A Klein Karoo flower wonderland

Posted on Fri July 21, 2023.

Good rains this year, turned the usually semi-arid Klein Karoo into a flower wonderland. After a long and devastating drought, the Klein Karoo is green and lush this year and there are flowers everywhere.
The Klein Karoo features more than 400 endemic plant species, some of these extremely rare. It is a privilege to enjoy this show of natural beauty - a show that you should not miss if you love plants.

The Klein Karoo is a magical place. It is a place of beauty and quiet, of wisdom and peace, of prehistoric rock formations and the footprints of the ancients.

Bordered by two mountain chains, the Witteberg and Swartberg mountains in the north and the Langeberg, Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma  mountains in the south, the Klein Karoo is largely an extended valley dotted with several isolated mountains, Warmwaterberg, Touwsberg, Rooiberg, Gamkaberg and the Kammanassie Mountains. Its name is a mix of Afrikaans and Khoekhoe words that mean "the small region of thirst,"  referring to the lowlands in the area that can be regarded as a semi-desert. 

Despite relatively low average rainfall, the Klein Karoo is one of South Africa's prime agricultural areas with extensive vineyards, stone fruit, sheep, cattle and ostriches. It is also known for the famous R62, the longest wine route in the world.

However, what makes the Klein Karoo so very special, is the fact that it forms part of South Africa's Succulent Karoo Biome which is identified as one of the country's three biodiversity hotspots and home to the richest diversity of succulent plant species on earth.  This magical area contains indeed  vegetation from all three biodiversity hotspots, namely the Fynbos Biome, Succulent Karoo Biome and subtropical thicket from the Maputaland, Albany-Pondoland Biodiversity hotspot. More than 3 200 plant species occur across the region, of which more than 400 species are endemic to the area and do not occur anywhere else on earth.

In the mountains that surround the region, fynbos vegetation can be found at higher altitudes that receive higher rainfall . Arid or moist renosterveld is found in areas on heavier soils while Succulent Karoo vegetation is found predominantly on the lowlands.

Although any time is a good time to visit the Klein Karoo if you are interested in plants, the period between August and October/November is the time when most plants flower.

The plants of the Klein Karoo do not shout, they whisper. If you really want to experience the wonder of this unique region, you should spend time here, on foot, in the bossieveld. Look out, not only for flowers, but also for lichens and moss. 

According to the locals, this year's flower show is particularly magnificent, mainly due to the unusually generous rainfall in autumn and winter.

If you do want to visit this area, this is a very good time. Expect something unusual. Expect magic. 

Sources: Botanical Society of South Africa

              :                Plants of the Klein Karoo - Jan Vlok and Anne Lise Schutte-Vlok