Sunday, October 21

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Plant an indigenous fynbos garden, attend the 40th Fynbos Forum and become involved in fynbos conservation

Gardeners have a responsibility to turn their gardens into stepping stones of rich biodiversity. Biodiversity is all about having a “variety of life” in your garden. This can be done by developing an indigenous fynbos ecosystem that takes advantage of synergies between fynbos plants, insects and bird life.

As we celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity on Tuesday, consider the significance of the fynbos biome, also known as the Cape Floristic Region. The fynbos (“fine bush”) biome is a biodiversity hotspot, known for its thin or fine-leaved species which are adapted to surviving on winter rainfall.

Fynbos biome

Covering 90000km2, the biome extends from Cape Town, north to Niewoudtville and eastwards to Port Elizabeth. It comprises about 9000 plant species, 69% of which are endemic to the fynbos biome of the region.

Honeybees, butterflies, rodents and moths are important pollinators of fynbos.

“In the Cape region, four nectarivorous birds – the Cape sugarbird, southern double-collared sunbird, orange-breasted sunbird and malachite sunbird – pollinate about 350 indigenous fynbos species,” says Bongani Mnisi, a fynbos expert with City of Cape Town’s biodiversity management department.

The March heath (Erica verticillata) is a strong, hardy shrub, able to reach heights of 2m. Picture: Andrea Durheim

Fynbos Forum

The forum is an affiliation of scientists, researchers, conservationists, environmentalists, citizen scientists and other stakeholders, who contribute to fynbos biome conservation.

Rupert Koopman, chairman of the forum and a botanist with CapeNature, says our understanding of the fynbos biome and the functioning of its ecosystems is a result of the combined effort of various stakeholders and ecological research, and the sharing of information at the forum. The forum’s first annual meeting was held in 1978 in Cape Town. Annual meetings have been held to discuss and formulate priorities for the conservation and sustainability of fynbos ecosystems.

“Some people don’t know how special fynbos areas are in global terms,” says Koopman. “Getting involved with Fynbos Forum allows one to learn more about fynbos.”

A book, The Fynbos Forum – Its Impacts and History, edited by Caroline Gelderblom and Julia Wood, on the 40-year history of the forum, will be launched next month and will showcase the research and fynbos management expertise that underpins its success.

What to plant

Take advantage of the cool winter to fill your garden with plants adapted to the fynbos biome. Fynbos species include proteas, ericas, restios, pincushions and buchus along with bulbs which grow in the region – iris, gladiolus, babiana, freesia, sporaxis and watsonia.

Proteas: Proteas are best planted in autumn or early winter. Fynbos grows naturally in slightly acidic sand soil, so don’t add compost or phosphorus.

Ericas: Of the 700 species of ericas, about 50 are ideal for gardens. They thrive in well-drained soil in sunlight. Take care after planting. As with other fynbos species, ericas do not like their roots disturbed.

Restios: Restios come in different shapes, textures and colours. Plant in winter to allow them to settle through the rainy season.

Many of the Asteraceae (daisy family), pelargoniums and buchus are aromatic. They can be planted along pathways and emit their fragrances when the leaves are crushed.

Get involved

How can you learn more about creating your own fynbos garden?

Join iNaturalist: A global platform for citizen scientists. Record your encounters and learn more about nature. See www.inaturalist.org or download the app.

Become a fynbos citizen scientist: Take part in research projects. The current project focuses on diseases in fynbos. Citizen scientists can assist by reporting a dying plant or submitting a root and soil sample. Sign up at www.citsci.co.za

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