The Knersvlakte Conservation Area recently played host to students from the University of Hamburg and a volunteer from England to determine the distribution patterns of one of the region’s endemic genera, Oophytum.
Historical data geographically delineate the genus into a northern occurring O. nanum and a southern occurring O. oviforme, with some degree of overlapping in the central region.
The two University of Hamburg students, Anna-Lena Rua and Katrin Peth, and volunteer Jamie Wylor-Owen spent their time working with one of the Knersvlakte’s most revered researchers, Dr Ute Schmiedel.
Rau who is currently completing her Bachelor’s Degree, research project will aim to use molecular phylogenetic information to determine phytogeographic patterns as well as phylogeographic analyses of the Oophytum plant. Rau was assisted in the field by Peth, Wylor-Owen and several CapeNature staff.
Native to the Western Cape Province, the egg-shaped Oophytum plants develop two opposite leaves per season. At the end of winter the outer pair forms a sheath from which the new leaf pairs develop. Water cells are visible on the soft leaves giving them a shimmering appearance. The winter flower is white or pink or a combination of both.
Sampling was done using predetermined sites obtained from historical data collections in the area. Additional sites were identified by CapeNature’s staff. Several of the study areas occurred outside the boundaries of the Knersvlakte Conservation Area and permission for access had to be obtained from neighbouring landowners. The landowners were eager to assist with identifying sites where the locally named “krapogies” occurred, and displayed volumes of interest and love for the flora of the region.
Wylor-Owen has volunteered at several CapeNature Reserves, which included De Mond and De Hoop Nature Reserves, as well as the Cederberg Wilderness Area Nature Reserve. Apart from the plant collections and assisting with collating the Knersvlakte’s camera trap information, he also assisted fieldrangers with bird counts, boat patrols and hiking trail maintenance.
“It’s been fantastic to have a budding conservationist assisting the reserve staff in the field” said Knersvlakte Conservation Area manager, Adrian Fortuin. Fortuin further added that research like that conducted by Rau will hopefully stimulate additional projects in this unique hotspot.