In springtime, the Cape West Coast plays host to arguably the greatest flower show on earth when its hills and valleys explode into color. Darling is located with the most diverse Floristic region in the world namely the Cape Floristic Kingdom.
The Cape floristic region is one of the six floral kingdoms in the world. This biodiversity hotspot in the Western Cape, known as “the hottest hotspot”, has the highest concentration of plant species in the world. It contains an estimated 9 500 species, of which 70% do not grow anywhere else in the world. Only 9% of the biome is formally protected. The region also has diverse animal species, including the rare and endangered Geometric Tortoise and Table Mountain Ghost Frog.
Population growth in the Western Cape continues to threaten the long-term integrity of the Cape floral region. To ensure the hotspot remains protected, CapeNature is involved in various activities, including preventing fires, managing invasive species, and ensuring responsible tourism and appropriate urban development.
In 2004, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared the Cape floral region as a world heritage site.
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 vldi area of approximately 10 ha that contains one of the last populations of a critically endangered orchid species called Pteryogodium 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, and seemingly dull appearance during other times of the year, 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.
The reserve is open to the public and is visited by many people every year during the spring flower season in Darling. Visitors need to park their car and enter on foot via a gate.
Location: R307 Darling to Mamre Road
Darling Renosterveld Reserve
The Darling Renosterveld Reserve is an approx. 20 hectare nature reserve, located ontop a granite koppie that overlooks Darling. It is one of the few remaining remnants of critically endangered Swartland Granite Renosterveld and is renownd for its rich botanical diversity and number of endemic geophytes.
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 speices 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.
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 off the R307, Darling to Mamre Road.
Tienie 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 Tienie Versveld Reserve is an incredibly pretty reserve of approx. 20 hectares and Tienie Versveld 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 resesrve while the the seasonal pans are inhabitat by terrapins.
Location: R315, Darling – Yzerfontein Road.
Waylands 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 Cape Nature 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