Hantam National Botanic Garden

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Hantam National Botanic Garden is located on the southern tier of Namaqualand. The site sits on the Bokkeveld Plateau, 730 meters (2395 feet) above sea level and experiences winter rainfall and dry summer conditions. The garden itself is more of a managed natural area than a formal botanic garden. The site is managed by South Africa National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and encompasses over 6,000 hectares (14,826 acres) of previously farmed land that is being reverted back to native flora. The site with the most intensive management is in close proximity to the entrance and has received a high level of care to remove invasive grasses and other species that disrupt the ecology. SANBI envisions Hantam to act as a site for long term ecological monitoring and has no plans to create any formal gardens on the site. The plant species encountered at Hantam are highly dependent on the underlying geology and pedogenesis processes that have occurred. Across the site there are three main types of bedrock and resulting soil types.

In years where winter brings steady rainfall, the area will burst into a riot of colorful blossoms. These mass flowerings have gained national and international attention and visitation to the area drives a tourism industry. Hantam Botanic Garden is unique in the fact that attempts are being made to restore some of the natural disturbance factors as well as provide a high level of maintenance to targeted areas. The result of this is that the areas in Hantam that receive restoration treatment are starting to develop a rich floral diversity. Many of the plants that are starting to take hold in the restoration areas are known to be mid to later successional species that only develop a few years after disturbance. Hantam boasts 80 endemic plant species and as a way for the garden to raise money, they will take you on a flower tour where it is guaranteed you will see a minimum of 10 locally endemics.

Romulea sp. , Bulbinella nutans,
Example of floristic diversity in managed area of Hantam Botanic Garden

This display of species diversity is in contrast to what a typical tourist will encounter in Namaqualand if they visit many of the farms that offer wild flower tours. The standard practice on these farms is to plow fields annually. This annual plowing will result in a mass carpet of blooms but species diversity is much lower compared to restoration sites. Many farmers now depend on the income gained from tourism of the mass blooms and continue this practice to ensure a seasonal display.

Farm in Matjiesfontein that plows to encourage mass spring blooms for tourists
Farm in Matjiesfontein that plows to encourage mass spring blooms for tourists

Ongoing management at Hantam is exploring different strategies to decrease invasive plant pressure and restore the site to a more natural condition. In 2014, they started a pilot project to graze 500 sheep on 500 hectares of land. The idea is that these plant communities naturally developed with the influence of large grazing animals. Introduction of sheep is attempting to mimic a natural disturbance regime that will minimize invasive plant pressure. Local farmers have worked out an arrangement with Hantam to pay a fee for grazing rights. In this way Hantam is able to gain some extra income off the land while attempting to restore the site. Alternative animals for this type of restoration that could be utilized are tame Springbok (antelope) that are native to the area and are often-times culled or farmed as a meat source.

Iridaceae Lapeirousia oreogena Locally endemic species that is pollinated by long nose flies
Iridaceae Lapeirousia oreogena
Locally endemic species that is pollinated by long nose flies
Asteraceae Euryops virgatus  Locally endemic and endangered species to area
Asteraceae Euryops virgatus
Locally endemic and endangered species to the area
Bulbinalle nutans mass flowering adjacent to road side
Bulbinella nutans mass flowering adjacent to roadside

 

 

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