Contrary to the many myths and legends surrounding a trip to the Highlands, a visit need not consist of fly fishing only. Amongst the many other attractions is the floral wealth that has remained largely undiscovered by South Africans. Groups of foreign visitors come here solely to experience our floral diversity. Unlike the “big hit” seen in Namaqualand in spring, the floral splendour here continues in succession throughout the summer.
The bright orange indigenous poppy, Papaver aculeatum is widespread. The Berkheya species with their large white, yellow or mauve daisy like flowers and spiky thistle like foliage are generally found in the road reserve and on disturbed ground. Helichrysum species are numerous but relatively easy to recognize, often having grey leaves and long lasting flowers. They are in fact called “everlastings” or “sewejaartjies”. Helichrysum splendidum lines the roadways from late spring to winter. These grey leaved plants grow to knee height and are covered with yellow flowers. There are Helichrysums that carry their yellow composite flowers through winter to drop their seeds in spring.
There are many different species of “red hot pokers”. The early flowering Kniphofia northiae is impressive because of the size of the flower head. Fields of K. caulescence can be seen later up near Tiffindell. Other more solitary species flower at overlapping times thus sustaining the Malachite sunbirds who in turn offer pollination services. At the height of summer “Harebells”- Dierama species, abound. These grass-like plants carry their pink flowers suspended from the tips of long stalks and will be seen gently waving in the breeze. Species identification can be difficult as colours can range from white through pink to mauve and height can vary quite considerably. The Harebells are also aptly known as “Angel’s fishing rods”.
Also see Elsa Pooley’s publication “Mountain Flowers” for much, much more.