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. The local term for chaparral type vegetation is fynbos.

Capensis Wet Fynbos

This broad category includes permanently wet or moist habitats such as marshes, swamps, pans and riverbanks, and comprises numerous communities. Nevertheless, many hygrophilous species are widespread within the BioProvince, but it is also true to say that most are also strictly confined to Capensis - even Prionium serratum (Juncaceae), the most widespread of wetland species, is rarely encountered outside Capensis. In the absence of fire it is thought that much of the wet fybos would give way to a forest type community and succession to woodlands has taken place along certain stream banks in protected kloofs. These typically include Cunonia capensis, Halleria lucida, Ilex mitis, Kiggelaria african Podocarpus latifolius and Rapanea melanophloes. Riparian scrub dominated by the endemic Brabeium stellatifolium (Proteaceae) is an important stage in this succession. It reaches heights of 5 m or so and fringes the lower, less steep parts of rivers such as the Eerste River at Jonkershoek and Elands River in Du Toit’s Kloof. The upper layer includes several endemic shrubs and small trees such as Brachylaena neriifolia (Asteraceae), Freylinia lanceolata (Scrophulariaceae), Metrosideros angustifolia (Myrtaceae), Podalyria calyptrata (Fabaceae) and Rhus angustifolia (Anacardiaceae). Below this is often a layer of smaller shrubs up to 1.5 m tall, which may include Mryrica serrata and the endemic Diospyros glabra (Ebenaceae). This layer is also important for various restioides like the endemic Elegia capensis and Ischyrolepis subverticillata (Restionaceae) and the endemic grass Pentameria thuarii (Poaceae). In the wetter areas, close to streams, ferns may predominate often forming a dense layer up to 1 m high. Typical species include Pteridium aquilinum, Todea barbata and the endemic Blechnum capense (Blechnaceae). Stream edges, on the other hand, are often characterised by dense swards of Prionium serratum, which in sandy areas can colonise entire streambeds forming spiky mats that can impede water flow. The endemic Wachendorfa thyrsiflora (Haemodoraceae), with its conspicuous golden-yellow flowers, is one of several species associated with these mats.

Moving eastwards both Bradeium stellatifolium and Metrosideros angustifolia decline, while Laurophyllus capensis (Lauraceae), endemic to the southern Cape, becomes one of the more important species of wet mountain slopes, and other endemic species like Leucodendron salicifolium and L. eucalyptifolium (Proteaceae) become important pioneers of upper streams. Further east beyond the Gouritz River the streams are flanked by wet evergreen forest in which the endemic Virgilia oroboides (Fabaceae) forms the main species. Other vegetation of wet or moist habitat is more typical of fynbos. In southern localities Berzelia abrotanoides and the endemic Osmitopsis asteriscoides (Asteraceae) often dominate seepage zones sometimes forming a dense canopy up to 2 m high. The few other associated shrubs include endemic species like Cliffordia subsetacea (Rosaceae), Leucodendron laureolum (Proteaceae) and Penaea mucronata (Penaeaceae). Other wet areas and flushes, especially in the east, are dominated by Juncus lomatophyllus and Laurembegia repens, while less common species are Carpa bracteosa, Cyperous tenellus, Ficinia indica, Utricularia capensis (not endemic) and several endemics such as Drosera cuneifolia (Droseraceae) and Pulicaria capensis (Asteraceae). In the rocky mountain streams of the Kogelberg and surrounding areas, a tall wet fybos dominated Berzelia lanuginosa and the endemic Pseudobaeckia africana (Bruniaceae) can be found. It is often very dense and can reach heights of 3 m and commonly includes several endemic shrubs such as Brunia albiflora, B, alopecuroides (Bruniaceae) and Leucodendron xanthoconus (Proteaceae) and a number of endemic restioids like Restio dispa and R. purpurascens (Restionaceae). This community is also characteristic of the wet Table Mountain sandstones east of the Hottentots-Holland divide.

Finally, in addition to shrub-dominated wetlands, there are also many restioid wetlands. These are usually dominated by tussock species and are particularly characteristic of marshy flats where stagnant water occurs. For example, the endemic Elegia parviflora (Restionaceae) can form extensive, almost mono-specific stands on the plateau of the southern Cape Peninsula. The endemic Elegia cuspidata (Restionaceae) dominates a more complex community on deep, poorly drained plateaus rich in endemic species including other restioids such as Restio dobii (Restionceae) and Tetraria flexuosa (Cyperaceae) shrubs such as Erica capensis (Ericaceae) and Rafnia crassifolia (Fabaceae), and herbaceous species such as Prismatocarpus sessilis (Campanulaceae) and Ursinia tenuifolia (Asteraceae).  


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