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  • Writer's pictureMike Sutherland

The Wild Flowers of the Western Cape

For a few very short, precious weeks each year, the fields, farms, dunes and slopes of the Western Cape burst into a kaleidoscope of colour as the wildflowers come into bloom. The hills are carpeted from corner to corner with flowers that vary from White Rain Daisies and Magriets to Suurvy's, Vygies and everything in between. In South Africa, 1 September marks the first day of spring and what a special day to celebrate the flowers of the Cape.

The West Coast Flower Season has become famous for providing surreal scenes of flowers blooming across entire landscapes, but this spectacle only lasts for a few short weeks before the flowers vanish, only to be seen the following year. The flower season in the Western Cape runs from as early as July and flowers can sometimes still be seen until early October, but the official season is 1 August - 30 September, with the height of the season in late August/early September.

Flowers can be seen throughout the cape during this time, from sidewalks in the city to the dunes alongside the coast, but there are certainly some hotspots you should visit if you are planning a journey down to the Cape. There are national parks and nature reserves that offer amazing viewing as well as scenic drives along known "flower routes" where you can enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your car, but remember to stop and smell the flowers along the way!

Below are a few of our recommendations on some routes and areas to visit:

West Coast National Park -

The Postberg Section of the park is only open in August & September during flower season, during springtime.Postberg is an almost completely undisturbed floral landscape and is an area within the West Coast National Park, which is open to the public during August and September.

Distance from Cape Town Around 1 hour and 30 minutes

Floral expectations Daisies, Sporries and Magriets, Suurvy, Elandsvy, Gouwsblom

This years season is set to be one to remember, with large amounts of local rainfall received leading up to the season. Local expert and acting manager of West Coast National Park, Pierre Nel says "the Postberg Section of the West Coast National Park will open to the public on 1 August 2021 and will close again on 30 September 2021. The good rains, which the area has received this year, should make for an excellent flower-viewing season. We anticipate the flowers to be good from the second half of August up until mid-September."

Matjiesfontein Flower Route -

Matjiesfontein is about 14km south of the town.

Take a self-drive tour of fields and fields of colourful flowers along a 7km route or take a guided Tractor and Wagon tour – the flowers are truly spectacular along this flower route.

Tickets are obtainable from the Matjiesfontein farm stall. The admission fee for the self-drive is R10 per person and the Tractor and Wagon tour is R35 per person.

Distance from Cape Town: 4-hour drive

Nieuwoudtville Flower Reserve -

The Nieuwoudtville Flower Reserve is 3km east of town. You can drive up close to the flowers and “be at one” with them. The Flower Reserve has a wide variety of bulbs. There is also a short hiking trail between the rock ‘koppies’ – hidden among these ‘koppies’ are even more varieties of bulbs.

Nieuwoudtville has earned itself the title of 'Bulb Capital of the World', as this very small area has the highest speciation of indigenous bulbous plants in the world. In a west-east transect of only 20km, starting at the escarpment edge and stretching east, you travel through 4 different soil types, supporting four different vegetation types, True Cape Fynbos, Renosterveld, shrub Karoo, and a Dolerite sill. This wonderful diversity owes much to the unique convergence of five different geological forms about which you may read in a file provided in your cottage.

Distance from Cape Town: 6-hour drive

Papkuilsfontein Flower Route

Situated on the farm Papkuilsfontein, 23km south of Nieuwoudtville. Check-in at the ‘Waenhuis’ Restaurant for a map and pay an entrance fee of only R10pp. The route is only 3km, but has a wide range of bulbs – a must see!

On Papkuilsfontein you will find all soil types represented in the Nieuwoudtville area. Papkuilsfontein is amazingly biodiverse with at least 1,350 floral species on the Bokkeveld Plateau, 80 of which are endemic. Over one-third of the endemics are Red Data species threatened with extinction.

Distance from Cape Town: 4h30min drive

Hantam National Botanical Garden -

The Hantam National Botanical Garden is 5km south of the village. Enjoy a variety of walking trails, a guided bus tour on a legendary 1950’s Bedford bus, cycling routes, bird-watching and of course, during the flower season, the garden is a feast of flowers and one of the loveliest places to explore the bulbs on the Bokkeveld Plateau during spring.

Because most of the rain on the Bokkeveld Plateau falls in the winter and spring, the greatest displays of wildflowers occur from August to mid-October, covering areas of the Garden with a kaleidoscope of colours.

Most of the annuals, geophytes and succulents flower at this time, but even though the bright displays of annuals disappear in October, there are interesting plants to be seen until the end of November.

During the flowering season, annuals and geophytes cover the ground in a rich carpet of colour.

Distance from Cape Town: 5-hour drive

Ramskop Nature Reserve -

Besides being one of the best places to see the Cape wildflowers in the Western Cape, Ramskop Nature Reserve boasts a spectacular backdrop of the dramatic Cederberg Mountains, fields of rooibos tea, and orange groves. The 66-hectare reserve has established itself as a top destination to visit for nature lovers. It is home to over 350 species of wildflowers, including daisies, sporries, sugarbos, and proteas, all of which come to life as soon as the Cape Town spring season arrives. Although the Ramskop reserve is only 66 hectares, more than a tenth of this is planted with wildflowers from the entire Namaqualand. As a result, you’ll be able to view flowers here that represent the Knersvlakte, Richtersveld and Boesmanland.

The Ramskop Nature Reserve has a variety of pathways crisscrossing the reserve, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy all its magnificent views over the surrounding landscapes, Cape wildflowers, Clanwilliam’s dam, and the majestic mountain ranges.

Other activities: Ramskop Nature Reserve is widely known as a top destination for bird-watching, hiking, walking, wildlife viewing and picnicking.

This reserve is well worth a visit, with the Cederberg mountains and orange groves as its backdrop.

Distance from Cape Town Around 2 hours and 30 minutes

The Renosterveld Reserve -

Just above Darling Primary School lies this charming 20-hectare flower reserve, where travellers can enjoy a plethora of spring flowers, as well bird-watching. Oh, and keep a keen eye out for the red-bellied tortoises.

Distance from Cape Town Around 1 hour

Citrusdale -

Heading to Citrusdale is a journey through an explosion of wildflowers that burst into life between July and October. Over 4000 flower species can be seen spread across the Cape Flower Route. Found on the N7, this is a family-favourite holiday spot for its hiking, camping, zip-lining and rock-climbing opportunities.

Distance from Cape Town Around 2 hours

Floral expectations Fields of maartblom, bloedblom, daises and fynbos

Namaqualand National Park -

If you’re looking to go on an adventure-filled Cape wildflower road trip, you could drive as far north as Namaqualand National Park to see the famed Namaqualand daisies. Every spring the landscapes of the Namaqualand National Park undergoes a stunning transformation from semi-arid scrubland to colourful, vibrant carpets of wildflowers.

Visitors to the Namaqualand National Park can look forward to a glorious diversity of fauna and flora as this natural gem boasts more than 3,000 different species of plants, a third of which are totally endemic to the region.

Other activities: Besides witnessing the beautiful Cape wildflowers in full bloom, the Namaqualand National Park is known for its incredible range of hiking, walking and mountain biking trails. It is also an amazing bird-watching destination and is home to a variety of Cape wildlife. Make sure you keep a lookout for the Namaqualand speckled “padloper”, the world’s smallest species of tortoise!

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