Winter is planting month in Cape Town. During May and early June, the Forum hosted three planting events with community members and school learners as part of our efforts to restore the indigenous vegetation at Princess Vlei. This is the UN decade of restoration, and here at Princess Vlei we continue to do what we can to conserve biodiversity and restore our beautiful endemic fynbos. In July, we are planning the planting of a new site on the northern shore which will restore Cape Flats Sand Fynbos.
A job for old people?
On May 7, seventeen community members came together to plant Protea seeds, Serruria foeniculacea (Rondevlei Spiderhead) and Chrysanthemoides monolifera (bietou) in the restoration plot nearby Briana Cresent.
This plot on the northern shore was first planted last year, after the Forum cleared 1500 square metres of alien grasses and weeds. This site offers the opportunity to restore Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, a critically endangered vegetation type only found on the lowlands of Cape Town. These unique habitats have been decimated by the expansion of urban Cape Town, which has left only small islands of Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, most of which is degraded. Restoring this endemic plant community is critical for ensuring the long term survival of many threatened species. This includes Serruria foeniculacea, which was declared extinct in the wild before being rediscovered at Rondevlei in the 1970’s.
At the planting, our botanical consultant Alex Lansdowne, explained, 'the work today is ideally suited to old people, as we need to sit and patiently plug holes with hundreds of protea seeds.
‘These protea seeds operate on a principle of survival in numbers. In the fynbos, fire is not just about death. It makes a lot of nutrients available to the soil, animals that die provide food for birds of prey, and it release masses of protea seeds. A lot of mice and other animals eat them, and only about one in twenty are fertile. So we need to lots of holes for lots of seeds.'
We had several very young participants, who fortunately seemed just as happy as their parents and grand parents to patiently plug the seeds into the holes!
Planting for our future
On May 16, fourteen learners from Lotus High came to Princess Vlei on May 16 to help us with restoration planting. The learners were planting in the restoration site that was damaged by the City’s bulldozers in May last year.
'Today we came to Princess Vlei to restore a few of the plants that used to grow here. We are planting grass to stop erosion of the shoreline. Maybe it will look beautiful next time we come,’ said Lotus High learner, Azriedien Gabier.
School-mate Diedre Louw, commented, ‘We have come today to restore some plants to Princess Vlei because last year some bulldozers came to destroy our nature. … I like the outdoors and I like greenery so why not come plant something to help the ecosystem? Maybe there are some animals that we didn’t even know about, and by planting something they might come back and we will be able to see them.'
Alex Lansdowne told to the learners: ‘The penesetum is a wild relative of the kikuyu that grows in your school lawn. We’ve been growing them hydroponically, which means growing them in water, and feeding them worm tea. Planting them will stabilise the bank. If we don’t, it will continue to erode because of the wave action.’
After they’d finished planting, learners enjoyed skimming stones on the water across the vlei.
On June 2, 15 different learners came from Lotus High to plant more grass on the eastern shore, and put in 400 seedling of the rain daisy, Dimorphotheca pluvialis. This promises a lovely display in September after the winter rains.
Speaking about the benefits of bringing learners to the Vlei, Lotus High science teacher Shafiek Isaacs said: ‘Princess Vlei is on our doorstep, so we can use it to teach kids about nature, and in that way they will teach their kids to take care of any environmental area they have… the work on the vlei is only a start. My learners propagate their own plants…
'This year we have planted 63 trees around the school and in the area, our aim is plant 200 trees.
As kids get more involved, their life style chances, their eating habits change… everything is a lesson, I talk about climate change … so the kids eat less meat because of carbon emissions.
'They are more hands on with their school work, because its practical, its not just theory, they’ll learn the names of plants. We must understand where they come from, they come from gang areas. 3 kids were recently shot and killed. They don’t want to be at home, they’d rather stay at school until 6 o’clock They are nature loving kids, they just want to do environmental work.
'It also helps with discipline. The kids are motivated to behave in class so that the can join the outings to Princess vlei.’
By Denisha Anand
The Princess Vlei Forum hosted a camp with learners from Lotus high school from the 29th April to the 1st May at the Princess Vlei Eco centre. The learners are part of our Princess Eco Guardians Program which aims to cultivate custodianship and care for our environment amongst the youth.
The camp program started with us setting the tone and objectives for the weekend. The learners agreed that fun came first and everything else would follow, I agreed! After postponing our camp twice due to covid it was important for us to create a space where our eco guardians had the opportunity to express themselves and unwind in nature. Our co facilitator Robin Moodley assisted us throughout the weekend with art jam sessions, where the learners had an opportunity to create art work based on observations made during their nature walks at the vlei.
I facilitated various lessons from our Sunbird and Fynbos workbook where our eco guardians were able to explore the habitat, food and threats of sunbirds first hand during their stay at the vlei, they were also lucky enough to spot a malachite sunbird during free time in the sun!
Our lessons gave the learners an opportunity to use bird and fynbos field guides to identify and name the species in their books and to distinguish between male and female birds. The learners were also able to immerse themselves by being able to anser questions in the book by walking through the strandveld to find the answers.
One of the highlights of our camp was taking our guardians out for a walk to the restoration site along Briana Ave. Some of the learners attending the camp were responsible for planting this plot and were in awe of the difference that their planting had made in the space of one year. The habitat was thriving with birds and pollinators and some plants already in flower!
That moment allowed them to experience the impact of their presence and commitment to the vlei and to nature. I think a lot made sense for some of them after seeing what planting tiny seedlings and dispersing even tinier seeds could do. Their custodianship became visible and they could see the impact that an act of care can have on the environment, while still having fun!
What the learners said
Chloe Dudley: I came here to learn and relax. I learnt about plants, and the kayaking was fun. I would tell my friends to come because they would learn about new plants, and new animals and sounds, and enjoy the fun part with their friends.
Jady Maans: I came to learn about nature and to have fun. The best part was when we went on a night walk. When I did kayaking I got stuck in the reeds, but I enjoyed it.
Shanon-lee Everson: I learnt about different kinds of plants, and learnt to focus a plant, The night walk was awesome, I wasn’t scared - when you connect with nature, you just feel safe. Last night we had a sing off around the fire, everybody together.
We are also learnt about the leopard toad and the sunbird. Denisha told us to go out into PV to listen for Leopard toads, and if we hear calls we have to help the Forum stop construction noise around the vlei. If we don’t stop it, the noise will chase the toads away, which we don’t want.
We watched a climate change clip, and it showed us how the world will be if we don’t make these changes, so we need to make these changes. I did know about climate change, because last year we went on a strike and made a banner to say why we didn’t want climate change, but this video actually explained what it is and what we have to change. Development helps us, but we are part of nature just as nature is part of us, so we need stop whatever is hurting nature.
Jody Maans: I was here before, and wanted to experience it again The best part was kayaking. I fell into the water, I enjoyed that. We should protect nature because it is beautiful. The food was very nice.
Jae-lee Marthinus: I came to learn more about nature, because in nature you can experience everything. I loved learning more about sunbirds, and the plants, and learning about climate change. The best part was kayaking. I liked learning how to use the paddle. I would tell my friends that they should learn to protect nature, stop littering and stop global warming and stuff like that. Nature is an environment where you can come and sit under a tree and hear the sounds of the birds and release your stress, you don’t think about your troubles.
Dierdre Louw: I wanted to learn more about taking care of nature and cleaning up the environment, and exposing the things that doesn’t belong, and taking out the plants that doesn’t belong. We learnt about different types of plants, I love drawing. I loved seeing the snake! It was a mole snake, here in the road. I would encourage everybody, to come to these camps, and learn about the plants. If you know something is in danger you can help it.
Chandre November: I enjoyed drawing trees and making a fire. At school we don’t communicate a lot, but here we communicate. It's for us to make changes in the world, the older people don’t care. We need to look after the world, and we need to know know what to do for the plants.
Paige Eden: I want to know all the plants, and spread the word to others to keep the plants safe, don’t damage them. I Loved the kayaking and enjoyed the world book and speaking about the plants, the Ericas and the geophytes. I would encourage my friends to come because my experience was the best.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.