Protea in South Africa
Photo by Frank Richmond

The unique flora of South Africa's Cape Region

The unique flora of South Africa's Cape Region

Feb 8, 2018|GardensWhere we travel| by Holbrook Travel

Guest post by Philip Rundel, UCLA Botanical Garden Director

Botanists and plant collectors going back more than a century have given almost reverent recognition to the unique and spectacular flora of the Cape Region of South Africa.

Aloe succotrina on Table Mountain
Photo by Abu Shawka

Not only is this the most diverse flora in the world for its size, but it is remarkable for such botanical wonders as the beautiful proteas and their relatives, succulents from towering aloes to tiny mesembs, hundreds of species of ericas, rare cycads, awesome wildflower shows, and the largest assemblage of bulb plants to be found anywhere in the world. All of this is easy to describe, but nothing can replace the experience of actually seeing this flora in person.

 Aloe ferox plant

Photo by Erik Brits

My first trip to South Africa was in 1980, a difficult era because of the apartheid policies at that time. Away from the political situation, we were taken to visit the large Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden near Cape Town, one of the most famous botanical gardens anywhere in the world and one displaying only native South African plants. Seeing Kirstenbosch and having the opportunity to accompany South African friends on field trips to parkland areas “hooked” me and I have enthusiastically returned often.

 View of Table Mountain from Kirstenbosch Gardens

Photo by Salim Fadhley

In all, I have made a dozen trips to South Africa, including a three-week camping trip with my two sons when they were 10 and 12. The landscapes, the plant and animal life, and the warm and friendly people of South Africa always make for a memorable visit, and of course the wine is world-class!

Fynbos landscape near Franschhoek

Photo by Chris Eason

Our upcoming South African garden and wildlife trip (Aug. 26-Sept. 14, 2018) has been designed to not only provide an opportunity for guided tours of seven famous botanical gardens across South Africa, but additionally to visit a number of national parks and wildlife preserves, including Kruger National Park to see the “Big Five” and other fauna. I can promise that if you join us for this trip to South Africa, you will want to return again.

Giraffe and oxpecker

Photo by Steve Slater