Renosterveld – Fynbos’ Little Known Sister

Renosterveld – Fynbos’ Little Known Sister

Renosterveld is an umbrella term that describes one of the major plant communities of the Cape Floristic Region located in the Western Cape province. It is also one of the most threatened habitats because little is left. 


It is part of the Fynbos biome, but it is very different from fynbos. The main difference is that these plants generally lack the three distinct fynbos elements like the Protea, Erica and Restio, and can survive relatively frequent fires. It occurs on fertile soils formed by the weathering of granite and shale and where rainfall is moderate. Nobody is sure how the vegetation got its name, but it was believed to be named after the Black Rhinoceros that lived in this habitat. The only animal that ate the unpleasant tasting bush, Elytropappus Rhinocerotis or Renosterbos, a common shrub species in Renosterveld. 


These plants are famous for its spectacular, rare and endemic geophytes (bulbs) that flowers in spring and summer. This includes plants like the Amarylla belladonna (March Lily), orchids like Satyrium (trewwas), Disa bracteata, Moraea (tulpe), Geissorhiza (kelkiewyn), Gladiolus spp (kalkoentjie), and Watsonias, to name a few. Grasses are also typical renosterveld, with the C3 grasses that require a cool and wet environment. The C4 grasses require a tropical and dry climate. Cyperus spp, Eragrostis curvula, Eragrostis capensis, Aristida junciformis, Themeda triandra being the most well-known grasses. Shrubs and small trees include the Renosterbos, Stoebe plumosa, Eriocephalis africanus, Oftia africana, Anisodontea scabrosa, Olea africana, Searsia lucida and Selago canescens, to name just a few of the stunning plants. Succulents also occur in Renosterveld, showing how diverse and adapted these plants are. For example, Euphorbia mauritanica along the West Coast is stunning during spring when yellow flowers are all over the roadsides. Crassula muscosa, Crassula nudicaulis, Crassula perforata and Crassula rupestris are a few succulents that grows happy in renosterveld areas.



Koi and San used renosterveld plants for food, medicine and grazing. In addition, many of these trees and shrubs produce berries that attract fruit-eating birds. They also attract other animals like baboons and the critically endangered geometric tortoise. During spring, the flowers of various bulbs attract bees and varied beetles. 


Because of the high fertility of the soil, most of the areas have been ploughed and converted to agriculture. However, the presence of abundant grasses is excellent for animal food, and therefore there is overgrazing and mismanagement of the veld, killing off some of the renosterveld plants. Another serious threat is alien plants, which infest large undisturbed mountains and flats. 


Today all types of Renosterveld are considered Critically Endangered or irreplaceable. With most on private farmland, it is up to the farm owners to help conserve this beautiful South African vegetation. With only 2% of Renosterveld vegetation types now formally preserved, a lot still needs to be done as some of the most threatened vegetation types occur in Renosterveld. The Swartland Renosterveld has the Tienie Versfeld Nature reserve donated by the Versfeld family. The Haarwegkloof farm and some neighbouring farms started a reserve in the Overberg. Many more farmers are also conserving parts of their farms with this vegetation. However, there is still a monumental amount of work to preserve this critically endangered vegetation.

Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve
Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve

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