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Spring Flower Watch: Harmony Flats Nature Reserve​

OCT 15, 2020 | Written by Zoë Chapman Poulsen. Photos by Rupert Koopman and Zoë Chapman Poulsen. 

Harmony Flats Nature Reserve



Above: Harmony Flats Nature Reserve. Photo: Rupert Koopman.


Located on the Cape Flats between Gordon’s Bay and Strand, Harmony Flats is one of the biodiversity gems of the City of Cape Town’s diverse network of nature reserves. The reserve is 9 Ha in size, with a focus on conserving the critically endangered Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos of the area.

Harmony Flats Nature Reserve was originally proclaimed in 1986 with the aim of providing a much needed refuge for the critically endangered geometric tortoise, but sadly due to poaching and inappropriate fire regimes in the past, this species is no longer found at the site.


Above: Protea scolymocephala in bloom at Harmony Flats Nature Reserve. Photo: Rupert Koopman.


Despite this conservation setback, to this day Harmony Flats continues to provide a vital refuge for its fascinating assemblage of flora and wildlife.

The reserve supports a total of more than 220 plant species, of which more than 30 are Red Listed as being of conservation concern. Throughout spring an extraordinary range of beautiful and diverse blooms can be seen and enjoyed by visitors.


Above: Babiana angustifolia. Photo: Zoë Chapman Poulsen.


The reserve offers rewarding wildlife watching too. For birders orange throated longclaws, zittings cisticolas and cloud cisticolas are regularly seen. Harmony Flats NR is a seasonal wetland, attracting many wading birds during the winter months. The spiny agama was once thought to be extinct on the Cape Flats, until it was seen for the first time in the city for 40 years at Harmony Flats.

In early spring during August and early September, look out for the intense deep purple blooms of Babiana angustifolia, which grows in lowland fynbos and renosterveld from Piketberg to Somerset West. Habitat loss from urbanisation has led to it being listed as Near Threatened on the Red List of South African Plants.


Top: Echiostachys incanus. Above: Lachenalia uniflora. Photos: Zoë Chapman Poulsen.


Easy to miss due to its similarity to more common Asteraceae species found locally, Arctotheca forbesiana is another special species that calls this area home. This lowland species has lost considerable habitat from urban development and habitat transformation for agriculture. Distributed between Malmesbury, Somerset West, Caledon and Elim, environmental impact assessments have revealed further subpopulations. However, this species remains Vulnerable on the Red List.


Top: Pauridia capensis. Above: Lachenalia orchioides subsp. orchioides. Photos: Zoë Chapman Poulsen.


The stunning Ixia versicolor is one of the main flagship species for Lourensford Alluvium Fynbos, being endemic to this vegetation type. One of the largest subpopulations of this Critically Endangered species is found at Harmony Flats Nature Reserve. Flowers can be pink or white with a darker centre and can be seen blooming in the reserve from late September into October.

Look out for next week’s edition of Spring Flower Watch, where we will be continuing our virtual botanical tour to some of the Cape’s special spring flower sites.


Top & Above: Two different colour forms of the critically endangered Ixia versicolor. Photos: Zoë Chapman Poulsen.


Further Reading

Manning, J. Goldblatt, P. Snijman, D. (2002) The Colour Encyclopedia of Cape Bulbs, Timber Press, Cambridge, UK.

Raimondo, D. Grieve, K. Helme, N. Koopman, R. Ebrahim, I. (2013) Plants in Peril: 100 of South Africa’s highly threatened plant species and the people protecting them, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa.


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