11 February 2011

A walk up Cecilia Ridge

A few weeks ago I felt like a long view and some solitude, so I parked at Cecilia Forest and headed up Cecilia Ridge. It's an easy way up the montain with lovely views over the City.

Crassula coccinea - Klipblom

Protea speciosa - since I saw it at Silvermine for the first time, I'm seeing it everywhere. Funny that. The white hairs on the leaf margins seem distinctive.

And then I made a short detour to the De Villiers dam, which is looking rather surreal in its half-empty state. Ghostly white sandstone rocks.

The water is a beautiful tea colour, on account of the phenols and tannins found in fynbos. These chemicals leach out of decomposing plant matter in seeps and streams, giving the water its characteristic brown colour. Having grown up in the Cape, I will always associate pristine mountain streams with brown water.

Then Mickey and I headed down the mountain, on the jeep track.

These miserable Knysna Yellowwood trees were planted decades ago - presumably by foresters. Podocarpus falcatus is not local to our area and is locally invasive in the lower forest, growing like hairs on a dog's back. They are displacing local forest species, including our local yellowwood, Podocarpus latifolius.

I find it extremely irritating and embarrassing that Table Mountain National Park does nothing about their removal, not to mention the thousands of other invasive aliens - and this is supposed to be a World Heritage Site!

I like pine forests because they are incredibly silent - the needles absorb any sound underfoot and they are almost devoid of wildlife, except for the odd bird of prey. All the forests on Table Mnt are being systematically felled - soon there will be none left.

I am a great biodiversity fan and support the removal of aliens (including pines) on high mountain slopes. But to remove every single tree and bit of shade on the urban edge, in areas which are highly transformed and have little conservation value anyway - in the name of CONSERVATION - is ridiculous.

There has been a huge public outcry in Cape Town about the wholesale removal of these forests in recreational areas - to absolutely no avail. The managers at Table Mnt NP reign supreme. Unfortunately this kind of hard-core fanaticism does not win support for Cape biodiversity - on the contrary, it alienates people.

So better enjoy the forests while they last!


  1. Hi Marijks

    I was sad years ago to think about the pines being removed. I grew up with them, and in Tokai, in the plantations now logged, rode through them, loving their austerity.

    But if they do mean more fynbos then I am all for it. As you say, there is no life in a pine forest (though I appreciate the silence you describe).

    Why does it not mean conservation? Will fynbos not return, or is something else planned for these sops?

    You are walking alone? You should tell the papers that :-)

  2. Er...make that slopes, not sops :-)

    Sops sounds like an alcoholic English dessert...

  3. Hi M - the conservation angle is complex, but here are two facts to consider:

    Despite overwhelming evidence & research that cleared areas need to be burnt after felling, TMNP don't. The result is a flush of weedy pioneer fynbos species which has little conservation value, and the soil stored seed bank just gets older (with species loss).

    If you look at the poor quality of the fynbos along the jeep track where they've cleared, you'll see what I mean.

    Second, the natural vegetation on these lower slopes is lowland fynbos (lower Tokai) and granite fynbos (slopes above Newlands & Cecilia). These vegetation types require fire to maintain species diversity. However TMNP do not do any controlled burns so Newlands / Cecilia will just revert into scrappy pioneer Afromontane forest. And once the trees have pulled in, they shade and overgrow the fynbos - by then it won't burn anyway.

    According to Tony Rebelo 'we are loving fynbos to death'. The City Biodiversity Management Dept know exactly what needs to be done to conserve our local biodiversity - they have developed a detailed Biodiversity map and management plan. But the City Council and TMNP are too scared / apathetic to do controlled burns. They blame it on the public (who cry shame! every time there is a fire).

    My opinion is that a bit of shade for walking and cycling on the urban edge is just fine.

    ps: I like your version of sops!

  4. Huh - thank you! Very interesting. Sounds like a major exercise in PR is needed.

  5. Lovely photos as always Marijke! Thank you!
    I get your point about the post fell burn option, will be sure to Light Up For Biodiversity next time I'm in the woods.
    Probably Protea speciosa (resprouter) unless planted Pr magnifica or rare peninsula Pr grandiceps (red flower).