This time of year is probably the least attractive in terms of flower diversity on Table Mountain. The reason is that it is the harshest time of year for plants. The Cape Doctor (southeaster) has been howling, the sun has been baking, temperatures ha
ve soared and there has been no substantial rain for months. So most of the plants have been in survival mode, retaining water in whatever way they can and waiting for the weather to change.
However I am always intrigued that it is precisely at this time of year that our most spectacular flowers emerge. Recently while walking on Table Mountain we were fortunate to see our national flower, our provincial flower as well as our national tree. That’s pretty special. We also saw some other exquisite flowers.
First we saw our national flower Protea cynaroides (The King Protea) in full and glorious bloom.
This was not always our national flower, but it deposed Protea repens (The Sugarbush) some time ago and when one sees these flowers in bloom it is hard to argue against their status. The species name “cynaroides” refers to the similarity in appearance that the unopened blooms have to an artichoke. In the picture above an unopened bloom is visible behind and to the left of the open bloom.
A little later we came across the provincial flower of the Western Cape – the incomparably beautiful Disa uniflora (Red Disa).
These exquisite flowers are from the orchid family and the blooms are enormous. They are able to flower at this time of year in site of the heat and dryness because they only grow close to water or in water courses.
Later on our walk we passed through a grove of Real Yellowoods (Podocarpus latifolius). These are the national trees of South Africa.
Unfortunately these beautiful trees are no longer as abundant as they were in the past because they were extensively exploited for their high quality timber. However since they make excellent garden subjects they are being planted more often in private gardens as well as in public spaces. It will however take many centuries before these “domestic” specimens reach the remarkable size of their ancestors.
Although it does not share the status of national or provincial flower, our walk was also graced by a profusion of flowering Blue Disas (Disa graminiflora). These of course are also orchids. They are much smaller than their red cousins featured above, but I’m sure that you will agree that they are exquisitely beautiful.