A walk through a recently burnt fynbos landscape is always lots of fun and full of exciting flowering finds.
I recently visited an area burnt just five months ago at the end of summer in the Waterford section of the Agulhas National Park. At first glance from the road the surrounding burnt out landscape looked barren and botanically uninteresting. However once I took the effort to hop out my bakkie and look a bit closer amongst the rocks I found some flowering gems.
What quickly became apparent was that the plants found flourishing amongst the rocky outcrops were different from those growing in the open ground between the rocky areas.
These species must require the sheltering effects of the rocky outcrops to provide them with a degree of protection during fires.
I have noticed during previous fynbos meanders that the mountain dahlia (Liparia splendens) is restricted to rocky areas and is often only found on hill tops and in exposed rocky areas. Liparia splendens is a resprouting species. When a fire sweeps through a population, the above ground parts are killed but it has a large underground rootstock, known as a lignotuber, which survives and sends out vigorous new growth soon after the fire. The images to the left and below shows this beauty tucked away amongst some sandstone outcrops. It would appear that these rocky outcrops are providing a degree of protection, reducing the intensity of the fire on the lignotuber and providing the ideal habitat for the plants survival in fires.
Another fynbos species flowering in the first winter following the fire and found sheltering in the rocky outcrops was the delicate painted lady (Gladiolus debilis). This member of the iris family has a distribution from Bains Kloof to the Cape Peninsula and eastwards to Bredasdorp. The white unscented flowers, with their strongly contrasting dark red markings and straight flower tubes, are thought to be pollinated by long-tongued flies.
In the open areas between the rocky outcrops the Berg palmiet (Tetraria thermalis) is resprouting from underground rhizomes and producing a rapid and spectacular recovery following fire.
Also making a spectacular recovery in the open areas is the fire heath (Erica cerinthoides).
In between these fast growing resprouting species, the first seedlings of a host of fynbos plants that are killed in fire a making their first appearance after the winter rains. But that’s another story……