Identifying fynbos: some useful steps

Identifying fynbos: some useful steps

Rote learning plant names?….

Some folk can sprout plant species names because they have a photographic memory.
Most of us are not in that category and have to create a network of associations to help us remember information about plants and of course their names.
The next Fynbos Identification Course is scheduled for July 2017

Step 1: find out what you know ……..(or don’t know!)

Wow! Ericas have revoluted leaves
Wow! Ericas have four fused petals
Flowers are the sex organs of plants and consist of four concentric whorls of parts: sepals, petals, stamens and pistil.
Sounds simple?…….there are many different ways that each of these parts can be arranged, or fused or lost and each of them has a specific botanical term


Getting to grips with the difference between sepals, petals and tepals can be quite challenging but once you have got it you won’t forget



 Step 2: add new relevant information to existing knowledge


Family names
Ann and Chrisna connecting to scientific family names
New information must be relevant and in context with existing knowledge and then it must be used.
Asphodelaceae is the Aloe Family.
The Genera Aloe, Gasteria, Bulbine, Bulbinella and Kniphofia are all in this family.



 Step 3: practice using new terminology and information

Bulbine is a member of the Aloe Family
Bulbine is a member of the Aloe Family
Ann checking out the yellow tepals of the star shaped, actinomorphic flower of Bulbine with her handlens




Step 4 : look it up in the book

Using the Manning Fynbos Guide
Using the Manning Fynbos Guide
Plant books are essential as they contain images and text about plants.
The problem is you must know how to use the book and to know that you have the correct book for the area that you are working in




Step 5: Interview plants and draw them

Erin Interviewing the Aloe in the garden
Erin Interviewing the Aloe in the garden
Did you know that you use a different side to your brain when you draw?
Humans are good at visual recognition but we have to practice the skill and know what part of the plant to focus on.Drawing is a really good way to focus on all the characters of a plant not just the beautiful flower.
Drawing a shape is much easier than trying to describe it in words.
Creating a picture with words comes later.

Step 6: connect to the function of the flower

It is much easier to remember something if you understand how it works.The symmetry of a flower is an indication of how the plant communicates with its pollinator.
  • An actinomorphic flower is symmetrical and allows the pollinators to land on the flower from any direction. eg Geranium incanum
  • A zygomorphic flower has a clear left and right side and guides the pollinator to approach from a specific direction only eg Pelargonium
monocots have 6 tepals
Erin inspecting Asparagus flowers








  • Why are Asparagus flowers small, white and sweetly scented?
  • Why are they actinomorphic and massed into dense sprays rather than one single large flower?
I suspect that they are pollinated at night by nocturnal insects (moths) that are attracted to the mass of scented white flowers.



Step 6: go into the field and apply what you have learnt

in the field at Silvermine
in the field at Silvermine
Take photos, draw pictures, record what you have seen and use the books to check out your observations.
Put your photos on ispot.


Note the questions and queries you have and find a way to answer them.




Step 7: share what you have learnt with others

Anthony describing how to look for resprouters
Anthony describing how to look for resprouters









Step 8: Question everything…..plants are not interested in categories. They just want to survive.

Wendy inspecting something really small
Wendy inspecting something really small