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​Spring Flower Watch: Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve

NOV 30, 2020 | Written by Isabel Johnson. Photos by Isabel Johnson and Alison Young (Satyrium neglectum subsp. woodii).

Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve



Above: Spring flower walk at Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve (November 2020) with members of the KZN inland and coastal branches of the Botanical Society of South Africa. Photo: Isabel Johnson.


Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve is a Botanical Society facilitated Biodiversity Stewardship conservation area that was officially declared on 15 December 2019.

Situated between Eston and Umbumbulu in the Gwahumbe Valley on the Lovu River in KwaZulu-Natal, it comprises over 1 000 hectares with five different vegetation types, including the Critically Endangered KwaZulu-Natal Sandstone Sourveld.


Above: Brachystelma pygmaeum. Photo: Isabel Johnson.


The views are spectacular from the grassland covered slopes on the sandstone cliffs above the Eastern Valley Bushveld and Scarp Forest clothed slopes to the river below.

The name is from the isiZulu “cave of the leopards” and it is a home to these animals as well as many others such as the Endangered Oribi antelope, African Rock Python and Southern Ground Hornbill.


Above: Eriosema populifolium subsp. populifolium. Photo: Isabel Johnson.


In most years a spring flower walk is held at Ingwehumbe Nature Reserve and this year on 21st November an enthusiastic group of plant lovers discovered the Endangered endemic species Senecio exuberans.

Also seen were the Endangered Eriosema populifolium subsp populifolium, the diminutive Near Threatened Brachystelma modestum and the iconic rare orchid Satyrium neglectum  subsp woodii as well as many other special plant species.


Above: Brachystelma modestum. Photo: Isabel Johnson.


The site has been the focus of botanists since the early 1900s when folk from the Durban herbarium would undertake a day’s ride on horseback to collect plant specimens to send back to Kew gardens in London.

The reserve currently has a plant list of over 600 species including many that are threatened and/or endemic to the local area.


Above: Satyrium neglectum subsp. woodii. Photo: Alison Young.


The landowners are enthusiastic conservationists who encourage research of plant and animal species and many botanists still visit and find new species. They are also using many innovative methods such as drone application of herbicides on the inaccessible slopes of the river valleys.

Although the reserve is not open to the public, the Madolwana rustic camp in the river valley can be reserved for visitors on  031 781 1042 or 083 636 0850.


Above: View across Inwehumbe Nature Reserve showing grassland covered slopes on the sandstone escarpment above Eastern Valley Bushveld and Scarp Forest. Photo: Isabel Johnson.


Find out more about the KZN Inland branch of the Botanical Society here.

For news updates, events and more from the KZN Inland Branch, head on over and follow the branch Facebook page.


Above: Senecio exuberans. Photo: Isabel Johnson.


Further reading

Johnson, S. Bytebier, B. (2015) Orchids of South Africa: A Field Guide, Struik Nature, Cape Town, South Africa.

Johnson, I. (2020) ‘Stewardship and grasslands: An interview with Isabel Johnson’, Botanical Society of South Africa blog.

Mucina, L. Rutherford, M.C. (2006) The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, Strelitzia 19, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Pooley, E. (1998) A Field Guide to the Wildflowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region, The Flora Publications Trust, Durban, South Africa.

SANBI’s Red List of South African Plants is a searchable online database comprising South Africa’s entire flora, its threat status and what threats species of conservation concern face. It can be accessed here: www.redlist.sanbi.org.



  1. Amazing – well done

  2. Well done to the land-owners, for helping to protect this land and its biodiversity, and to BotSoc for helping to monitor and manage.

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