Not a Hike #1: Wild Flowers of the Cape Peninsula

One of the things I love most about hiking in Cape Town is the fynbos. I remember the first time I walked up Table Mountain and reached the top of Nursery Ravine, where flowers and reeds harmonised with rocks and trees, and invisible frogs sang like fairy angels. I was convinced that some extraordinarily talented gardener was responsible for the arrangement, probably an ancient Japanese hermit who had come here, to the top of this mountain on the tip of Africa, to create his masterwork.

(Of course, there is no such gardener, although Nursery Valley¬†was once home to what was called the Lister Nursery in the late 1800s. Botanists planted European trees here to ‘see if they would grow’. This explains the random oak and cypress trees.)

Anyway, I digress. As usual. My point is that fynbos is so varied and beautiful that it would make any domestic garden blush for its own boringness. And plus also, the flowers. From teeny weeny orchids no larger than your pinky, to the giant spiked punch bowls of the King Protea, you cannot beat the Cape Peninsula for floral extravagance.

The problem is, there are just so many different kinds of flowers. A few famous flowers are easily and instantly identifiable, but as for the hundreds of other species? Until now, I’ve resorted to making up my own names for them or simply taking photos and resolving to identify them ‘one day’.

Well, that day has finally come. Because the job has just been made ridiculously easy for me, and for any other flower-befuddled Cape hikist out there. Two amazing hikists, Hugh Clarke and Corinne Merry, have just published a brilliant little book that instantly and effortlessly allows you to identify 360 of the most commonly seen and remarkable wild flowers of Table Mountain, Silvermine, and Cape Point. And, at just R130 and 300g, Quick ID Guide: Wild Flowers of the Cape Peninsula should fit beautifully into your budget and your backpack.

An excellent gift for the hikist in your life.

The flowers are grouped by colour and there are coloured tabs on the side of the pages which allow you to quickly flip through to the relevant section. Clear photos of each flower are accompanied with all the info you need, including their English, Afrikaans and Latin names, habitat, distribution and flowering seasons. As a bonus, the book also includes a selection of flower-rich walking routes and maps.

To test out the book, I went back through some of my old flower photos from this blog and used the book to ID them at last. It was surprisingly fun, and I’m certainly going to be paying more attention to the flowers I see on future hikes.

Mouse over each photo to discover its identity, and click on it to see a larger image.

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