Die Bron Fernkloof Hike

Members of the WCC schools education team hosted an outdoor fynbos education program in Fernkloof Nature Reserve for learners from Die Bron primary school. Fynbos is a distinctive type of vegetation found only in southwestern South Africa. It includes a very wide range of plant species, particularly small heather like trees and shrubs. Fynbos vegetation is made up of several plant groups, including reeds; plants that grow from bulbs; shrubs, such as Proteas; and Ericas.

A total of thirty Grade 5 and 6 learners came to find out more about fynbos plants, trees and landslips at Fernkloof Nature Reserve. The learners broke into three smaller groups and walked the lower route of the mountain, led by one of the safety monitors at Fernkloof. They met with WCC staff members along the path who gave lessons to the groups about Proteas, Ericas, Restios, and trees.

Sheraine van Wyk started the walk by speaking to the whole group about trees and landslips at Fernkloof Nature Reserve.

Trees need deep soil, water, shelter from the wind and protection from fires. These conditions are met in river gorges which is why trees are not common in fynbos, particularly not on the mountain slopes. Paired with this explanation was the visible evidence of how soil is deposited in river gorges and at the bottom of mountain slopes causing deeper soil at the bottom of valleys. After the September 2023 storms which caused many land slips, it was evident that large amounts of soil was deposited at the bottom of these slips.

Sheraine van Wyk explained that in fynbos there is a group of plants called Restios, which define the vegetation as fynbos. The learners also learned that, since restios do not have leaves, photosynthesis occurs in the stem of the restio.

Shirley Mgoboza spoke about Ericas as one of the common groups of fynbos plants. She explained that the genus Erica is known to be the most species diverse genus in the Cape Floristic Region with almost 700 known species. She explained that Ericas have different flower size and shape and that each shape of the flower gives an indication as to which animal or insect is the pollinator.

She showed the learners the tubular shape Erica flowers, which are pollinated by sunbirds because of their bill shape. She explained that insects such as beetles, flies, bees, moths and butterflies are major pollinators of the Ericas. 

Judy McFarlane gave a lesson about Proteas. The learners had an opportunity to look at the king protea which is South Africa’s national flower. She further explained to the learners that these incredibly beautiful fynbos plants attract various birds and insects like sunbirds and bees with their rich, sweet nectar.

The learners were taught how to age a protea plant and got the opportunity to count the number of years of growth for some of the protea plants close by. The day was wrapped up with a light lunch in the gardens and learners were safely sent back to the school.

We are most grateful to the AVI Community Trust for sponsoring this outdoor education programme.