The Cape region offers a rich variety of flowering plants that annually attracts a great number of botanists from all over the world. Science divides the entire plant cover of the earth into six floral kingdoms, the smallest of which, but conversly richest in species - is the Cape Region and its Fynbos.
Its diverse evergreen wealth of plants is called fynbos, meaning "fine bush" and consists mainly of members of the Protea and Erica families as well as sour grasses.
Of the Protea family alone there are 450 different species in the fynbos vegetation zone, some of them being small groundplants while others reach the height of trees. The best known representative of the Protea group is South Africa's national symbol, the King Protea (protea cynaroides). Its flowers can have a diameter of more than 20 centimetres.
On hikes on the Cape Peninsula, for example in the surroundings of Hout Bay or in the Helderberg Nature reserve, one is able to see and learn about the diverse Fynbos vegetation on the mountain slopes. Fynbos suffers little damage from bushfires and in fact relies on fires to regenerate, grow and flower. Unfortunately many Fynbos areas are infested by alien plants, especially the Australian eucalypts and European pines. They burn too long and generate too much heat thus destroying the surrounding Fynbos. That is the reason why, since the devastating fires of 2001, alien plants are being removed everywhere in the Cape. Particularly the aggressive gum trees (eucalyptis), which with their enormous water consumption, are supposed to be completely eradicated in the short future.
Left: Fynbos landscape. Top: Various types of the numerous fynbos blossom plants, lower left the King Protea, next to it a Strelitzia.