A few weeks ago a small controlled fire on Flower Valley (www.flowervalley.org.za) jumped a fire break and spread up the southern slopes of Grootberg. Fortunately with the aid of two helicopters (and some timeous light rain that started falling in the evening), the fire was doused before it could spread too far across neighbouring flower farms. Over the past few weeks I have once again witnessed the amazing recovery of a fynbos landscape after fire. First a totally blackened slope, but within a few days the first grasses and bulbs start sprouting and within weeks the first flowers appear. Yesterday I walked up the burnt slope with my family and we saw all sorts of flowering treasures.
The slopes are once again turning green and many of the sprouting plants such as this Erica cerinthoides (fire heath) and Asparagus capensis (katdoring) have rapidly regrown from underground rootstocks and are already in full flower.
The geophytes (bulbs) are also quick to respond following fire and we came across these magnificent Gladiolus meridionalis and Gladiolus brevifolius in full bloom.
Some of the other plants out flowering on the slopes of Grootberg enjoying their time in the sun include Oxalis paradilis, Oxalis luteola, Gerbera piloselloides (swarttee) and Empodium plicatum (ploegtydblommetjie). These are typical species that make use of the nutrient-enriched, post-fire soils and lack of competition from taller over-shadowing species early in the post-fire succession to flower and seed profusely.
Finally, not to be out done, the serotinous species (store their seeds in their canopies), such as this dead Leucadendron xanthoconus, have released their seed bank from the safety of the cones in anticipation for cool June temperatures and rainfall – the natural cues for their germination. It is these relatively slow reacting species, which are dependent on fire for seed germination, that will ultimately dominate this fynbos-clad landscape as it matures.
If you would like to visit Flower Valley, you can hike the Stinkhoutsbos Trail, a great route that includes fynbos and indigenous forest and cuts through this recently burnt area. For more information see www.flowervalley.org.za.