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Geophyte Heaven

In the heart of the Swartland, the Tinie Versveld Reserve (Tienie if you are Afrikaans speaking) is a 20ha slot of farmland about 14 km outside of Darling, on the R315 between Yzerfontein and Darling. The land was donated by Oom Tienie (Marthinus Versveld) to the National Botanical Society of South Africa. This unpretentious reserve is open to all, and there is no entry fee. This gem of a flower reserve is uncommercialised. It is best known for its bulbs flowering from early August to mid-September. You’ll also find the graves of Oom Tienie and his wife, Beatrice (a.k.a Baby). There are also plenty of wild birds, and you’ll often find a wobble of ostriches on the field, just over the R315.

This reserve comprises of different veld types such as Sand-, Strand-, and Renoster-veld and Rietvlei. In fact, Swartland Renosterveld is one of the most endangered types of vegetation in the world, much of it having been lost to the plough. Only 4 % of pristine Renosterveld remains and only 1.6 % in reserves such as this one. The mix of soils helps to ensure the considerable array and diversity of the plants that pop out of the earth here.

This was our first ‘real’ flower stop and even Ryan got down and dirty, photographing the flowers. Finn wouldn’t let him stand up again and planted his foot firmly on Ryan’s back. That was the only time I ever saw Ryan attempt this position in the flower fields !!

fi ayerst

Hi, I’m Fiona. I love cats, sharks, reading, writing and being underwater.

The total time required to walk around thoroughly is approximately two hours. My only suggestion would be a few rustic wooden benches so that people could sit and absorb the quiet beauty of this remarkable place. Unfortunately, I think we were around a week to 10 days too late as I could see that many of the flowers had already gone to seed even though it was only 24 August! I’d suggest seeing this reserve in mid-August. It also appeared that some of the canola being farmed in the background had spread its seeds onto the wildflowers

…….and for the edification of those who were wondering…..Geophytes are plants typically with underground storage organs, where the plants hold energy or water. A broad synonym for a geophyte is bulb, but it is far more diverse than that.

Other reserves worth visiting if you are on this flower route path – are the Darling Renosterveld Reserve, The Groenekloof Renosterveld Reserve and the Waylands Flower Reserve.

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One thing I did struggle with a little whilst travelling was having a clear direction. In other words, which way to go first and then where to go from there. I’ll be covering this in blogs going forward and ending all of them with suggestions.

You’ll find this reserve on the R315 in-between Darling and Yzerfontein, but closer to Darling- around a 10-15 min drive. I’d suggest you take a minimum stay of two nights in Darling or surrounds, to explore all the small reserves in this area. Three nights would be perfect if you have the time. Most flowers are usually best viewed between 10 am and 4 pm on a warm-ish sunny day. Ideally, the temperature needs to be around 16-24 degrees C. Bear in mind that some flowers are evening blooms but in this area, and for me, the best array of colours were in the middle of the day. 

Fiona 30 September 2020

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Blogger: Fiona Ayerst

Fiona is an award winning professional underwater and environmental photojournalist. Her work is published and portrayed throughout the world in numerous magazines, blogs and sites. Between May and October annual, Fiona manages Africa Media’s environmental and travel journalism internship program. 


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