Video: Spring In Namaqualand National Park (Cape Floristic Kingdom)
2023 Author: Ashton Daniels | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 17:13
At a time when we have winter, people on the other side of the world enjoy spring bloom. In November in South Africa, on the territory of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, a semi-desert blooms. These photographs were provided to us by Irhan Udulag, a Turkish citizen working in South Africa, a great connoisseur and lover of succulents. In this area, on one square meter, it has up to 20 species of succulent plants alone. The photo was taken in late November in Namaqualand province, north of Cape Town, off the Atlantic coast, after strong winds, so the plants may not look perfect. Unfortunately, there is no way to identify them from photographs, but to see this floristic richness through the eyes of a person fascinated by plants is already a great success. It is a pity that we can not post all 320 photos …
South Africa has the largest variety of flowering plants on the globe. This floristic heritage, discovered more than three centuries ago, continues to amaze botanists and tourists from all over the world.
On the territory of this country there are about 22,000 species known to science, but new ones are constantly being discovered. Almost every province has its own subject of pride, and more than one - from giant trees to many species of orchids. Just one Table Mountain near Cape Town has a plant community of 1,500 species in an area of 22,000 hectares - more than the rest of the UK or New Zealand. Here is the famous Kirstenbosch botanical garden. The subtropical region in the northern part of the Kruger National Park rivals in botanical diversity.
A huge diversity of species, about 9000, is observed in the western part of the Cape, which has been declared as one of the world's six "floristic kingdoms". The Cape Floristic Kingdom covers an area of 553,000 hectares and is located mainly in a coastal strip about 100 km wide, resembling in its contours a turtle, whose head is the southernmost point of the mainland - the Cape of Good Hope. It is the only and smallest of all the floristic kingdoms in the world, located within one country.
Plot of land and sea covering 90,000 sq. km, or 0.05% of the Earth's land area, contains approximately 3% of the world's plant diversity - about 456 species per 1,000 sq. km. More than 40% of the flora of South Africa is concentrated here. Of the 9 600 species of vascular plants, about 70% are endemic, that is, they are not found anywhere else on the planet. There are several whole endemic families (Grubbiaceae, Roridulaceae, Bruniaceae, Penaeaceae, Greyiaceae, Geissolomataceae, Retziaceae). More than 280 genera have their distribution center in the Cape region, and more than 210 of them are endemic to the region.
The Cape Floristic Kingdom makes up less than 0.5% of Africa's area, but is home to almost 20% of the continent's flora. The diversity of plant species, their density and their endemism are among the highest in the world, making this area recognized by UNESCO as one of 18 biodiversity hotspots of exceptional value for science.
Despite the fact that the Cape flora did not give mankind a single economically important cultivated plant, it continues to serve as an inexhaustible source of beautiful garden and indoor plants. From here originate agapanthus, bearded irises, amaryllis, decorative asparagus, galtonia, gerbera, gladiolus, clivia, knifofia, plumbago, pelargonium, etc.
Among African plants, there are also many invasive ones. For example, the well-known in our country kosmeya, which was brought to South Africa from Australia and South America in bales of feed for English horses during the Boer War. Now it can be found everywhere in the vicinity of Johannesburg (this is outside the Cape Floristic Kingdom).
The real scourge of the Cape was one of the species of acacia imported from Australia. 50-60 specimens of these fast-growing "miracle trees" are able to provide a family with firewood for a year. In the conditions of the Cape province, close to the Mediterranean, they began to grow so rapidly that they now threaten the natural communities, called in the African language "Fynbos", "false bushes". African bushes consist mainly of Proteaceae, which die off for a while and are not tree shrubs, resembling them only in appearance.
It is worth mentioning that the fauna of the Cape region is no less rich, which boasts 11,000 marine animal species, 3,500 of which are endemic, and 560 species of vertebrates, including 142 reptile species, 27 of which live only here.
The gloomy, lifeless and dry Namaqualand semi-desert along the northern Cape region is one of the most spectacular floristic extravaganzas in the spring. Flowering occurs after winter rains, which in this area fall in total from 2 to 25 mm per year, in rare years - up to 50 mm. It can come at different times, depending on the arrival of the rainy season, from July to October. Sometimes moisture is not enough, but when there is enough of it, the desert "flashes" with a kaleidoscope of colors from billions of wild flowers that fill the air with their aromas. In this small area, there are about 3000 species of flowering plants.
In a short period of time, plants are pollinated and produce seeds that can persist in the soil for many years. For their germination, conditions are necessary - winter rain, and not all of them will germinate, some will remain in the soil until next year. When a favorable year comes, a huge number of seeds are formed and their reserves in the soil are renewed, creating a reserve for a long time. Different seeds germinate under different conditions of temperature and humidity, so in each area the composition of the vegetation differs from year to year, depending on when the first rains came. Flowering plants attract many bees, butterflies and other insects.
Another form of conservation in geophyte plants, which retain moisture and nutrition in bulbs, corms and tubers. These plants can also survive for many years in semi-drought conditions. They are able to reproduce vegetatively, but this would not allow them to spread far. Therefore, many species produce seeds that are spread by the wind.
Winds in this region are not uncommon in summer, and their speed is great. They carry seeds with sand over long distances. Satellite images show that the wind carries huge amounts of sand hundreds of kilometers out to sea.
It is also home to 30% of the world's succulents, which store moisture during the rainy season to survive the dry season.
The hemp-like succulents Fenestrias aurantica are drought tolerant. They have translucent tops to collect sunlight for growth. Flower buds make their way between these "windows" in spring.
A common plant in Namaqualand, the Grielum humifusum of the Rosaceae family, with yellow buttercup-shaped flowers, is often compared to the gold scattered from a pirate's treasure chest.
|Fenestrias aurantica||Grielum humifusum|
The long, bright red inflorescences of Aloe Ferrox serve as a treat for Nectarinidae birds and African babies who suck nectar from flowers. The plant, common in the western part of the Cape region, is the source of a medicinal gel widely used in cosmetics.
The pink flowers of the annual Mesembryathemum we grow in lush bumps cover vast areas. It is not possible to name the species, since 728 of them grow here.
On the territory of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, there are 765 species of erica. One of the most interesting and rare species is Erica versicolor.
In the past, the Cape flora occupied a much larger territory than at present, but due to the increasing dryness of the climate, it is steadily decreasing. Global temperatures have risen by about 0.6 degrees Celsius since the mid-nineteenth century, predicted to rise by 5.8 degrees Celsius during the present.
Many of the native species are endangered. Half of the list is predicted to be lost over the next 50 years. Three quarters of the plants listed in the latest issue of the South African Red Data Book are in the Cape Floristic Region. This coastal area is under pressure from technological progress, population growth, agriculture, vegetation collectors and the spread of invasive plants. A natural treasure for the people of South Africa and the world, it is carefully protected.
South Africa itself is responsible for 40% of the continent's greenhouse gas emissions. To improve the environmental situation in the region, it is planned to reduce the combustion of fossil fuels, switch to solar water heating and the use of nuclear energy. In 2006-2007, $ 2.5 million was spent to combat alien invasive plants in the western Cape. The hope remains that most of the valuable species will not be lost forever.
Photo: Irkhan Udulag (South Africa)
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