Secrets Of Nature - Gifts from the Earth

21 February

Gifts from the Earth

Declared as one of the six floral kingdoms of the world, the Cape Floral Kingdom has over 9000 species of flowering fynbos plants within an area of 90 000km². At least 70% of these species can only be found in the Cape.

Grootbos is known to hold 765 of the 9000 species; 410 of which are on the Red Data list, meaning they are threatened, six species are completely new to science and four of these are known to only exist within the reserve.

Our tour guides are well informed and eager to share their knowledge with the guests. Even those who have no interest in flowers will become enthralled and interested by the diversity and uniqueness of what can be found.

Native to South Africa, the Hottentot or sour fig, (Carpobrotus edulis), belongs to the Aizoaceae family (the fig-marigold family or ice plant family), and grows very well on sunny slopes in coastal regions.

This plant acts as a groundcover that can stablise the soil and prevent soil erosion. Their leaves are eaten by tortoises and the fruit by small rodents. These leaves are great for sunburns, stings and even earaches! Puff adders, Cape cobras and other snakes wait in the thickets of this plant and ambush their prey who are attracted to the fruit.

Monkey beetles and other pollen feeders are also attracted to the flowers, which only open when the sun is out during the day. They shut during the night creating a great shelter for their pollinators while they sleep.

Once the flowers turn into fruit, we can collect them to eat or make jams.

Food is Medicine

Salvia Africana Lutea or brown sage is part of the Lamiaceae (a.k.a. mint) family. It grows in abundance amongst the fynbos at Grootbos, flowering from June through to December. It is one of South Africa’s most unique medicinal plants.

The leaves are rich in essential oils that can be used as an ointment on the skin to help with bruising and can also be placed into a warm bath to help soothe joint or muscular pains. Sage tea is also a great cure of the flu.

The flower of this plant contains sweet nectar, which is an important food source for the beautiful sunbirds when proteas are not flowering. The hinged anthers are triggered by the beak of sunbirds as they search for nectar, and in doing so, the birds get covered in pollen, which they then transfer to other flowers and plants. It’s a beautiful sight!

21 February
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