One of the world's 18 biodiversity hotspots
The Cape Floristic Region from the Peninsula to the Eastern Cape, is unmatched for flower power.
Accounting for less than 0,5% of the continent of Africa, the Cape Floristic Region holds an astonishing 20% of its flora, much of it endemic.
The Cape Floristic Region’s bounty of plant life has earned South Africa a place among the world’s top-rated locations for biodiversity. Much of this rich natural heritage cannot be seen anywhere else on earth. Covering 90 000 km², it is estimated each 1000 km² of this floral kingdom contains 465 species.
The Cape Floristic Region is uniquely South African; unique in that a large percentage of this floral wealth is endemic to the country. Its incredible richness enables South Africa to claim the third-highest level of biodiversity in the world.
The Table Mountain National Park, one of a chain of 8 protected areas encompassed by the region, packs more plant species into its 22 000 hectares than entire countries like the British Isles or New Zealand.
The Cape Floristic Region, a World Heritage Site, begins at the Cape Peninsula and trails along a mountainous path to the Eastern Cape. Besides Table Mountain, it takes in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, the Boland, the Groot Winterhoek wilderness area, the Swartberg mountains, the Boosmansbos wilderness area, the Cederberg and Baviaanskloof.
Plant life includes fynbos, a vast group of plants that has tickled the fancy of scientists who marvel at its adaptive responses to fire and its reproductive strategies. Famous fynbos families are the proteas (also the country's national flower), the ericas (heaths) and the grass-like restios. Gardeners will be familiar with more common species like aloes and geraniums, and some of the 1 400 bulb species, such as gladioli.
One of the leading attractions in the Cape's active floral tourism sector, Cape Town's Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens - a floral mosaic that delights even those with little interest in plants - is perhaps the crown in this abundance. Located on the lower reaches of Table Mountain, most visitors like to wander its well-marked paths at their own pace, although tours can be taken.
Prime flower viewing time in the Cape is late winter into early spring, when people travel from all over the country to see the bold displays all along the West Coast and throughout this region of Cape flowers.
The Cape Floristic Region is spread over a wide area and is best accessed from the cities of Cape Town (Western Cape) or East London (Eastern Cape). Cape Town has an international airport as well as rail links to the rest of the country. East London is linked by air and rail to all South Africa's major cities.
Driving yourself around is best as it allows you to explore at your own pace. An alternative option would be to take a guided tour of the region.
Early spring is the best time to visit, as the region erupts in a rainbow of colour during the flowering season.
A weekend will give you ample time to explore.
Sunblock and a hat are musts. Good walking shoes are recommended for those who prefer to explore on foot. And don't forget your camera, the colours in the region are breathtaking.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Tel: +27 (0) 21 799 8783
Fax: +27 (0) 21 797 6570
The exquisite Cape Floristic Kingdom
The Cape Floristic Region is one of only 6 floral kingdoms in the world.
The Cape Floristic Region
A region of endemic Cape flowers, the Cape Floristic Region holds 20% of Africa's flora and 3% of the plant species on earth, one of the world's biodivesity spots.