So said Mushfeeq Davids, a grade 8 learner at Lotus High. Mushfeeq was one of twenty Lotus High learners who came to help with the Forum’s restoration planting on the Northern shore..
After a few years of hard work the rehabilitation areas on the Eastern shore of Princess Vlei are establishing well, enabling the Forum to move to the northern shore of Princess Vlei, which was historically home to the critically endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos.
On May 12, thirty volunteers from local schools, the Briana Drive community and Botanical Society Kirstenbosch Branch came together to do the first planting of the season. 712 plants of 11 species were planted. An additional 15 species were added through the scattering of 45 litres of seed. Further planting in July brings the total up to 1700 plants, an 8 extra species bringing the new species to 44
Cape Flats Sand Fynbos is a critically endangered vegetation type that is 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 in some way. Restoring this endemic plant community is critical for ensuring the long term survival of many threatened species. The United Nations has declared the 2020’s the decade of restoration, in recognition of the critical role this plays in rolling back catastrophic environmental destruction due to climate change, pollution and habitat loss.In the first quarter of 2021 The Forum cleared the 1500square/meters restoration plotplot of invasive alien kikuyu and kweek grass. During this clearing a seasonal wetland pond was revealed within the grassy seep. Rubble was removed from this seasonal pond which will act as an important breeding area for amphibians such as the endangered Western Cape Leopard Toad.
Twenty school learners from Lotus High came to plant on May 12. Addressing the learners, the Princess Vlei Forum rehabilitation advisor, Alex Lansdowne, said, ‘This area has been mowed every year. It should be rich in fynbos and wetland ecosystems, yet only a few grass species and weeds are growing here now. We are bringing back about 50 fynbos species, which will not only recreate this unique plant community but also support the animals and humans by restoring ecological infrastructure.
‘We need healthy ecosystems for our survival, and to help to fight climate change. This plot that we are busy with will support many different life forms, butterflies, reptiles, birds, even bokkies. By increasing the plant species we increase the interactions between different life forms, and strengthen the ecosystem.'
In July, a planned mass planting by school learners was cancelled due to Covid restrictions. However, a small group of Forum volunteers added a further 1700 plants to the site. These include Erica turgida, an extinct-in-the wild Erica. This plant only have occurred between Princess Vlei and Kenilworth Race Course, before it went extinct in the wild in the seventies. Lansdowne is overseeing the biggest reintroduction of this plant into the wild, in partnership with the Friends of the Rondebosch Common and the Princess Vlei Forum.
In the seasonal pond, we have successfully restored a miniature form of Waterblommetjie (Aponogeton angustifolius) which was growing in a similar pond in Ottery that is now completely choked by Port Jackson. Restoring existing conservation areas and public open spaces helps consolidate biodiversity in an urban ecosystem where we are loosing more habitat than we are conserving and restoring.
Other threatened species reintroduced include: Protea scolymocephala, Leucadendron levisanus, Serruria foeniculacea, Steirodiscus tagetes and Podalyria sericea. In future we will add more sensitive species once there is more cover.
Tracy Daniels (Grade 8) said, ‘It is very nice planting because I like interacting with nature.’
Planting is benefits the environment, and is a healing and positive experience for the school learners, helping to connect them to nature and the earth. Like the other restoration sites on the Eastern Shore, this will provide a rich outdoor classroom to teach learners about biodiversity and fynbos ecology. We are excited to see these species once more thriving at Princess Vlei.