The Cape Floristic Region is internationally recognised for its extraordinary
floral biodiversity. Table Mountain and the Peninsula are home to some
2 285 plants species – more than 25% of the species found throughout
the Cape Floristic Region. Table Mountain alone has over 1 500 species
of plants, more than the whole of the United Kingdom, many of which
are endemic.
The most common vegetation type on Table Mountain, as with the rest
of the Cape Peninsula National Park, is fynbos.
This generally low-growing, shrubby vegetation includes heaths (Ericaceae),
reeds (Restionaceae) and proteas (Proteaceae). Some of the most
conspicuous fynbos species on the mountain are from the protea family,
and include the King Protea Protea cynaroides, South Africa’s national
emblem. Also found are the larger-growing “Waboom” Protea nitida
and the “Kreupelhout” Leucospermum conocarpodendron which can
grow to the size of a small tree. Another member of the protea family
is the endemic Silver Tree Leucadendron argenteum, which is found on
the slopes of Lion’s Head and above Kirstenbosch.
It is in the shrubs found below these larger species, however, that one
finds more striking evidence of the extraordinary species diversity for
which fynbos is famous. This is particularly so with the geophytes (plants
that grow from underground bulbs), such as members of the Disa,
Gladiolus, Moraea, Watsonia, Babiana and Iris genera. Many geophytes
are well known for their spectacular displays when flowering en masse,
particularly in the wake of fire.
The second vegetation type of Table Mountain, Renosterbos (“rhinoceros
bush”), is also rich in geophytes. Found on Signal Hill and the lower
slopes of Devil’s Peak, Renosterbos takes its name from the drab, grey
ericoid shrub Elytropappus rhinocerotis that is generally abundant. Also
characteristic of Renosterbos is the presence of grasses, which in this
veld type take the place of restios, and the virtual absence of proteas.
Lastly there is afro-montane forest and thicket. This covers only around
3% of the Cape Peninsula, and is mainly established along the cooler,
well-watered ravines on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, and in
Orange Kloof.
Together these vegetation types constitute a flora so rich in species
that it is not only the most diverse corner of the Cape Floristic Region,
but also, from a botanical point of view, the richest area, for its size,
anywhere on the planet, surpassing even the tropical rainforests in its
diversity. This is the reason that the Cape Peninsula has been nominated
for World Heritage Site status.

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