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Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Defence of Fynbos

Through more posts on this blog than I can remember, I have sung the praises of fynbos (fine and small-leaved shrub-lands which grow in poor soils). Yet not everyone is of the same sentiment. In our national Sunday newspaper (16 January 2011), a popular journalist listed fynbos (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) as "overrated ": "...heath and heather are found all over the world, but considered a religion in South Africa", she wrote. Many botanists will be able to counter-act this very unfortunate view of fynbos which may sadly be taken to heart by lots of the paper's readers. I can only react with the knowledge I have.

Here on the West Coast, fynbos act as a stabiliser for loose rocks and also restrain the encrouchment of sand from the beach. It is the natural habitat of ground-nesting birds and harbours a complete eco-system where a stunning variety of birds, snakes, meerkat, voles, field mice and small buck are part of the endless cycle of survival. The fynbos forms part of the great and world-famous Cape Floral Kingdom. To bring in a commercial viewpoint, the spring flower show contributes greatly to the economy of the region.

In my painting of fynbos, I show a piece of rocky outcrop where people can hike along to explore the long walk from Kabeljoubank in the direction of Yzerfontein.

To end my defence of fynbos, I quote from " The Illustrated History of the Countryside" a book about Britain by Oliver Rackham (2003):

"In the darkest days of ericophobia, the voices of Gilbert White, John Clare, George Borrow and Thomas Hardy were public reminders of the glory and mystery and freedom of the heath. But few listened: people do not value heathland until they have lost nine-tenths of it."

I do love that word 'ericophobia' to indicate a "disease" of carelessness. All along our rural roads, extensive ploughing, developments and forestation are taking the place of fynbos........


  1. It looks beautiful to me. I can just imagine all of it blooming...

  2. This is a gorgeous painting, Marie. The fynbos is stunningly beautiful and when it can support the ecosystem of the magnitude you mentioned, then bring it on.

  3. As always, you make me want to get into my car and drive along the Weskus! What a great quote and a great comment in both painting and words of our natural flora. Also remember where that newspaper is published!!

  4. Thank you, Susan! Yes as you know from my Spring photos!

    Sherry, thank you for the support!

    Liz, I appreciate your comments. Yes of course, now I realize: that newspaper is printed far from here so how would they know about all these things happening in the fynbos?

  5. Most of the time we forget that even the smallest changes to our surroundings will affect many changes that we never expect.

    We people are often very careless caretakers of our earth and our fellow "earthlings".

  6. How well you put it, Marian!Thanks for commenting!

  7. Hi Marie
    Good to see you back. I've been away for a bit as well, with family visitors and a computer that wouldn't work. Hopefully I can get back on track with my new computer and the last of the guests leaving tomorrow.
    I agree that indiginous plant life is very valuable not only for how it controls the land but also for its beauty and use as home to animals and bird. Your painting shows just how beautiful these shrubs are when combined with the rocks and lovely blue sky and ocean. It is so good that you inform people of the value and beauty of such a simple plant.

  8. That rocky cliff path is so evocative of the smell and feel of fynbos, something I took for granted and hardly noticed in my youth with it all around me, but can't bear to think of the Cape being without. Long live fynbos, please!

  9. You might enjoy this Californian take on exactly the same attitude to 'scrub'

  10. Catherine, nice to know you will soon paint up a storm again! Thank you for these lovely understanding comments and I still wish you can see this area one day!

    Cathy, come do the long walk! Once you see all this again, the memories will come back. You know, when we were young there was very little appreciation for the veld.

  11. Once again I not only enjoyed your beautiful painting, but learned something new. Fynbos, I am off to tell my husband something he doesn't know. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Your blog posts are always so interesting and the fynbos painting so soft and invocative of your landscape. Sorry about the nasty bite but glad you've recovered and are painting again.

  13. Thank you, Joan S, thank you for spreading the message! Small wild creatures also need a habitat. I find that rodents do not enter peoples homes if they have plentiful of bushes where they can live and survive!

    Joan S-C thank you to you and everyone who read this rather long piece! What I find now is something I never would have guessed: that it becomes easier to paint the sea and vegetation the longer I live here!


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