The Palmiet River is a typical Western Cape river in that it is supplied by winter rainfall. The name is taken from the endemic, robust, semi-aquatic plant that flourishes along the river banks and marshy areas.
The name derivation
Prionium serratum Wilde palmiet was used before the 1700’s by Van Riebeeck but apparently the first record was by Thunberg in 1772. Prionium is derived from the Greek prion meaning a saw and refers to the leaf blades, serratum refers to the toothed edges. This information may seem irrelevant to a hiker on the Palmiet River walk until you grab hold of a bunch of these leaves to steady yourself. I’m saving you from a painful experience.
Ecology and uses
Food source The young flower shoots are broken off before flowering and eaten or used as a vegetable.The leaves are used for basketry work, hats and mats. Palmiet is an organic engineering material which can be used for binding river banks, splitting or channelling river water as required. Palmiet Geoview of the Kogelberg Geoview In KwaZulu- Natal, P. serratum is listed as declining due to medicinal harvesting, degradation of habitat and overgrazing. Red list of plants
Palmiet River walk
The relatively new conservation office at Kogelberg offer a map and directions for all the trails. Once paying the R40 fee we headed up onto a jeep track and then followed a signpost to the right to the start of the Palmiet River walk . Described in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve brochure as an “easy” 10km day hike with 3hr duration, we embarked on possibly the easiest trail in the Kogelberg. We made our way towards the river along a magical track laden with aging protea bushes on either side. The path is narrow but in good condition with a few short log bridge crossings. There are one or two smooth rocky areas to pay attention to but otherwise it’s easy walking. Early on we passed the first of many designated swimming areas. The path undulates up the valley with breathtaking mountain vistas, interesting rock formations and magnificent fynbos flowers.
Interesting finds among many , included:
Berzelia albiflora (Coffee Bush) Erica cerinthoides (Fire heath), Erica mammosa (Ninepin heath), Erica multumbellifera,Erica tenella, Erica rhopalantha and some stunning patches of the Princeof Wales heath – Erica perpicua. Almost at the halfway mark is a great swimming area with a little white sandy beach. There is no real shade on this trail but it’s still wonderful to do in summer. Soon after the beach area the trail leaves the river and turns left to join the jeep track which goes back to the start. We chose to walk back along the same path. Its a fantastic walk, very pleasant and scenic.