The plant life on Table Mountain
The Fynbos plant kingdom is the smallest and most diverse in the
world. There are only 6 recognized floral kingdoms in the world,and most of these cover huge areas of land. Such as the whole of Australia. Or the Boreal kingdom which covers virtually the whole of the Northern hemisphere. We in the Western Cape of South Africa are lucky enough to live in the smallest and most diverse of these kingdoms. The Cape Floral kingdom covers an area from Clanwilliam in the North, to Grahamstown in the East along a narrow coastal strip.
With over 2000 species of plant found in the Cape Peninsula alone we have more species here than are found on the whole of the British isles.
Fynbos, is the major vegetation type of the Cape Floral kingdom. Of the 7700 plant species found in the Fynbos region an amazing 70% are endemic. (Found nowhere else in the world). The word Fynbos comes from the Dutch word for fine leaved plant. Although there are many different species of plant found in the region, the 3 most commonly recognized, are: The protea, (Proteaceae). The Erica (Ericaceae) and The Restios’s, (Restionaceae).
Two environmental factors are essential to this type of vegetation. One is the hot, dry summers, that the plants must be able to survive. Proteas do this through long roots reaching deep into the water table, whilst Ericas and restios, shut down in the dry season. The second important factor is fire. Without fire, the fynbos would be replaced by forest.,
Fynbos plants have a number of ways survive fires. From underground stems, to the germination of seeds actually being cued by fires.
However, despite such adaptations, many of the fynbos species are under threat of extinction in the present day. Threats include, urban development, and the invasion by alien plant species.