Penn State University students focus on fynbos

Penn State University students started their intensive 6 weeks Parks and People course, in Cape Town. Their aim is to explore the dynamics that exist on the borders of National Parks and to find ways to overcome them…….or that is what I think they are doing!!! My role was to give them a meaningful introduction to fynbos. A tall order in two hours.

Kirstenbosch

The erica, protea and restio gardens have magnifent displays of a range of fynbos plants. Students had to choose just one species to investigate and report back on to their colleagues with interesting adaptations and  symbiotic relationships with other organisms.There are many interesting examples of unusual relationships between plants and animals. The one they found most interesting was the elaiosome on seeds of some members of the protea family that are dispersed by ants.

Mimetes have clusters of flowers
Mimetes have clusters of flowers

 

 

student looking at mimetes flowers
student looking at mimetes flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erica verticillata providing a feast for sunbirds

Students were fascinated by the story of Erica verticillata brought back from the brink of extinction. Through a concerted conservation effort, this species is now well established at Kirstenbosch, Rondevlei and Tokai park and is providing welcome nectar for sunbirds at this harsh time of the year. Many fynbos flowers are small and arranged in dense heads and provide excellent places for small insects to feed and find a partner.The birds are rewarded for their pollination services with nectar and a rich source of protein from the insects

Each flower has a tiny sip of sweet nectar
Each flower has a tiny sip of sweet nectar 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating win-win partnerships

Fynbos has so many secrets but the theme that one learns about survival is that relationships where both partners benefit are the species that persist. This means that creating win-win scenarios for people, animals and plants is the way forward for us to live more sustainably on our planet.

Planting indigenous plants in your garden promotes biodiversity, benefits local animal species, survives better on the poor Cape Flats soils, requires less water in the long run and looks great!

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