In springtime, the Cape West Coast plays host to arguably the greatest flower show on earth when its hills and valleys explode into magical carpet of colors. The Society, the wildflower reserves in and around Darling and local farmers play a critical role in the conservation of the few untouched remnants of fynbos and critically endangered renosterveld in the area.
Wildflower Reserves in and around Darling
Harold Versfeld Nature Reserve – Contreberg Farm
Contreberg Farm, situated approximately 10 km outside of Darling, directly next to the R307 on the way to Mamre, contains a seasonally wet, Swartland Granite Renosterveld vlei area of approximately 10 ha that contains one of the last populations of a critically endangered orchid species called Pterygodium cruciform. Referred to by some as the “Darling Ivory”, this highly endangered orchid was rediscovered on the property by Dr. Anton Pauw in 2004 as part of his PhD on renosterveld fragmentation and pollination systems. It is only found on this farm and at two other lowland locations. This particular orchid is probably pollinated by a special renosterveld oil-collecting bee since it secretes oil instead of nectar.
The wetland on Contreberg is highly conservation worthy as these seasonally wet areas are largely transformed in the Cape lowlands and often support very unique, and rare species. Besides the wetland, there is also a 5 ha area on the property which the owner, Alex Versfeld, set aside as a wildflower reserve a number of years ago. This private reserve has been open to the public since 1975 and has never been ploughed. Despite its small size, it transforms into a magnificent display of flowering bulbs including species such as Ixia scillaris, Ixia maculata, Geissorhiza eurystigma, Geissorhiza radians (Witring Kelkiewyn), Drosera cistiflora (Snotrosie), Geissorhiza aspera, Romulea tabularis, Heliophila africana (Sandflaks), Monsonia speciosa, Brunsvigia orientalis, Wurmbea marginata, Disperis villosa, Pterygodium alatum, Nemesia barbata, Diascia diffusa, Moraea gawleri and Sparaxis grandiflora.
Location: Contreberg Farm – R307
Darling Renosterveld Reserve
The Darling Renosterveld Reserve is an approx. 20 hectare nature reserve, located on top a granite koppie that overlooks Darling and the surrounding farmlands. It is one of the few remaining remnants of critically endangered Swartland Granite Renosterveld and is renowned for its rich botanical diversity and number of endemic geophytes (bulbs). Spring flowers include the endemic Darling froetang (Romulea eximia), threatened Kelkiewyn-bobbejaantjie (Babiana rubrocyanea), vibrant Kalkoentjie (Gladiolus alatus), sweet smelling Aandblom (Hesperantha sp.) and silky Peacock flower (Spiloxene capensis) are only a handful of the flowering species you will find on your walk through the reserve.
Location: Kalkoentjie Street Darling. Opposite Darling Primary School
Darling Groenkloof Reserve
The Groenkloof Reserve is approx. 14 hectares in size and harbours the critically endangered Swartland Granite Renosterveld. A few small patches of this vegetation type remain scattered throughout the Swartland and as result the reserve is key in the conservation of the Swartland Granite Renosterveld vegetation. Species that commonly occur during spring include Chincherinchee (Ornitholgalum thyrsoides), Arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica), Lachnenalia (Lachenalia pustulata) and an variety of brightly coloured daisies. Also keep a look out for angulate tortoises (Chersina angulata) that are a common sight in the reserve. Taking the footpath to the top end of this reserve, one has a wonderful view over the village as well as north-west across the Swartland. Wandering back down towards the cemetery corner and the gate, will have given you a scenic walk of between half-an-hour and an hour, depending on your pace.
Location: Off the R315, Darling Road. Behind the Darling Cemetery and next to the SPCA.
Oudepost Nature Reserve
Oudepost Wildflower Reserve is a seasonal wildflower reserve is a private nature reserve on the Oudepost Farm which is also home to the Duckitt Nurseries. The reserve is located on the R307 approximately three (3)km south of Darling (about 70 km North of Cape Town) and is open to the public during flower season each year. Entrance is free.
The endangered Swartland Granite Renosterveld and season vleiland is home to a great diversity of flowering plants including the endangered and endemic Geissorhiza radians (Kelkiewyn sysie) and near threatened Dispersis cucullata (Witch Orchid). In addition the reserve is also home to a great number of bird species and is perfect for the whole family.
The Orchid Nursery on the opposite side of the reserve is open to the public on the 1st Saturday of the month from May to November.
Location: Oudepost Farm / Duckitt Nurseries – R307
SANBI Tinie Versfeld Nature Reserve
Tienie Versveld Reserve lies just outside Darling en route to Yzerfontein, part of a farm that was donated to the National Botanical Society of South Africa by none other than a Marthinus (Tienie) Versfeld (known locally, obviously, as Oom Tienie). Look out for the graves of Marthinus and his wife Beatrice (known as Baby). Interestingly Marthinus’s sister, Muriel, was one of the founding members of the Darling Wildflower Association.
The Tinie Versfeld Reserve is an incredibly pretty reserve of approx. 20 hectares and Tinie Versfeld is most well known for its displays during Spring. A diversity and abundance of wildflowers can be enjoyed along the footpaths which include Chincherinechee (Ornithogalum thyroides), Chandelier lilies (Brunsvigia bosmaniae and B. orientalis), Sambreeltjies (Monsonia speciosa) and a variety of satin flowers such as Geissorhiza monanthos, G. radians as well as the endemic G. darlingensis. The Speckled Cape tortoise or Padloper (Homopus aerolatus) is known to inhabit the reserve while the the seasonal pans are inhabited by terrapins.
Location: R315, Darling – Yzerfontein Road.
Waylands Farm Private Wildflower Reserve
The Waylands wild flower reserve was started by Frederick Duckitt in the early 1900’s. Visitors have been allowed access to the spectacular spring display of approx. 300 species of wild flowers every season since then. The road allowing visitors to drive through the reserve was built in 1938 by Wilferd Duckitt. The wild flowers are at their best from about the last week of August to the end of September. The flower reserve forms an integral part of Waylands farming activities, and is actively grazed by cattle and sheep from the time the seed has set in late November to the end of April before winter sets in. This grazing strategy has been used by the local inhabitants of the Cape since time immemorial, and we have found that this practice, which allows the animals to actively spread the seed, in addition to occasional autumn burning of the veld every 15 years, is imperative in promoting the growth of the wild flowers.
Location: Waylands Farm (Darling – Malmesbury Road)
West Coast National Park
The vast West Coast National Park offers a string of sandy bays, wildlife in abundance and some of the best wildflower-spotting in South Africa. Flower season in the West Coast National Park is at its peak from August to September annually. During these two months visitors to the park will see a wide variety of flowers on display, from daisies, to bulbs etc. Large areas of flowers can be seen in the Seeberg\Mooimaak and Postberg areas. Carpets of yellow Magriet (Ursinia), white rain Daisiy, orange Gousblom and pink Senecio create colour patterns that change from one week to the next, as some varieties fade, and others pop up in their place.
Location: West Coast National Park, off the R27 (West Coast Road)
Yzerfontein Urban Conservancy
An Urban Conservancy established by voluntary residents, working with Swartland Municipality and CapeNature towards the conservation of the green belts and coastline of Yzerfontein.
Two nature gardens offer visitor a closer look at the local strandveld and coastal fynbos while the Schaapen Island hike trail offers spectacular views of the coastline, whale and dolphin watching and possibly an encounter with the resident ostriches that roam the village and are often seen visiting the beach.
Location: Yzerfontein, West Coast
- The best time for viewing is between 10:30 and 16:00 during the warmest part of the day when the flowers are open.
- The day temperature must be at least 18 degrees Celsius.
- Sunny days are best for the opening of flowers. Rainy or overcast weather is not ideal so avoid disappointment. Plan to visit other sights on such days.
- Flowers face the sun and are therefore best displayed when traveling with the sun behind you. Viewers are advised to travel north soon after departure and then to do most flower-viewing by moving in a southerly direction.
- When taking a circular route, try traveling in a westerly direction in the morning, followed by a southerly one and finally an easterly one.
- Get out of the car and walk amongst the flowers but make sure to also look for the delicate, smaller species.
- Tread lightly and carefully so as not to trample plants unnecessarily.
- Please don’t pick any flowers.
- Many outlying areas do not have mobile phone reception.
- Make sure that you set off on your journey with a full tank as fuel is not readily available everywhere. It is thus also important that you take your own drinking water.
What to wear
- Long pants/trousers and comfortable shoes for walking around in the fields.
- Insect repellent is also essential.
Flower viewing advise
- The Darling Flower line +27 (0)84 916 1111
- Try to book your accommodation in advance.
- Most towns along the flower routes have fuel stations, ATM’s and mobile reception.
- Please note that the further north you travel, the greater the distance between towns become!
- Stop and ask the friendly locals for advice on flower hot spots and distances.
- Namakwa/West Coast flower maps are available at all tourism information offices.