For twenty years I have been stomping around the foothills around my farm in the western Overberg looking at flowers. Throughout this time I have continuously being astounded by one thing……..DIVERSITY.
The more you look, the more you see. And the more you see, the more you realize how diverse and incredible nature is. Each season brings its own unique floral composition, the tapestry is interwoven with subtle habitat variations that each produce their own unique symphony of colour and life.
This was brought home to me this spring when, while riding my mountain bike one morning I came across a patch of fynbos surrounded by ploughed farmlands just a few kilometres from home. I had ridden past this patch a few times before and not given it much attention but something had changed, it had burnt earlier this year and was now full of all sorts of flowering gems. I discarded the bike, climbed the fence and was consumed by diversity and life. All around me new species I had never seen, or bothered to take the time to really notice. Here I was, supposedly a knowledgeable local botanist with twenty years of field experience in the region, seven kilometres from home awash in unbridled, unknown floral wonderment. How lucky can a flower fan be?
Lying down amongst the flowers in the middle of this patch of critically endangered Elim fynbos was one of the most amazing nature experiences of my life. The local farmers must of thought me completely mad; bicycle discarded, helmet and gloves still firmly attached lying prostrate in the middle of this field of joys. I was immediately aware of life all around me. When I closed my eyes and just listened I could hear the bees, the flies and a multitude of other insects carrying out their daily chores, they were everywhere, busy working, feeding, pollinating. Looking around me into the flowers I could see multitudes of monkey beetles busy arm wrestling over the daisy pollen. Looking up the brightly coloured sunbirds, with their long delicate beaks were sipping nectar from the Watsonias and two jackel buzzard were gliding in stealth mode high up in the heavens. It did not take long and a few pugnacious ants started working their way up my sweaty arms. This patch of veld was simply oozing diversity and the more a I looked and listened the more I saw and heard.
Eventually it was time to head home. I carefully brushed off my ant friends, stood up and headed across the patch towards the neighbours boundary to see whether there were any more flowering treasures waiting to be discovered. Like all the land around this patch, the neighbour has ploughed his lands and planted lucerne for his cattle. Climbing the fence and taking a few steps into this agricultural landscape and the World goes silent. Only the wind in the green, green tasty grasses, nothing else.
I have subsequently got to know the owner of my favourite flora patch quite well. I asked him how come, while all around his neighbours have cleared their fynbos for pasture and beef patties, he has hung onto this delightful patch of paradise. He said quite simply because his oupa (grandfather) loved the flowers and so does he. Perhaps, many years ago his oupa laid down in this field in the spring after a fire and experienced Diversity.