Sirkelsvlei has water again

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Our botanical ramble headed to Sirkelsvlei at Cape Point in April. After fires last November and again in March, we were curious to see what we would find. It is indeed scorched earth. From a passing car it appears quite dead and barren of life. And yet...

Near Sirkelsvlei after the March fire
Near Sirkelsvlei after the March fire

A neat little pile on the path, and chewed off greens are evidence that there are buck lurking out of sight, behind the rocky outcrop, bontebok hidden between protea bushes. We found one sadly dead tortoise and this one busy eating and not inclined to come out for a chat. Along the path we followed were hoof prints of an eland. Glad we didn't meet the owner as they stand tall and eye to eye!

Evidence of life, buck and a tortoise
Evidence of life, buck and a tortoise

Without an informed pair of eagle eyes we would never have found this wild orchid (and I couldn't find it the second time - this path - this stretch - this side ... not a hope!) Disa salteri. We battled to take photos of a tiny brownish purplish greenish stalk - till someone volunteered my hat! Asparagus lignosus is one of the fire asparagus, which will bloom within six weeks of a fire to feed the bees. Wild bees cleverly build their hives with a wall of propolis which shields them from fire, and they survive!

Disa salteri Asparagus lignosus
Disa salteri
Asparagus lignosus

Proteas adapt to fire by holding their seed in cones, which open after fire Leucadendron laureolum. Hoping that iNaturalist will name my 'Swiss chard' - my guess is a daisy Haplocarpha lanata or Othonna or Capelio tabularis (my book says frequent after fire)?? A substantial Cyperus. Yellow stars Empodium plicatum. Erica plunkenetii. Erica pulchella. Tiniest white mystery, perhaps Aizoon? Metalasia. Phylica buxifolia fragrant with honey.

April flowers near Sirkelsvlei
April flowers near Sirkelsvlei

My companions, who have walked here for years, looked quite shocked. Never seen the vlei dry! We had three days of rain 40 mm in our garden - so the Ungardener and I returned to see if there was water in the vlei then.

Sirkelsvlei before when it was dry
Sirkelsvlei before when it was dry

Amazing what a difference a few days of rain can make to fire ravaged Leucospermum conocarpodendron (yellow pincushion). In a damp dip, which might have been a stream in winter, was a drift of green Southern bracken Pteridium aquilinum ssp. capense

Leucospermum conocarpodendron and bracken
Leucospermum conocarpodendron
and Southern bracken

Ten days later, yes, there was water to see in Sirkelsvlei. Maybe in September after the winter rain, we will have another look. When I shared this picture on Facebook someone put up her picture from September 2014, with that wide expanse of exposed rocky bed concealed under a sheet of water!

Sirkelsvlei ten days later
Sirkelsvlei ten days later

To find the trail we followed the yellow topped marker poles. Exposed bed of the vlei looks as if a glacier has scraped thru. Leaving weird rocks strewn in its path.

Sirkelsvlei Cape Point still nearly empty
Sirkelsvlei Cape Point
still nearly empty

It is heart-wrenching to see nature looking like an empty bath with the grubby tide line exposed. Bare sand and rocks looking embarrassed and exposed.

Tide line at Sirkelsvlei
Tide line at Sirkelsvlei

But oh, the joy of seeing water! Deep enough to sparkle as it catches the light. Maybe next time the optimistic causeway of rocks and timber slabs will cross the damp marsh it expects.

WATER in Sirkelsvlei!
WATER in Sirkelsvlei!

More April hikes with U3A next week.

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Pictures by Diana and Jürg Studer

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Comments

  1. Cape Point looks desolate after drought & fires ... It is amazing to see new life as soon as water appears. ( and even before water appears!) Like Proteas our Banksias have thick seed pods that protect the seeds from fire. (however I have had no luck growing Banksias perhaps they prefer stressed conditions!)

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    Replies
    1. I am also battling to keep my surviving protea going. There is one beautiful Banksia at Kirstenbosch, a founding gift from Kew.

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  2. oh my gosh this beautiful and utterly amazing,, the power of nature is overwhelming!!

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  3. Good to hear you have had some rain. I wish I could send you some of ours; but this spring has been the first REAL rain for a couple of years so I'm sure the wells need it. I have been planting vegetables etc and I can honestly say I have never planted into such damp soil - ever!

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    Replies
    1. What a refreshing contrast, after watching your garden to battle to survive your drought.

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  4. It never ceases to amaze me how much difference a little bit of rain can make. I'm glad that you got some and had the opportunity to see the after-effects!

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  5. Yes, that is amazing! I love to see these before and after images. I'm glad you've received some rain! Fascinating to see life, in all its forms, return to the landscape after fires and drought.

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  6. It must be so wonderful to have rain again. Yes, many plants and animals are very resilient and manage to survive drought. Something we humans are needing to achieve too!

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  7. Wild bees creating fire retardant hives, I mean, how amazing can it get.

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  8. How amazing how life has adapted to deal with fires! How great that there is at least some water again.

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  9. Seeing that low water level and the water or tide mark so high - reminds me of many years looking at Lake Mead when I would fly into/out of Las Vegas. The recovery in a dry area to some rain borders on miraculous!

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