The Cape Floristic Kingdom (CFK) is the smallest of the six floral kingdoms (in comparison is really tiny), but is home to one of the world´s richest floras — an orgy of plant biodiversity.
In just 90.000 km2 (about two Hollands) is possible to find up to 9000 plant species: two third of these species are found nowhere else on Earth. About half of the surface of the CFK corresponds to the fynbos, which contributes 70-80% of the flora. The fynbos contains up to 150-170 sps per 1000 km2, which is two-three times the biodiversity measured for tropical rainforest. It is said that only in Table mountain in Cape Town, there are as many species as in the whole United Kingdom.
A keystone to understand fynbos is the presence of the three families, that clearly indicate that you are visiting fynbos: Ericaceae, Proteaceae and Restionaceae. The presence of these families is also linked to the origin of fynbos, with fossil pollen dating from 71-64 million years ago, when Southern Africa was covered with subtropical forests.
Family Ericaceae. The heaths of the family Ericaceae will be undoubtedly the most familiar for a Palearctic botanist. In fact, Erica is the largest fynbos genera, containing more than 660 fynbos species, which means that 7% of all fynbos species belong to the Erica genus (Ericas of the fynbos represent 80% of all the Erica genus).
Family Restionaceae. This is a very characteristic family, because is almost restricted to the fynbos; 351 species of the currently 359 sps are restricted to the Cape Floristic Region (Linder 2019). Additionally, the family is very remarkable because it occupies the ecological niche of grasses, a unique phenomenon in the world. Ergo, while the understory of the fynbos always contains restios, the grasses are uncommon. You will easily recognise this family for its leaves reduced to tubular sheats scattered along the stems.
Family Proteaceae. This family is very well known for its Gondwanian distribution, with many species both in Australia and South Africa. And of course, with many species appearing in the fynbos (more than 330). They are usually well recognised because their flowers use to be surrounded by coloured bracts.
For more interest, in my Instagram I dedicated a whole month to disseminate about the fynbos, including lot of information and curiosities.
Below, about 400 photos of my years exploring the fynbos, under an European naturalist perspective.
Enjoy this orgy of biodiversity!