Members of Cape Nature (CN) Scientific Services Staff in Jonkershoek, led by Annelise le Roux, recently teamed up with CN staff from the Nort West Region and the Springbok branch of CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) to partake in a three-day botanizing session in the Knersvlakte.
The field trip was part of the new Knersvlakte staff’s orientation to the farms, and it coincided with the annual flower season, which, due to the relatively low and infrequent rainfall experienced, turned out to be one of the worst seasons in recent memory. This resulted in some of the first time visitors to the area to spot the geophytes in the flowers easier by not being distracted by the myriads of colours normally associated with the landscape.
The normally localised collection procedure was swapped for a more generalised “drive-stop-walk-view-and-collect” approach. This enabled the group to survey the Kareeberg, Trekkers Draai, Graatjies Gat, Vinkels Kolk and Thiaarts Vlei farms, totalling 24000 ha during the three day period.
“As fieldtrips go this one too had to come to an end,” says Adrian Fortuin, the conservation manager of the Knersvlakte Conservation Area “but not before turning a few more sceptics, of what this seemingly barren land can dish up while the flowers stay away, into believers.”
Vegetation types traversed during the excursion include the Knersvlakte Quartz Vygieveld, Northern Knersvlakte Vygieveld and the Namaqualand Klipkoppe Shrubland. All of these vegetation types are known to house some of the approximately 150 taxa endemic to the area. Of these, 67 species are known to occur exclusively in the quartz fields. More interestingly though is that 63 of the 67 quartz species are endemic to the area. This number includes taxa of the genera Dactylopsis, Oophytum and Argyroderma, which ranges are limited to the Knersvlakte. To appreciate the value of these numbers one should be reminded that only 155 quartz occurring taxa have been described in southern Africa, which includes southern Namibia.
Specimens collected and photographed are currently being identified but it is estimated that approximately 30% of the Knersvlakte’s endemics were catalogued. Additionally, a number of species will see their distribution ranges revised.