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........