Although the rock formations and wildlife may be major draw cards for the interest which exists regarding the Cederberg; hiking trails are incomplete without the backdrop of plant life. The Cederberg is home to two individual ‘biomes’ (individual floral groupings) of the Cape Flora Kingdom – namely Fynbos and Succulent Karoo, with Fynbos being further divided into the categories of Fynbos and Renosterveld.
What’s special about this you ask? If you’re not a botanist yourself you might be surprised to know that many of the floral specimens which thrive in this area are incredibly rare, and others grow nowhere else in the world. This is due to the unique soil and climate of the Cederberg region. As the seasons change, so does the vegetation – from fynbos to Succulent Karoo and central mountain renosterveld is found within the transition area.
The Cederberg fynbos is also home to the famed rooibos tea plant and a great variety of buchu with their fragrant oils. Fynbos forms part of the Cape floral kingdom and within this area, it accounts for around 80 percent of the plant varieties. The Western Cape is known for having the best examples of this unique succulent, although it does grow in the Eastern Cape as well. Of the globe’s six floral kingdoms, this is the smallest, but the diversity of the species is incredibly high – consisting of over 9000 variations.
Around 6200 of these fynbos specimens are found only in the Cape and the Cederberg is home to one in particular, which is found nowhere else in the world. This is the Snow Protea, which is a breath-taking plant sporting flowering cones the size of the King Protea. Rather than being the more standard red hue, it is a beautiful, snowy white and is 130 – 160mm in diameter.
The occurrence of the Succulent Karoo is primarily determined by low winter rainfall (20 – 290 mm per annum) and extreme summer dryness. Succulent Karoo vegetation is characterised by the abundant presence of the “vygie” and Crassulacaea families, which are able to withstand withering heat without burning.
Containing thousands of variations of exceedingly rare examples of flora, the area is a wellspring of botanical wonder, making Cederberg hiking trails some of the most exotic and rewarding in the world.