An exploratory walk through the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area may have resulted in the discovery of a new fynbos species.
The discovery took place on the farm of NWSMA member, Liohan Giliomee. The NWSMA team were joined by photographer, nature-lover and fynbos expert, Sharon Brink, on the trip. (It was actually an introductory tour for our new intern, Willem Myburgh – all before South Africa’s first case of the Coronavirus was recorded, and the country was placed in lockdown).
During the drive, Liesbet Willemse (our Environmental Education Coordinator) spotted two colourful flowers – one pink and one white. She asked to stop to take a closer look.
Sharon didn’t recognise the species. Neither did Liohan.
Photos were taken and immediately sent to an array of botanists. And these experts answered – unanimously – that they did not know the species.
They sent it to more botanists – who provided the same answer.
According to Sharon, the flower closely resembles the red Bredasdorp lily (Cyrtanthus guthrieae) – a Critically Endangered member of the Amaryllidaceae family (there are fewer than 250 mature individuals still in existence today – all around the town of Bredasdorp).
Since the find, news of this as yet unknown species has gained considerable traction on social media and local newspapers.
Images: Sharon Brink and Liesbet Willemse
It serves as a great reminder of the conservation efforts of the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area and our farmer-members, without whom this little mystery plant may have remained in the shadows.
The Nuwejaars area is home to numerous Critically Endangered fynbos species and fynbos vegetation types – including Elim Ferricrete Fynbos and Overberg Sandstone Fynbos.
In fact, the Agulhas Plain is home to the largest storehouse of lowland fynbos left in the world (you’ll find up to 1850 species here). And we’re at the heart of this biodiversity-rich landscape.
The threats of invasive alien plants and wildfires remain – and the NWSMA works to address these threats. Through the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative Alien Clearing Project, and by working with WWF South Africa, we run two major alien clearing programmes. By working with the Greater Overberg Fire Protection Association, we also manage fire by undertaking various ecological burns and ensuring we’re as prepared as we can be for wildfires.
And of course our team, working with Liohan, will actively monitor and protect our little mystery flower, while we wait for the Kirstenbosch experts to complete their research on it.
We’re holding thumbs we might have our own Cyrtanthus nuwejaarseae.