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 (ross.seals@gmail.com)

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

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)

OUTDOOR & OPEN FIRE SAFETY TIPS

  • 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. www.weathersa.co.za/fireindex
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 info@darlingwildflowers.co.za

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.

Country Storage Sponsorship

The Darling Wild Flower Society would like to extend a HUGE thank you to Country Storage for sponsoring two secure containers at their facility located at 36 Caledon Street, Darling.

The building at the Darling Sports grounds which was used to store the equipment and materials for the wild flower show was burgled on separate occasions during February 2021.  Among the items that were stolen are hessian bags, shade cloths, baskets and steel pots, tables and stands. The break-ins where reported to the local SAPS and the case is ongoing.

Country Storage was established in 2017 and is the first registered self-storage facility in the area. Country Storage offers neat, clean and secure parking and storage at country prices.  Visit the Country Storage website or Facebook Page by clicking on the links provided below the photograph.