Rehabilitation of coastal sands in the fynbos region

Plants on the fore-dunes have developed all sorts of strategies to survive in what are very harsh conditions. The plants are adapted to growing with little available soil water (they either have shallow, extensive and much branched or very deep root systems), desiccation (they use all sorts of tricks to reduce transpiration including hairy leaves, sunken stomata, and ability to roll their leaves), burial (they just keep growing), high temperatures (adult plants are adapted to withstand burning sands but seedlings should be allowed to establish during the cooler months) and salt-laden winds (coastal plants often have a waxy cuticle and/or hairy leaves).

While adult plants typically can withstand the harshest conditions on the coast and may loose leaves or new growth at certain times of the year (be wind-pruned), exposed seedlings will often die under these conditions. There are therefore three main considerations when attempting rehabilitation along the coastal regions in the Cape.

1. Select the correct local species

It is a good idea to check which indigenous species grow naturally along the coast in your region. Commonly used species for coastal rehabilitation include Erharta villosa (pypgras), Osteospermum incanum (=Chrysanthemoides incana) Grysbietou, Dimorphotheca fruticosa (=Osteospermum fruticosum) Rankbietou, Cineraria geifolia, Arctotheca populifolia (sea pumpkin), Arctotis stoechadifolia (kusgousblom), Gazania maritima, Gazania rigens, Metalasia muricata (blombos), Ruschia macowanii, Delosperma litorale (kalkklipvygie), Disphyma crassifolium, Phyllobolus canaliculatus, Carpobrotus edulis (sour fig), Carpobrotus acinaciformis (hottentots fig), Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, Tetragonia decumbens, Otholobium bracteolatum, Pelargonium capitatum (coastal malva) and Salvia africana-lutea (brown sage).bietou bush on fruticosum on

Growing in sand

2. Create protection for seed and/or seedling establishment

This can be done by building wind barriers using poles with shade netting or cut brush woven together to form more natural barriers. Cutting indigenous brush or alien vegetation and spreading over the sand also helps to reduce sand movement, but care must be taken not to spread these invasive species seeds. Only bring alien brush into the dunes when they are not carrying seed. The important thing is to slow down the movement of sand and provide protection for young vulnerable plants.

3. Sow/plant at the right time of the year

Early autumn is generally the ideal time to plant young plants and/or sow seeds in the Cape. From experience I have found a mixture of seed sowing and planting of young rooted plants after the first autumn rains works well.

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