Also known simply as the Cape, this zone includes the southern tip of Africa. Its coastal boundary extends from Port Elizabeth in the east to the mouth of the River Olifant in the northwest. On the landward side the boundary extends from the north western town of Nieuwoudtuille following the eastern slopes of the Cedarberg in a southerly direction and then east from Karoopoort along the northern slopes of the Witteburg, Swartberg, Braviaans, Kloff and Groot Winterhoek mountains ending at Port Elizabeth. This relatively small area with a Mediterranean type climate has one of the richest concentrations of plants on Earth with some 8550 species, and an astonishing level of endemism.

Capensis Podocarp Forest

The forests of Capensis are now confined to deep ravines and kloofs, although it is unlikely that a forest climax could be attained in some of the dryer areas except in the few situations where there is a permanent ground water supply. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the present day patches of forest are the remnants of a once far more extensive community. Past deforestation has been one factor, but fire seems to have been the main culprit as far as forest destruction is concerned. In marked contrast to the general xerophytic character of many fynbos plants with their sclerophyllous leaves, most trees of these forests have evergreen elliptical leaves with dark polished surfaces more typical of wetter conditions. The forest canopy tends to be dense and continuous, but no single tree species can be said to be dominant, and species composition varies according to the degree of soil moisture.  In the wetter areas, Cunonia capensis is often one of the most abundant species, while in dryer situations Podocarpus latifolia and the endemic or near endemic Elaeodendron capense (Celastraceae) predominate. Under trees may include Halleria lucida and the endemic Maurocenia frangularia (Celastraceae), but there is no definite shrub layer except where there are openings in the canopy. Like the trees, the ground layer composition also varies with soil moisture, but among the more common herbaceous species are Knowltonia vesicatoria and the two endemics Nemesia lucida (Scrophulariaceae) and Schoenoxiphium capense (Cyperaceae).  Ferns can also be a common feature of the ground layer especially in the wetter areas where many species may be present including the tree fern Cyathea capensis. Epiphytes, on the other hand, are not particularly common, but may frequently include Polypodium lanceolatum.


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