Destinations, Feature Trips, South Africa, twoOregonians Tour the Cape

On a Darling Wildflower Safari

October 24, 2012

Just a day before we jetted off to Zanzibar, our South African friends Alister and Janine grabbed the car keys and drove us out of Cape Town for one last hurrah to cap off our two and a half months in South Africa: a wildflower safari and visit to the little town of Darling.

Yep, Darling.

Just like this view (hah!):

Me and my first science fair project. Little landscape architect in training…
All that studying put to good use: out among the Lowland Fynbos biome indigenous plants at the Waylands Wildflower Reserve in South Africa

Each year during a few magical weeks of Southern Hemisphere springtime, visitors from local towns and cities and far off countries alike make the pilgrimage to witness waves of wild blossoms rolling cheery color across dry and dusty brown farm fields and prairies.

These scenes appear courtesy of natural systems layered with human settlement patterns.

Naturally, within the Lowland Fynbos biome (a.k.a. the indigenous plant matrix of the Cape), wildflowers pop up in modest patches, here and there, mixed with other neighboring species. Cultivation and animal grazing introduced by Cape settlers over the past centuries created wider swaths of open land, and the enterprising plants well suited to fields and pastureland multiplied their blooms across the welcoming habitat.

Just an hour or so north of Cape Town, we discovered patches of purple, seas of yellow, drifts of white, and paddocks of orange appearing brilliantly around each bend in the road.

The highlight of our excursion was a stop-in at the ninety year old Waylands Flower Reserve, a piece of property containing a portion of the last remaining 1% of critically endangered Lowland Fynbos Biome indigenous plant species:

The 80 ha flower reserve at Waylands is a typical representative of the Lowland Fynbos biome. Estimated to contain approximately 300 species of flowering plants, it has always been managed to maintain and promote the wild flowers. The veld was made into a flower reserve in about 1922 when Frederick Duckitt, one of the co-founders of the Darling Wild Flower show, allowed the public to stop to view the spring flower bloom. His son, Wilferd Duckitt, built the road that allows the public to drive through the reserve, in 1952. Apart from this change, the veld has been managed in the same basic manner for at least the last 140 years.

The very simple management strategy consists of allowing cattle and sheep to graze in the veld throughout summer. The animals are then removed late in autumn and the flowers are allowed to grow undisturbed. Animals are then only allowed to graze the veld once the spring flowers have died off and have set seed at the beginning of summer. Fire also forms an integral part of the veld management strategy. The veld is burned once the bush gets overgrown and unproductive, but not in intervals of less then four years, and usually not longer than seven years. The timing of the intervals is dependent on the climatic conditions as well as the type of plants that grow in the veld. Certain plants need to be regularly burned to ensure survival, whilst others are not happy to be burned regularly. The burning strategy is therefore adjusted on an annual basis to accommodate the climatic conditions, the veld type and the specific plants. Burning is only done late in autumn, if possible just before rain, with a light breeze which will allow the fire to move fast enough so as not to destroy all the seed, but at the same time to be hot enough to burn all the dead and unproductive material.
-Darling Wildflower Society

Alister on the hunt: floral photo shoot

The dirt track through dancing blossoms did not disappoint.

We drove along, stopping for quick snaps and closer peeks.

Tiny species in the patch reward seekers of detail and admirers of the little thing in life…

Out-of-Focus-Camera-on-Tripod-Slipping-Down-Car-Hood ‘Exhibit A’
But seriously, thanks for the memories, A&J!

I’ve heard rumors and seen photos of even greater explosions of color farther north on the Cape. If it weren’t for that crazy flight to Zanzibar, I think I would’ve been hooked on the hunt and ready to extend the wildflower safari by another day or two (at least!)…

Many thanks to Alister and Janine for packing a picnic lunch, touring us through back roads and open fields, taking us into Darling for a visit to Evita se Perron’s stomping grounds, and for bookending our South African visit with a wonderfully warm welcome and farewell.

For more flowers from the road, see Rainy Season Flora of the Inca Trail…

Waylands Wildflower Reserve & Wayland Farm Guest House
Farm road through reserve (R307 to Mamre)
August/September bloom-time varies each year, depending on climate patterns

Darling, South Africa
A place we’ll remember for Pieter-Dirk Uys “Evita se Perron,”  Darling Brew “slow beer,” and wild color galore…

This post is part of our €œtwoOregonians Tour the Cape series featuring quintessential and offbeat South African experiences, one-of-a-kind accommodations and beautiful B&Bs, respectful wildlife programs, social service projects, and landscape photography from the South African Cape. As always, all opinions, photos, and stories are our own; many thanks to our kind hosts and partners along the way. It was our pleasure to experience such genuine kindness and hospitality!

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  • Reply Jennifer October 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Wow, I especially love that photo with the sea of purple in the distance. It sort of reminds me of spotting our first patch of lavender in Provence.

  • Reply Andrew Buck November 12, 2012 at 3:38 am

    Love that picture from the science fair. : ) And wow, I don’t think I’ve seen so many beautiful wild flowers since a certain day in July way back when. ;)

  • Reply MzansiGirl November 15, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Great post! Still haven’t managed to do a wildflower safari, but its high on my bucketlist!

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