Fire and Table Mountain

Visitors to Cape Town in early March would have witnessed the huge fire that appeared to devastate sections of the Table Mountain National Park. It burned furiously for 3 days, followed by a few days of flare ups and smaller fires.

Householders living close to the park were forced to abandon work and protect their houses while teams of firefighters worked tirelessly around the clock to protect the city.

Following the fire the journey to Cape Point involves passing passed much of the burnt land. At first sight it can appear that everything everything is dead and all that is left is a wasteland.

An area of the Silvermine Nature Reserve a few days after the fire.

An area of the Silvermine Nature Reserve a few days after the fire.

However quite the reverse is true. The fynbos plant kingdom is adapted to and needs fire in order to survive. In order for our amazing plant kingdom to survive it needs a good burn every 12 to 15 years. If no fires occur the plant populations will degenerate and eventually many of the indigenous species will die out altogether being replaced by other alien species.

The plants adaptations to survive the fires are varied and include underground rootstock that enable the plant below the ground to survive or proteas such as the conebush which store their seeds in fire proof cones that only release the seeds following a fire. Another interesting adaptation is the pincushion who have an interesting arrangements with ants. These ants collect the seeds and store them in their nests where they only germinate after the heat of a fire.

Already the land that was burned is recovering and pioneer species are popping up and beginning the process of regeneration once again.

So don’t be dismayed by the recent fires. Rather wonder at the beauty of nature.