World Environment Day was celebrated on Sunday June 5 and one of the species highlighted grows in the Bracken Nature Reserve.
It’s the critically-endangered Kraaifontein spiderhead Serruria furcellata), a type of low-growing protea-family species.
But at the reserve it is thriving after being reintroduced a few years ago. Only a single naturally occurring plant still occurs in the Northpine area of Brackenfell. With the assistance of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the plant’s cuttings were rooted and planted at the reserve.
Officially, under the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) rules, these plants can only be considered to have been successfully restored if they survive for three generations. This would be about 45 years in lowland fynbos.
The City and its conservation partners are working together to protect Cape Town’s critically endangered and unique floral gems from extinction.
Also among the city’s 400 plant species that are of concern is the world’s smallest protea, the Swartland sugarbush, of which only eight plants remain, now only found on a single farm in the Fisantekraal area.
At least 13 plant species unique to the Cape Town area are now listed in the IUCN Red List as “globally extinct”, according to a media release issued by the City.
Species include the hairy bigstyle buchu (Macrostylis villosa); several Ericas (heaths) including Erica verticillata and Erica turgida, both from the Cape Flats; two species of the pea family, Cape Flats gorse (Aspalathus variegate) and grass mountain pea (Liparia graminifolia) and Peninsula snapdragon (Nemesia micrantha) from the snapdragon family.
Plant species can become increasingly threatened due to frequent fires, urbanisation, poaching and flower-picking.
Other critically endangered species the City is trying to protect include the strawberry spiderhead (Serruria ameula), which is only found on the sandy lowlands of Cape Town (Cape Flats sand fynbos).
With nearly 100 percent of its habitat permanently transformed, a few remaining plants are scattered along road verges and tiny patches of vegetation mostly within the City’s urban edge where they continue to decline.
A few individual species are conserved at Bracken Nature Reserve, the Plattekloof Natural Heritage Site and Rondevlei Nature Reserve.
And, according to the City, the Kraaifontein heath (Erica bolusiae var bolusiae) is “barely holding on”, with less than 250 remaining plants in the wild, and it is rapidly declining in numbers. Its closely related “cousin”, Erica bolusiae var cyathiformis, became extinct in the 1970s. Both varieties are cultivated at Kirstenbosch, but, at present, none of the wild populations are conserved.
“Cape Town is situated in a global biodiversity hot spot and is home to some of the most threatened plant species in the world.
For this reason, it is not only the responsibility of the City and its partners to protect and conserve our environment – every single one of us has a role to play in looking after our natural heritage and preventing it from being destroyed,” said mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe.