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Botanical gardens in South Africa - www.classicencounters.com

 

 

 

 

LIVING WONDERLAND - SOUTH AFRICA'S BOTANICAL GARDENS

 

South Africa is famous for its plants, so it is hardly surprising that it has some of the best botanical gardens in the world, of which Kirstenbosch in Cape Town, is the most famous.

  • Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town is world-renowned for the beauty and diversity of the flora it displays and for its magnificent setting against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Founded in 1913, Kirstenbosch grows only indigenous South African plants. The estate covers 528 hectares and supports a diverse fynbos flora and natural forest. The cultivated garden (36 hectares) displays collections of South African plants, particularly those from the winter rainfall region of the country. There are also a number of theme gardens, including one focused on medicinal plants, a fragrance garden and a Protea garden (South Africa's national flower, which occurs in dozens of variations) which is at its most magnificent in winter and spring.

  • The Harold Porter National Botanical Garden, an hour from Cape Town, near the whale-watching town of Hermanus, is set between mountain and sea in the heart of the Cape fynbos region. It encompasses 10 hectares of cultivated fynbos garden and 190.5 hectares of pristine natural fynbos. The garden encompasses mountain slopes with wind-clipped heathlands, deep gorges with relict forests, flats and marshes with reeds, sedges and bulbs, as well as dunes adjacent to the beach with their specialized salt-adapted plants. The garden is renowned for its waterfalls and amber pools.

  • The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden, near the town of Worcester, 120 kilometers from Cape Town, is totally unique in that it is the only truly succulent garden in the southern hemisphere and on the African continent. One of the floral highlights of the year occurs in spring, when thousands of annuals and brightly colored succulent plants called vygies (mesembryanthemaceae) come into brilliant flower. This color spectacle lasts from mid-August to the end of September.
    Falling within the succulent Karoo biome, which includes the Namaqualand flora so famous for its spring flowers, the Garden boasts some 400 naturally occurring species. The garden is also a haven for rare and endangered plants, with over 300 species being protected and propagated here.

  • The Lowveld National Botanical Garden, just outside the town of Nelspruit, is ideally situated for tourists, as it is close to a number of attractions including the Kruger National Park, Pilgrim's Rest, Graskop and the renowned Blyde River Canyon (third largest canyon in the world). The 159 hectare garden straddles the Crocodile and Nels Rivers and boasts rugged, rocky river scenery. Viewed from the air, it is clear that the two Rivers dominate the scene and determine the character of this Garden. Along the river banks visitors find typical evergreen river forest. There are rare, ancient cycads scattered over large parts of the Garden. Of the approximate 1000 tree species indigenous to South Africa, over 650 can be seen in this garden.

  • The Natal National Botanical Garden, near the historical town of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal province, specializes in the conservation of plants from the eastern region of South Africa and of rare and endangered species from elsewhere. Established in 1874, the Garden's Victorian past is evident in its magnificent specimens of northern hemisphere plants, such as the swamp cypress, tulip trees, camphor trees, plane trees, giant figs and magnolias. One of the finest features of the Garden is the avenue of London plane trees, which has stunned visitors since 1908. A section of the Garden is planted specifically to attract birds which makes the Garden rich in bird life, with over 120 species recorded. A special feature of the Garden is a traditional Zulu hut, surrounded by indigenous medicinal plants. New developments include a Grassland display area and Clivia lily collection.

  • The Pretoria National Botanical Garden is situated 8 km from the centre of Pretoria and accommodates both subtropical and temperate plants, giving the visitor a glimpse of the beautiful and varied flora of the subcontinent. The garden was started in 1946 and is 76 hectares in size, with 50 hectares under intensive cultivation using exclusively South African plants. The cultivated area includes a cycad garden, succulent garden, aloe plantings and other striking collections. The natural vegetation of the area consists of grassland and savanna with dense bush. Over 600 species of flowering plants including half the country's tree species, many species of birds, as well as a number of reptiles and small mammals occur here naturally.

  • The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden near Johannesburg is set against the backdrop of the magnificent Witpoortjie waterfall and covers almost 300 hectares of both landscaped and natural veld areas. It was only declared a national botanical garden in 1982, but has been a popular venue for outings since the 1800's.  The natural vegetation of the area is known as "Rocky Highveld Grassland" and consists of a mosaic of grassland and savanna, with dense bush in small winding canyons and along streams. The variety of habitats accommodates over 600 naturally occurring plant species. A breeding pair of majestic Verreaux's Eagles nest on the cliffs alongside the waterfall - the only such nesting pair in urbanized Johannesburg.

 

 

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