Architectural whorls of proteas and leucospermums, mingle with a kaleidoscope of gladiolus, watsonia, pelargoniums and some wonderfully different orchids amidst the magnificent landscapes of the western Cape of South Africa, a botanical holy grail. The level of biodiversity is exceptional and it is the richest of the worlds’ five Mediterranean climate regions in terms of species per square kilometre. Spectacular coastlines give way to rugged mountains and many of the most interesting species are appearing now.
Please note: FIRE is a crucial part of the cycle of nature in fynbos, and many bush fires burn every season, encouraging many species into mass flowering and creating opportunities for us as plants people. With this in mind the itinerary is subject to late change if, depending on where fires have occurred, we deem different areas to be worth visiting rather than the ones indicated. Likewise, days 8 & 12 are very much intended to be 'open' so we can react and travel to these good areas. We want you to experience the best flora we can find. Thank you for your understanding.
The Western Cape is a Mediterranean climate region and many of the images shown here feature in our lavish new book Flora of the Mediterranean (see Publications).
Following our arrival by mid-afternoon we will drive onto the pleasant coastal town of Hermanus. Overnight Hermanus.
An introduction to botanically-rich fynbos, with a mixture of protea stands combined with the attractive coppery whorls of Leucospermum cordifolium, pink Phaeonocoma prolifera, abundant Dimorphotheca and the first orchids with the diminutive Satyrium bicallosum. These grow alongside the deep purple of Moraea livida. A yellow species is common on the higher slopes where the pretty white Gerbera tomentosa grows near seeps encrusted with Drosera slachii coloured by the rare inflated pink flowers of Disa pillansii. Another orchid purple-red Disa ophyridea grows near the fiery wands of Mimetes cucullatus. The views of the rugged coastline from above are superb. Back at sea level we will look for the peculiar deep red Gladiolus cuconius that grows on low cliffs in the town. Overnight Hermanus.
The coast road passes Betty’s Bay with stands of Pelargonium cucullatum and Gladiolus carneus and then climbs up past populations of Watsonia borbonica and the orange orchid Satyrium coriifolium before climbing into protea rich country with big stands of Protea neriifolia and nitida just before a dramatic overlook of the city. Driving down onto the Cape Peninsula we will stop wherever we see good plants, including cliffs with striking Pelargonium betulinum. Overnight Cape Peninsula.
The far end of Africa beckons. As soon as we enter Cape Point there will be a constant procession of exciting flowers. The silver domes of Syncarpha vestita will be taking shape alongside abundant blue Aristea africana and white Adenandra villosa, amidst great stands of architectural tree-like Mimetes fimbriifolius and perhaps the odd King Protea the country’s national flower. The spectacular shrub Leucospermum conocarpodendron is locally dominant, the sulphur-yellow flowers crowded onto impressive cones. The remarkable deep pink parasite Hyobanche sanguinea is common and its orange cousin Harveya squamosa can be found too. Side roads take us to wonderful flowery viewpoints to see the beautiful Lachenalia luteola, Geissorhiza ovata, drifts of Arctotis stoechadifolia and red-flowered Lessertia frutescens. At Cape Point itself are superb views of the cliffs as well as plentiful Salvia africana-lutea and perhaps the odd Bonatea speciosa. Overnight Cape Peninsula.
The hills behind the delightful town of Scarborough are very rich botanically. Recent fires may even have improved their flower potential. The stunning orange daisy Gazania pectinata competes with drifts of vivid pink Watsonia coccinea that colour the sandy ground along with Romulea rosea and spires of Aristea spiralis, bright yellow Sebaea exacoides various small orchids such as Satyrium bicorne and dainty Pterygodium catholicum. Great drifts of pretty pinkish Geissorhiza imbricata line streamsides with bright yellow Pauridia capensis. Hopefully we can locate the lovely Gladiolus debilis, the ivory flowers marked with blood red. Overnight Cape Peninsula.
A brief detour to will take us to see the bizarre Ferraria crispa growing beside the sea in view of African Penguins. Then on the way to Cape Town we’ll stop to admire the stands of purplish Pseudoselago spuria that colour the slopes above the city. Then it’s on and along the coast stopping for huge drifts of pink Senecio elegans and golden Didelta carnosa. The lilac Moraea fugax can also be seen here. further north and sandy flats have the remarkable bird-pollinated Babiana ringens. The sands give way to areas of renosterveld, a much richer soil type and one that is greatly under threat from agriculture. Fortunately some areas are protected including the Tienie Versveld reserve. This charming place has great drifts of Ornithogalum thyrsoides, the lovely saucers of Monsonia speciosa, golden Ixia maculata and the world’s only population of soft yellow Geissorhiza darlingensis. Overnight Yzerfontein.
The large granite dome near Paarl is one of the largest in the world, but more importantly7 it is at the centre of an area of botanical rich renosterveld pockets. Much of the this habitat has been lost to agriculture but what remains has interesting flora including (depending on the season); Geissorhiza radians, G. purpureo-lutea, Morea lugubris, Babiana regia, B. inclinata, a deep magenta form of Drosera cistiflora, rare Leucodendron verticillatum and Wurmbea recurva. We will spend the day exploring these precious patches.
Today we cross the rugged Bainskloof Pass gets us into the mountains. Areas of renosterveld on the way the lovely pink shrubs Podalyria biflora and P. myrtillifolia grow side by side with some beautiful forms of Gladiolus carneus and blue Conorhiza elandsmontana. Roadside banks have stands of scarlet Gladiolus quadrangularis, scrambling Cyphia sp and the deep pink of Muraltia heisteria. On the pass little seeps are crowded with Utricularia bisquammata, various droseras, whilst rock crevices have the golden bells of Lachenalia flava and there are stands of orange-flowered Erica grandiflora. Overnight Ceres.
A rich a varied area of fynbos, hemmed in by impressive rocky mountain ridges. it would be easy to spend much more time than we have here. Roadside areas have an abundance of interesting flowers including the amazing little orchid Bartholina burmanniana, growing with pink Satyrium erecta and a peculiar white and purple Wurbaea sp. Wet flats have the most impressive of all sundews Drosera cistiflora in full flowers, whilst slopes beyond and dense patches of red Drosera aliciae and Utricularia bisquammata. The delicate orchids Disa flexuosa and D. inflexa grow among the regenerating fynbos with the abundant Satyrium erecta. There are sandy flats with hundreds of Gladiolus alatus too and drifts of Hesperantha falcata smell sweetly by late-afternoon when their red buds open into pure white flowers. We’ll also take a trip to the scattered renosterveld patches around Tulbagh where we hope to see bright red Babiana villosa and similarly coloured Geissorhiza erosa, Sparaxis grandiflora, turquoise-green Ixia viridiflora and Ferraria uncinata. Outside the valley we will also look in another area for Morea villosa and M. gigandra as well as Geissorhiza tulbaghensis.Overnight Ceres.
To the east we hope to visit a private reserve, (subject to permission) which protects a very different area of highland fynbos and along the way we will see Ferraria uncinata. Inside the reserve there are stands of the architectural Protea eximia, a rival for P. cynaroides in beauty. These grow with their much smaller cousin the ground-dwelling P. scolopendriifolium and a rich red infused Leucodendron sp. Scattered among them are the delightful lilac bells of Gladiolus patersonii. Yellow Erica parilis, white E. monsonia with vivid red-pink forms of E. plukenetii colour rocky areas, with purple Babiana sambucina appearing among them. One of our target species here is Bartholina etheliae, the fine rays tipped with tiny spoons. It is a quite exquisite orchid and there is the chance we may find other orchids such as Disa spathulatus here too. Overnight Ceres.
TBA - see FIRE above.
In the afternoon we’ll amble about the vast Kirstenbosch botanic gardens that flank the foot of the mountain. Overnight Cape Town.
Cape Town’s iconic mountain and who could resist the chance to take the cable car up to the top. The landscape up here is magical, with a dramatic and surprisingly undulating plateau, dissected by valleys, punctuated with rock formations and cloaked in species rich fynbos. From the highest point at Maclear's Beacon we get a sweeping view of the city and surrounding areas. Exploring this complex area we will search for the first flowers of long-spurred Disa draconis, beautiful spires of Watsonia tabularis and the stunning bowls of Protea cynaroides. Overnight Cape Town.
The chance to find another lovely orchid, Disa maculata, which grows on rocks in the area. If we are lucky they will be in flower and easy to reach, otherwise we may have to search. There are plenty of other fynbos species too such as the pendent orangey flowers of Liparia splendens, big stands of Pelargonium cucullatum, yellow Moraea nelecta and the very different orchid Acrolopha lamellata. We may find Disa bivalvata too, but for those with energy a return visit to Redhill gives us the best chance of this striking species growing in marshy areas with Disa obtusa. Overnight Cape Town.
TBA - see FIRE above.
International departure flights from Cape Town airport.
23 September - 7 October 2023
Single Supplement 550 USD
*Minimum number of participants 10, maximum 16.
For more information on our tours
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