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Whale Trail Flowers

Whale Trail Flowers

Whale Trail Flowers are not usually considered by most people who hike the De Hoop Whale Trail. They hike the trail for the dramatic weathered cliffs, glorious beaches, bird life and of course the prolific amount of Southern Right whales that frequent the coastline. Once on the trail they soon realize that the flora is as, if not more impressive than its fauna and scenery. The whale trail flowers are mostly associated with limestone soils and the rare and endemic flowers found on the trail make this area a biodiversity hot-spot.

The flowers of the whale trail in the  De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape of South Africa are undeniably spectacular but a lot of visitors are unaware of the importance of this World Heritage Site. For starters it has at least 12 species that occur only on the Potberg Mountain.

Biodiversity of the De Hoop Nature Reserve

In excess of 1100 plant species have been recorded in  the De Hoop Reserve. At least 38 of these are endemic to the area, roughly 60 nationally rare and threatened plant species have been recorded in the reserve, including three species which are strictly endemic :

Leucospermum fulgens (Vulnerable)

Cliffortia burgersii (Rare)

Protea aurea subspecies potbergensis (Rare)

The mountain to coast trail provides a fascinating diverse landscape through seven major habitat types falling within the of the Bredasdorp/Agulhas and Infanta Cape Floral Region

  • Lowland Fynbos , including Limestone fynbos
  • Fynbos/thicket occurring on the coastal alkaline sands
  • Small area of renosterveld on finer, richer soils
  • Mountain fynbos on the Potberg Ranges nutrient -poor sands
  • Small forest pockets in ravines
  • The dune-field system at De Hoop is the largest remaining undeveloped, naturally shifting, dune system in the southern Cape, supporting coastal strand vegetation.
  • Productive coastal wetlands and the intertidal zone of eroded limestone calcrete platforms add to the diversity of the region.

Each of these habitat types supports a rich array of plant life.

The  Whale Trail region of the Overberg is the center of  limestone fynbos, an endemic rich area. Soils are alkaline  and the fynbos is dominated by Protea obtusifolia and Leucodendron meridianum. Endemic Ericas include species of Rutaceae such as Diosma guthriei, Diosma haelkraalensis and Euchaetes longibracteata and E. meridionalis, each with their own unique scent. Erica is the largest genus in the fynbos with 426 species in the south western Cape, 106 species recorded in the southern Overberg.

For more information on the Rutaceae found at De Hoop go to

http://angio.bergianska.se/Bilder/rosids/Sapindales/Rutaceae/Euchaetis/

Characteristic  limestone geophytes that can be found on the whale trail are Freesia elimensis, Lachenalia muirii and Watsonia fergusoniae.

The ten largest families in the flora are, in decreasing size order:

  • Asteraceae

  • Fabaceae

  • Iridaceae

  • Ericaceae

  • Mesembryanthemaceae

  • Campanulaceae

  • Cyperaceae

  • Restionaceae

  • Proteaceae

  • Rutaceae

The ten largest genera are:

  • Erica

  • Aspalathus

  • Crassula

  • Senecio

  • Muraltia

  • Phylica

  • Gladiolus

  • Thesium

  • Pelargonium

  • Cliffortia

 

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