veld. Funding for equipment and labour has been made available by Swartland Municipality.

October 2021

Darling Wildflower Society Committee Outing

On 14 September 2021 the Darling Wildflower Society committee donned their walking shoes to enjoy a committee outing to the recently proclaimed Niuwepost Conservation Area located on Burgherspost Farm outside of Daring. The group was guided by the very knowledgeable Jacques van der Merwe who once worked and still lives on Burgherspost farm. Jacques, assisted by the Darling Wildflower Society chairman and wildflower story-teller of note Charles Duckitt had the committee enticed for almost two hours!

Thanks to the unique composition of granite renosterveld, renosterveld vlei (wetland) and Atlantis sand fynbos the reserve has a multitude of wildflowers of which many are endemic to the region and occur nowhere else in the world! The pan attracts a variety of birds including flamingos as well as several frog species, while the surrounding areas provide habitat for small mammals, reptiles and rodents.

Open to the public during spring (August/September) the reserve is located off the R315. From the R315 take the Darling Cellars road and continue approx. 5km towards Cloof Wine Estate. The reserve and parking area is on your right – lookout for the signboard.

Guided wildflower walks can be arranged with the Darling Wildflower Society but here is a sneak peak of the wildflowers you may find. Visit the Darling Wildflower Society social media platforms for more things #darlingwildflowers.

Happy Spring 2021

Spring has officially arrived and the Darling hills are painted in vibrant colours. Carpets of white rain daisies and bright orange gousblom with splashes of yellow Arctotheca (Cape Weed) and Ursinia (Parchute daisy) as far as the eye can see.

Darling and the West Coast is located within the Cape Floristic Region and is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Many of the species found in the area occur no where else in the world. The Darling Wildflower Society is committed to promoting the conservation of the endemic and indigenous wildflowers of Darling and surrounds among landowners and remains actively involved with the maintenance of the two municipal wildflower reserves in Darling.

To celebrate spring 2021 here are some of the more recent wildflowers observed along the nature walk in the sandveld and renosterveld vegetation at Groote Post Vineyard.

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more things wildflower.

Darling Kids Holiday Program – Youth Day 2021

The Darling Wildflower Society Kids Holiday Program was established as an youth environmental education project of the Darling Wildflower Society in 2018. Children aged nine to thirteen from the Darling Outreach Foundation took part in a number of excursions during 2018 and 2019 including a visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Kids Holiday Program was put on hold during 2020 and after almost a year of dormancy the Darling Wildflower Society and children are equally enthusiastic about the reinstatement of the program. During 2021 children between the ages of nine and thirteen from the Darling Outreach Foundation will take part in a number of environmental education and outdoor based activities as well as visiting the various parks and reserves in the area. Going forward the Darling Wildflower Society will be working closely with CapeNature and others such as the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve in order to creating lasting partnerships which will not only ensure the longevity of the project but also ensure that the project adds real value to the children.

The project is funded by the Darling Wildflower Society and any donations are very welcome. Contributions do not have to monetary and can be food for packed lunches, transport of children and facilitators to venues or materials such as stationary and educational children’s books. For more information how to contribute to the project please contact us at

On Youth Day 2021 a group of ten children from the Darling Outreach Foundation visited the West Coast Fossil Park at Langebaanweg. This was the first time any of the children visited the West Coast Fossil Park which is less than an hour from Darling. The children were welcomed by their guide Darryl of the West Coast Fossil Park before taking a guided tour of the fossil dig-site and museum followed by a packed lunch and quick scramble on the jungle-gym before heading back home to Darling.

More photographs on our Facebook Page.