Fynbos circle coming to Papenboom Forest

An aerial view of the Grootboschkloof Fynbos Circle in Constantia. The Papenboom Forest Circle will be the third veld circle of this kind and will have the same design.

A section of the Newlands Papenboom Forest is to be transformed into a garden showing off the splendour of indigenous plant species.

The project is expected to take four months to complete and preliminary work started on Saturday.

The circular veld garden will showcase the locally indigenous wild plants of the area.

FynbosLIFE, the City’s recreation and parks department, Mapula Trust, Friends of Liesbeek and Newlands Residents’ Association have collaborated on the project, which also marks the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a global campaign, from 2021 to 2030, against ecosystem degradation.

FynbosLIFE programme manager and botanical ecologist Dr Caitlin von Witt said: “Forming part of our Funda Fynbos project, the Papenboom Forest Circle will be the third veld circle in Cape Town, along with the Grootboschkloof Fynbos Circle in Constantia and the Zandvlei Strandveld Circle in Muizenberg. Veld circles are veld-type demonstration gardens, where visitors can learn about growing local wild plants and supporting wildlife in their own gardens.”

Dr Von Witt said almost every road verge and park in Cape Town could be rehabilitated into pockets of food as well as shelter for small animals, particularly birds and insects.

“Not only are biodiversity gardens ecological assets for urban wildlife conservation, but they are aesthetically pleasing and offer educational opportunities for us to discover, observe and understand biodiversity,” she said.

The Papenboom Forest had lost most of its natural plant species over the years so it was a blank canvas for replanting shade-loving forest and fynbos understorey plants, she said.

“The veld circle aims to showcase local plants along with educational signage, so that visitors can choose to plant local flora in their own gardens. The more wildlife gardens we create in suburbia, the healthier and more resilient our environment will be to climate change,” she said.

Volunteer Deon Louw said: “Everything that’s going to be planted in this space is locally indigenous.”

Transforming the garden would take a lot of work, but the effort would be worth it, he said.

“This space of the Newlands Papenboom Forest is very much like an ecological desert at the moment because there are very few species growing here. Due to so many micro climates in Cape Town, so many different species of plants will grow in limited spaces therefore we are trying to make sure these limited species don’t go extinct by planting more of them in dry areas like these.”

If the Papenboom Forest site was not restored, it would end up being taken over by invasive grass and plants, he said.

Paula Howse, a member of the Rhodes Memorial Hack Group, an organisation that removes invasive plants from Table Mountain, said many people were unaware of the beauty of indigenous plants and they planted exotics in their gardens instead. It is hoped that the veld circle will change that.

FynbosLIFE programme manager and botanical ecologist Dr Caitlin von Witt
Paula Howse, from the Rhodes Memorial Hack Group, removes invasive grass at Newlands Papenboom Forest